For me, my identity was shattered. Along with all of the other blows of trying to figure out how to live without my oldest child, one of my first thoughts was that I was no longer the mother of three children. Everywhere around me were mothers of three children. At once, I was no longer identifiable. Who was I? I used to give advice to those moms having a rough day with those three children. I used to say, “It gets better! My oldest helps me so much now!” That was gone. I no longer had my helper. How I relied on my J.T. for so much more than I ever imagined.
Who was I?
I homeschooled my son that year. I no longer had a child to homeschool. I was no longer his teacher. I didn’t really have that community with which to interact. I relied on them more than I knew.
Who was I?
I spent so many years working on who I was and had it down to a tee! I lost so much that morning when they told me, “He didn’t make it.”
Who was I? And will I ever make it back?
For others, the secondary losses involve being “grandma” or “grandpa”. When your married child leaves, what does that do to your relationship with his/her spouse? More importantly, what does that do to your relationship with your grandchildren? This is huge. You worry you will no longer be included in their lives. You won’t be able to watch the only living piece of your child grow up. You ask, “What happens if my daughter in law or son in law remarry? Will I still be part of the family?” I do know many families who have worked this out and absolutely still include the grandparents in their children’s lives. They absolutely honor that relationship. I know of others who have not. Do what you need to do in a healthy way to keep that communication open. Ask for help wherever you can.
For those whose children left in their teens or twenties, it might be your secondary loss is not seeing your child marry and have children, being denied that grandparent role. Honor this loss. It is real and it is true. If it helps, the NICU at many hospitals look for “baby holders”. When my third child was born with a heart defect requiring open heart surgery, I would watch these wonderful volunteers hold these babies who craved touch and love. It broke my heart that these little babies had to be here to begin with, but to have someone there to hold them made all the difference to them and to me. It is an option if you feel like sharing the love you have, the love you feel you won’t ever be able to give to your biological grandchildren. It does not replace that loss, but it can help with the healing.
There are different secondary losses for those whose children were stillborn, miscarried or passed within the first year. Seeing pregnant women or friends having babies can be excruciating. Just walking into the grocery store can be a grief experience. Your nursery remains empty. The baby clothes all washed and ready to be worn…with no one to wear them. The loss of not being able to nurse your child, birth your child, hold your child. Do not feel you have to pack everything up right away. Do it in your time. Sometimes it helps to spend time in that room, honoring your grief. Only you can say what is right for you. Don’t let anybody else convince you to do anything before you are ready. It is not their grief. It is yours.