Grief. If you’ve ever truly felt it you will know that it appears from the tinniest of places, at the most unexpected time, with the full force of a hurricane. Totally unforgiving about what conversation you’re having or what event you might be attending, it destroys it. It takes your heart, mind and body and turns it into a swelling of emotional tears, quite often accompanied by really ugly crying. I’m talking big deep heaving breaths where your whole body shakes and you lose control. And in that moment you experience a rawness like no other. You feel loss, despair and sadness. And then just like that it’s over. And you carry on with whatever you were doing.
I had a moment of grief today. Grief doesn’t need to be associated with death, although I have felt that too. It can be experienced by anyone who is treading a path they never expected. A path that presents them with challenge after challenge until they don’t know if they can take anymore. And quite frankly, it sucks.
I often talk about how much I love the bones off my son. He is autistic, and whilst that wasn’t a journey I had planned to experience as a parent, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience moments of grief.
They sneak up on me you see. They lurk in the shadows and then pounce, leaving you powerless to defend yourself. Today I was cleaning out the wardrobe in our spare room. We are moving kiddo in so that we can fit an extra bed in his room for either of us or a night time carer. His new room won’t have any furniture in except a built in wardrobe, so that he can’t climb or pull anything on top of himself. So naturally the old wardrobe needs cleaning out before it is re built. And it just so happens that that is where we stored the bulk of our baby stuff. Clothes, toys, feeding equipment, snuggly blankets. It was all in there. As I started sorting through I made piles of donations and what we were passing to family members. And then like a stake to my heart the grief hit. Why? Because as I sorted through removing items we no longer needed, the realisation of us not having another child suddenly became too much to bare.
People have often said to me in the past that we should just have another child. It’ll be ok, it’ll work out. For our little family this is such a naive viewpoint. Kiddo requires almost every breathing minute of my attention. He can’t cope with excess noise. He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t like unpredictably. A baby is all of those things. And so, certainly for the time being, we won’t be having a second child.
Kiddo didn’t ask to be born into a world that wasn’t wholly accepting of Autism. He didn’t ask to be born into an education system that doesn’t cater for him. He didn’t ask to suffer from complex sensory processing issues which limit his capability of enjoying the outside world. It’s my job as his mum to make the world a safe and enjoyable place for him. How could I ever destroy the one place he feels safe by bringing in a child with whom he would need to share me with? It would turn his world upside down. I couldn’t do it to him. But today, that realisation really stung. And that’s ok.
I’m sure many of you experience grief in you own way. Perhaps your child couldn’t handle the sensory experiences of being in the school play, perhaps attending school was too much for them at all. I know many people will say that I shouldn’t experience grief. That I should love my son for exactly who he is. And I do. But who he is means I have to make sacrifices. And whilst I would make them every single day of my life, that doesn’t mean that sometimes I need to express the emotion that comes with them.
And I must express that grief. I’ve learnt from grieving the death of my mother that if you don’t let your mind and body feel whatever it needs to, you will only cause damage to yourself in the long run. You don’t have to justify what you feel or why. But you do need to feel it. Even though I’m writing about this now I am a private griever. No one has the right to judge my grief, and no one has the right to judge yours.
As quickly as it came on, the tears and unbearable ache in the pit of my stomach went. And life carried on. And whilst I may mourn the child I never had, I couldn’t love the child I have any more.
Thanks for reading,