A Grieving Grandmother on Mother’s Day

I cannot fathom the grief of a mother who has lost a child.  I look at my own children and how deeply I love them, and how much I’m willing to sacrifice for them, and my heart is filled with a passion that I cannot describe.  I love my children more than life itself.

I’ve often said that being a grandmother is even better than being a mother; a grandmother is the best thing I could possibly be.  The love I feel for my children is magnified in my love for my grandchildren, but part of that is because I’ve survived the teen years (let’s go ahead and admit that teens are not 100% lovable!) but I would still go to whatever lengths necessary to protect my children.  In my older son’s words, “We didn’t need Rambo in our family; we had Mombo.”  Any mother knows how much mothers everywhere loves their children and the lengths we would go to protect them.  Except when we can’t.

I’m in a special category of grandmothers, and I didn’t want to be here.  I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t want to be here.  No one wants to lose someone they love, yet  I am a grieving grandmother, times two.  I’ve lost my first grandson and I’ve lost my first granddaughter.  I’ve been to hell and back in the process.  Both were tragic, needless deaths.  Both are – and yes, I speak of them in the present tense because their spirits are very much with me – the children of my only daughter.   She’s a great mother, a better mother than I was when she was young, and I can’t begin to imagine her suffering.  Mother’s Day is not a happy day for her, though she needs to put on a happy face for her three living children.

There’s part of me that wants to quote Sheryl Sandberg in Option B, and say that Glenn and Carly would want us all to be happy and celebrate the day.  It made both of them sad when we were sad or hurt, regardless of the reason.   They were sensitive children.  We aren’t honoring their memory through our tears.  Yet knowing this doesn’t stop the intense pain.  Supposedly it will get easier with time.

As a grandmother, I grieve for my grandchildren and  I wonder who they would be now.  Would Glenn drive me around in the Porsche, or would he prefer the Cadillac? Would he still think I’m the smartest person in the world?  Would he still be delighted by everything his Bebob said?  Would Glenn love Punkin as much as his siblings?  Would Carly still love ballet?  Would she still be so opinionated and such a daredevil?  Would she still snuggle with me?  My answer to all questions is yes.

But as a mother, I grieve most of all for my daughter.  She’s not herself and she will never be the same person who brought Glenn home from the hospital.  I see her struggle.  I see her pain, sometimes written on her face and all over her, as visible as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.  Sometimes she puts on a brave face, but behind those beautiful blue eyes is a broken heart.  As a mom, I can’t put a band aid on it and make it better.  This is something a mom can’t fix, and that compounds my grief.

How will I spend this Mother’s Day?  I’ll be on a plane for part of it, then I’ll be home.  I’ll put on a brave face and will be grateful for the day and for the people who love me.  I’ll be there for my daughter, and for her siblings who also hurt – though in a different way.  I will celebrate the lives we have and those that we’ve lost, and I will hold my family just a little closer.  I will be thankful for the time we had, and I will pray that other people will be sensitive to our emotions on this day.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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