Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Losing a Child or Parent, Losing a Husband

This weekend, B and I went to a camp for grieving families. There were a number of people there mourning the loss of a parent, a few who had lost siblings, a reasonable group of those who had lost a husband (no widowers, of course), and one family who had lost a teenager. B and I had gone last year, when it was an intense, painful, exhausting experience, though also incredibly supportive, loving and nurturing. This time, I wasn't expecting such intensity, and my intention was to work on bringing T forward into my life now and into the future. And it wasn't nearly as intense, though the love and support was still very evident.

Driving home, I found myself thinking a lot about the differences and similarities in various types of losses. In a sad coincidence, the stepmother of the teenager who died was a high school classmate of mine, which brought into sharper focus what it must feel like to wake up every morning knowing that your child is gone. Maybe I'm comparing to make myself feel better, but it seems to me that my loss is easier to "get over". T and I were together 8 years, married 5. I loved him with all my heart, but I'm not sure I would have described him as my best friend, or my soul mate. That saddened me, but it may make it easier for me to imagine being with someone else, perhaps finding what I felt was missing with T. What brings me to tears these days is the loss that B suffers -- the loss of a parent, and especially before she ever really knew him. He can't be replaced in her life, nor can his role in my life as the co-parent of a child.

For the loss of a child, and the loss of a parent, no matter what you do, you can't replace that person. You can have more children, but they will never be that particular child, with that child's future. And you can develop a close relationship with an in-law or other parent-aged person, but he or she won't be the one who taught you to ride a bike, or fed you soup when you were sick. They won't ever know you like your parent did.

Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I believe that I can "replace" or recreate major parts of my relationship with T. Yes, T and I had history together, but really, was it that much? We knew each other for most of my thirties, but as activity companions for the first half of our time together, rather than in any very deep way. We didn't grow up together, make many major life decisions (other than to have a child!) together. Our lives were intertwined, but not our deepest identities.

T's death leaves a huge hole in B's life that can never be completely filled by any new husband of mine. T's death also brought me to a close, personal relationship with loss and the eternal questions of life and death. And his death leaves me lonely and struggling as a sole parent. But it does not leave me unable to find another life partner, another person to BE my husband.

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