I am always going to miss my daughter.
I am always going to be sad that she died.
Her loss is permanent. It will not change. And I have to learn to live with that.
So do my friends.
Compounding the loss of our child, everyone within the circle has lost at least one good friend. Most are parents themselves who just can’t get beyond their own fear. For them, we are the reminder: It could happen to them. They would rather forfeit the friendship than face such a truth.
Surviving loss has a lot to do with learning to live with the truth – but “live” is the operative word. The coping mechanisms I am developing have to have legs: they have to serve me not just now or this month or this year. They have to work for me year in and year out, for however many more years I live. I am working hard to figure out how to survive my child. It is work and it is hard.
One of the coping mechanisms I have developed is to allow myself to talk about my girl. I just assume this is a more positive way to survive her. So when I am with another parent and they mention something their child has done, if a similar Camila story comes to mind, I give myself permission to mention it. In this way, I relate as a parent – and I re-visit the pleasure of acknowledging something silly or something clever my child did. It lasts for only a moment, but it is a sweet moment.
My daughter continues to bring me joy through her memory, through our shared experience. She continues to enhance my life. I am a parent, just like you. And just as you will continue to be a parent long after your child has left home, so I continue to think of myself as a parent. We still have that in common.
In this way, my friends enable me to maintain my parental persona and to share in the simple pleasures of their parenthood, just as we have always done. It is a norm I’d like to maintain.
I know some friends worry that sharing their good news about their son or daughter may only remind me of my bad news: my loss. And on the surface, this is true: I sometimes feel the pang of loss. But their story inevitably leads to feelings of pleasure. If I can laugh and sometimes relate, it seems to normalize the conversation. I’m being spontaneous and responding in kind. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
I guess you could say it’s all about being a parent, isn’t it? We all like to talk about our children. I can tell you from experience that, even if you lose your child, that instinct will never change. This is one of the benefits of The Compassionate Friends group. We gather once a month to talk about our kids. How great would it be if we could continue doing that throughout our lives? I know I’d like to.
I need my friends to find their words, to find their way of talking about our children, even if that sometimes means talking about our loss. Finding their words will help them find their way back to me, to being with me within our new normal: this world without Camila. It is only worth surviving if I have them.