Do Not Cry on the Baby’s Burp Rag
My son was only three months old when his daddy died. Although he was too young to understand death, babies do absorb the stress and anxiety in the people around them.
What if I allowed my own grief to be a burden on my son? What if he confused my look of sadness for disappointment? I repeated over and over to myself: Do not cry on the baby’s burp rag. You will just make him upset. Just wait until he’s napping.
When Good Memories Bring Pain
The following was written on June 10, 2007, 15 months after I became a widow:
I had trouble sleeping last night because I was thinking about Jason.
I imagine us at Santee playing rummy on the porch. I can feel the moment so clearly, but peace is dashed away when reality reminds me- he isn’t here.
How easily people die. They leave a hole in your heart, and the hole is directly proportional to how much love and dependence you had for that person.
The more you love them, the more desolate and deprived and hopeless you feel if they are snatched away.
Isn’t it sad that we are here on earth enjoying our time together, but after our loved ones are gone, the memories bring pain?
It should not be this way, but everything connected to Jason makes me want to cry.
Widows, Separate Your Grief From Your Children
Our son was only three months old when Jason died, so young that I couldn’t talk to him about his dad yet.
Maybe that’s why it was hard for me to dissociate Caleb from Jason. It was hard for me to see him as being separate and distinct from his dad.
I worried that I could lose our baby too. The moment could be snatched away and turned into a memory just like Jason.
I was helping Caleb learn to crawl, and I praised him with my high, excited, “mommy voice” when he scooted forward for his toy.
My next action was involuntary. I glanced behind me with a huge smile, like I was looking up at Jason to see the pride in his eyes.
Nope, nothing but the pool table in my parents’ living room was standing over my shoulder. The disappointment was so strong that it felt like a slap in the face.
I want to share Caleb’s milestones with Jason, but he isn’t here.
I had to consciously separate my grief from the situation. My baby cannot carry the burden of heartache that I feel in missing his father.
I Will Always Cheer Him On
Thankfully, I recognized the harm of projecting sadness on my baby son. I was healing. It’s evident in what I wrote later in 2007:
“My grim mood changes to playful happiness around Caleb. He is a rambunctious, giggling, squealing, hat-wearing, charming and heart-stealing little sprite. He makes my heart swell and my anger dissipate.”
I still know that Caleb or my mom or dad or brother could go at any time. I am well aware of these “risks” of tying my life up into other people, but I don’t withhold joy anymore in an attempt to protect myself.
Caleb looked at me for encouragement while learning to do cartwheels at his grandparents’ house this winter. He looked at me for reassurance when he learned to swim. A child’s smile in that moment is a reflection of his mother’s love.