The Internet has the incredible ability to bring us closer together where we can learn the stories of those we might not otherwise come in contact with. This has undoubtably changed the world of parenting, opening up resources, support, and connections as we navigate the myriad of experiences that challenge us as parents on a regular basis. I can recall any number of times where I have looked to the experiences of other parents as I developed or refined a strategy for managing just about every possible element of raising my two boys. The online parenting community has definitely expanded the concept of it takes a village to raise a child.
Becoming a parent makes you keenly aware of how precious life is, what it means to love something more than yourself, and the possibility that someday that could be taken away from you. I have been much more aware of my encounters with stories of loss since my first son was born. There have been times where I find myself reading a blogpost or story during a 2 am feeding or following a recently released story of a child's unexpected passing through social media. Each of these stories feels so close to me, yet I have never met these other parents. Sure, there are the stories of precious napping puppies and toddlers, of paper dress-making tots, and incredibly talented homeschooling parents, yet the stories that inevitably penetrate deeper are those reaching into the labyrinth of the same mommy emotions unleashed when I became a parent.
Emotions are a mysterious and powerful force that stem from circumstance, mood, or relationship with others. Somehow becoming a parent heightens some of the sensations associated with emotion and, in some cases, draws us closer to other human beings. On more than one occasion I have thought about reaching out to a parent I have never met, yet I hesitate at the thought of appearing insincere or putting something onto an individual coping with so much already. I believe whole-heartedly in the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, but I don't assume that village holds the same meaning when a parent experiences loss. Or does it?
Why does one story affect us more than another? Do we connect with the tales of others based on our own experiences, similar visions for our families, or even our fears? I have become close with some incredible women through my children. We speak about everything openly, are comfortable parenting one another's children as needed, and have exposed some of our vulnerabilities. I am a better parent because of the ability to lean on these women who I have spent so much time with, yet in a lot of ways I would say the very same thing about many of the parents I have never met. Their words, their experiences, and their loss has helped me grow as a parent and learn just as much as I have benefited from the women I call and see on a regular basis.
I am still unsure of sharing the thoughts I have about each of these stories, but I desperately want each of these parents to know how much they mean to me. I don't know that I will ever be as eloquent or articulate as I want to be, but for now I share some of the things I have wanted to express...
I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine what you have experienced or what you feel on a daily basis, but I hope you know there are individuals thinking about you (sending hugs) that you have never met. We are parents, like you, and we admire your strength. You are so incredibly brave. I know there is no substitute for the one thing you want back the most, yet I wish there was a tangible way to offer even the smallest piece of what you are missing.
You are an elegant writer and put into words some of the most beautiful thoughts I have read. What you are able to share makes the rest of us better parents. You remind us to be grateful, to celebrate the chaos, to hug more often. You will always be a parent and you guide other parents in more powerful ways than you could know, even in your most difficult of circumstances.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You do not owe any apologies for having a bad day, sharing less, or focusing on your child more than you think you should. Every parent has the right to obsess over their child, to celebrate who they are.
I do not know if our paths will cross someday, but if they do I will be sure to thank you in person for all that you have done to make me a better parent. I am so sorry for your loss.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.strongtots.com