My mommy guilt comes in the form of cemetery visits. At first, we would go to the cemetery 1-2 times a week. Of course this petered down to every other week, once a month, and now…eight years later to several times a year. But every holiday that passes that I don’t go to visit ‘Macy’s Garden’ fills me with guilt.
It’s silly. She’s not there. Her body is buried there and as trite as it sounds, her spirit lives within us. We even have a special area in our backyard for her, complete with a birdhouse and decorations.
But is it really silly? Is anything that helps a mother’s grief silly? No. If it makes me feel better to go to the cemetery, then I go. On the flip side, I try to talk myself out of the guilt I feel for not going during those times when I can’t go. Because, let’s face it, I go for me. And my other girls and my husband abide by my wishes. Much as my husband and I sometimes bicker (who doesn’t?), we are a good team. And he has never, ever criticized me for whatever I’m feeling when it comes to Macy. Nor should he, but I do count myself lucky to know I have such a loving husband and father in him. Because for him, no matter what, my grief comes first. Whether it should or not—and I don’t make it that way, it’s just the way it is in this house.
We made it to the cemetery for Easter. And I'm still trying to figure out Mother's Day. Because I'm free on Thursday mornings but at the cemetery where Macy is buried, they mow and clean out the flowers on Thursday mornings. That Saturday is really busy for us. So we could go on actual Mother's Day, but here's a secret that only cemetery-goers know: Mother's Day is the busiest day of the entire year at the cemetery. It's difficult to park and they usually have police officers on hand to direct traffic.
Here's another trend at our cemetery that I've noticed: Latinos visit their family members a lot. We've often visited Macy and seen a family picnicking graveside. In fact, one time there was a mariachi band playing! What an honor for their deceased--I'm assuming he/she was a big fan of music. Maybe I notice it more as Macy is buried in a Catholic cemetery since that is where my Lola (Grandma) is buried. My Lolo (Grandpa) is next to her, but to be honest, it's Lola who I picture carrying my Macy all bundled up. I can see her smile with her bright red lipstick and I can imagine her rocking Macy back and forth happily.
There's a new study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics about the increased risk for overall health in sibling deaths. Of course, the death of a sibling causes stress for every family member, especially the siblings left behind. But what surprised me about this paper (Disclaimer: I've only read the summary from MedPage Today and not the actual journal article), is that the risk for DEATH is increased in the siblings.
Are you telling me that my other daughters have a higher risk of death compared to their peers? Even though they are healthy?
That's the last thing I want to hear. However, I do know that they take into account not only the added stress of grief, but also the possible genetics and inherited diseases that may come along with the death of a child. And, for us, though Macy had a genetic disorder, her form of Trisomy 18 was not heritable. And all of her medical conditions were related to her having T18. But, still. I don't even want to think about this article's implications.
Instead, we work on coping individually and as a family. And, I do feel so blessed as we've had so much support along the way. So, I'm ignoring this report for now. And I'm urging other families who have had an infant or child pass away to pursue counseling or therapy or grief support if needed. It's okay to need therapy. It's okay to say you're not okay. It's okay to need a hand. I've been there and went to therapy for two years and it was one of the best decisions I made for my family.
As we approach Mother's Day, I wish all families a joyful day. And for those of us who have lost a child, I wish you something more. I wish you a moment of peace: peace of mind, peace of motherhood, peace of the knowledge that you mothered in the best way possible--whatever your decisions, they were the best ones possible for you and your family.
Several years ago, my sister made special Mother's Day cards for mothers who have lost a child. They are free to download on our Special Delivery site.