Nope, Not Them

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I remember being in Starbucks a little after our second child Levi was born. I was in line behind a lovely, talkative family with two kids. She turned around and looked at me and Levi and asked me if he was my first child. This is a question that I hated and struggled to answer in general, but when I opened my mouth to speak to this complete stranger, somehow our entire story of Lydia’s life and death came pouring out. Try as she might to control her facial expressions, THE SAD EYES (more on sad eyes another time…) came out and I could tell she didn’t know what to say or how to respond. This made me feel awful, not only because I’d made her feel weird, but because my story of my sweet baby was kind of a horror show to someone else.

For so long, it felt like not acknowledging Lydia when people asked about my children was me pretending she never existed. How could I give any other answer than to explain that we have two children? People have told me and I know it to be true that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this. You say what you need to say in a given situation. But I couldn’t find a way to communicate an answer to this question that didn’t leave me crying from talking about it or with an emotional tension headache from trying to keep it all in.

I talked with a friend who had also lost a child, and she offered me a perspective that I have found so helpful. Whether it’s your child or sibling or spouse who has died, you have the privilege of carrying them on and sharing their story with other people. Regardless of the length of their life, each precious person we love and lose is worth knowing and speaking of.

But not everyone must receive the privilege of knowing them and speaking of them.

It became an important distinction for me from “not everyone needs to know your loss” to “not everyone deserves to know about it.” It put the control of the situation more squarely on my shoulders. I didn’t have to tell a stranger in a store asking questions or even another parent at school that I would see more regularly. I had the power to make my own decision.

Lydia’s life was a gift that I will treasure for all my life, and I don’t need or want to throw my gifts at people who don’t know how to hold them.

If you are a person who is grieving the loss of someone you love, keep holding their memory close. Keep talking about them. Don’t hesitate to share if you feel like you want to. But don’t hesitate to sit quietly back and say to yourself, “Nope, not them. They don’t get to know today,” and leave it at that.

Jennifer Thompsonloss, child loss, grief