One of my greatest struggles as a mother who has lost a child is how to honor my daughter’s memory in a way that seems good enough The problem is, no matter what I do, no matter what I think of, it never seems grand enough or poignant enough to properly show the depth of my love and loss. How do I tell my daughter I love her when I can’t see her face or kiss her fat little cheeks?
Zoe Rose was one of my 25-weeker triplets who died four and half years ago after 9 ½ months in the NICU and 4 months at home. She was rehospitalized and quickly succumbed to a secondary infection. My grief is inexpressible although I’ve tried valiantly through my blog to describe how it feels to live with half of my heart in Heaven. Her memory has never faded. In some ways I still dig in my heels and refuse to let go of her. “Why should I have to?” I asked in my last counseling session. My therapist replied: “For the sake of your living children and your husband who need a mother and a wife who is fully engaged in your family.”
This hurts to hear, like tiny daggers behind my eyes, I feel physically pained at the thought of letting go of Zoe. My mind has trouble comprehending what this really means, to let go of the child I’ve lost. How do I let go of something I’ve been trying desperately not to lose? I’ve walked through life for the last four years with my arms outstretched trying to grab for something tangible that no longer exists on Earth.
What I’ve come to realize is that letting go does not mean forgetting. Letting go means that her memory still floats in and out of my conscious and subconscious thoughts. But, I don’t let it stop me in my tracks on a daily basis, preventing me from focusing on the living, breathing 5 year old girls I have in front of me who need Mommy to play Candy Land one more time. I have small mementos – my personal treasures that keep her close without flashing a sign that reads “I’m a grieving mother and it hurts!” (though some days I wish I had that sign). I have a locket, given to me by a dear friend after Zoe died. It is a beautiful antique brass heart with a rose engraved on the front and her name inside. She is in there and I often rub my thumb across the smooth surface of this treasure as I whisper quietly to my daughter.
My mother created a beautiful shadow box she calls her “window where she talks to Zoe” filled with carefully chosen items that belonged to Zoe or hold some sort of symbolism for moments shared between a grandma and her granddaughter. Avery and Lily have ladybug lockets on their backpacks with a photo of Zoe inside. Lily recently told me that when she’s scared or nervous she looks at her locket and feels calm.
The ways in which we choose to remember our lost babies are uniquely our own. Although I may at times feel like the locket I wear or the tear-drop glass oil candle I light for Zoe don’t fully exhibit my love for her – I am beginning to understand and accept that they don’t have to. The love I feel deep within me IS enough. No outward sign could ever quantify the boundless love I feel, nor does the lack of a thousand fireworks in the sky on her Heavenly birthday mean that I didn’t love her enough. The bond between mother and child has been described as primal. It is something many have tried to capture in a few perfectly chosen words, when the truth is there are no words. It is something created within us by a power greater than ourselves that is so awe-inspiring, it is too wonderful for words.
So, I will try each day to believe the words I write – that letting go doesn’t mean forgetting- and that I never have to convince myself or anyone else that I loved Zoe enough. I am reminded of a line from a poem by an unknown author that reads “If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.” How true those words ring for a bereaved parent.