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Healing After Loss: When a Child Dies

Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York knows that you don't lose a child when a child dies. Years ago, from a distance, in awe I watched the woman who lost her child. I wondered how she was able to leave her house. How was she standing there? How on Earth could she still breathe?

Now I am that woman. I feel mothers gape at me, perturbed, “How does she smile? How can she be laughing?”

First of all, you don’t just lose a child. Sons and daughters are forever. Even if they get wiped out by cancer, car accidents, or unfathomable acts on the part of themselves or others. Death and time can only cloud their existence. They don’t entirely erase the memories, the history, deepest feelings, or the dreams you have of the one you loved and thought you lost. They don’t quiet my daughter’s pleading voice each time I pass a sushi shop.

“This will always be with you,” my mother said. Was she talking about the pain of loss? I decided “This” meant my daughter: she will always be with me. I’d make it a good thing. I’d keep her close forever.

“Since her daughter died, she’s only half the woman she used to be,” I overheard a friend say about me. Did that mean I was losing myself? It was a wake-up call. If I disappeared too, to whom and how would my daughter’s life continue to matter? Her life has to have been for something. Even if only to make me into a stronger and more caring person.

Marika was strong, self-assured and dogged in her pursuits. She had guts. She always partied and played. She lived like the lights could go out at any time. When she died I started wearing her clothes. Maybe I was hoping some of her would rub off on me. After all, I was the one who gave her life. I should be able to take and grow some parts of that life for myself.

For the New Year, in her honor, I will party more. I will get pedicures and sexy underwear, maybe even go on a date. If you see me laughing it’s because she taught me to love my life. She is with me still. And I will work harder to get our story published. I will not let my daughter be lost.

 

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