When I lost my daughter three years ago to prematurity, I thought I would never be OK. Loss in general is devastating, but a when you lose your child it’s like your entire future is pulled out from under you. You have plans, then suddenly those plans are severely altered. You have a picture of a future you've been envisioning for 40 (or more) weeks, only to have that picture forever changed. Still, I persevered. In fact, I realized that there are ways losing a child makes you a stronger parent.
I battled depression and anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after I lost my daughter, but I have lived to tell about it. In fact, I even got pregnant again and had a second child, so I've seen the light at the end of a dark, painful, devastating tunnel. Now, my son is 19 months old and the light of my life. While I’m sure I would have been a strong parent regardless, and in no way am I saying that you need to lose a child in order to be a "strong" or "good" or "capable" parent, having experienced a loss first has made me stronger in ways I never really thought about before.
So, no matter how you lost your baby, know that you're not alone. Know that there are at least nine ways in which being a loss mom might cause you to become a stronger person and a stronger parent. Most importantly, know that, eventually, you will be OK.
You're Less Tolerant Of Toxic People In Your Life
After you lose a kid, you quickly become aware who your real friends are. Death tends to make a lot of people uncomfortable and, right away, there will be folks who don’t know how to handle your type of loss. They'll grow distant, only to send you some random Facebook birthday invite months later. Yeah, feel free to ignore this invitation.
Then, sadly, there are the people who make insensitive remarks about how it’s "OK" your baby died because, “You’ll just have another one, right?" Yeah, cut them out, too.
However, the friends who came to your child’s wake and the ones who brought you home-cooked meals or just dropped by to see how you were holding up; the ones who always answered your texts right away, even though you couldn’t be there for happy hours? Well, those are the friends you'll want to keep. You won’t want anything other than quality people in the lives of you and your remaining family. While it's sad that the non-quality people will reveal themselves at arguably the worst time imaginable, it's incredible when the quality people reveal themselves, too.
You'll Speak Your Mind More Freely
In the first few months of grief, many of us have a tendency to lose the filter that tells us to respond politely to folks when they’re being rude or insensitive. Honestly, for some of us, that filter doesn’t really return.
I know I quickly stopped caring what other people thought of me or my words or my actions and, even now, I'm still much more likely to tell you like it is, even if you’re not going to necessarily like what I have to say. It’s a quality I hope my son picks up on, if I'm being really honest. Too many of us go through life not asking for what we want or not pointing out injustices when, in reality, we might all be better off if we could just be a bit more honest with those around us.
You'll Be Quick To Stand Up For Yourself...
Because you’ve stopped allowing negative people in your life, and because you are more willing to share your thoughts, you will very likely stand up for yourself and your beliefs on a more regular and frequent future. Once you’ve lost your child, you realize there’s really no rhyme or reason to allowing others not to treat you with all the respect you deserve. It’s a lesson you’re guaranteed to pass on to your other children, as well.
...And You'll Always Stand Up For Your Children
It's one thing to deal with someone messing with you, but if anyone tries to mess with any of your babies, all bets are off. Loss moms are fervid defenders of their offspring, both the living and those who have passed. If someone ever tries to act as though you shouldn’t be honoring your lost baby’s memory, chances are you’ll quickly put them in their place (and rightfully so).
When Your Children Get Sick, You'll Aggressively Advocate For Them
Oftentimes, parents tend to take the word of their doctor at face value. When you’ve already lost one kid, though, you may become a bit more aggressive in how you handle a doctor; especially when they just send your kid home with a script of antibiotics instead of listening to your very valid, very real concerns. You will probably seek out second opinions and you will drill your child’s healthcare providers because you know that even the best professionals can make mistakes.
I once had to snatch my baby away from a doctor who tried to perform a painful (and I later discovered, extremely unnecessary) medical exam without so much as an anesthetic.
You Become Hyper-Aware Of What Your Remaining Child Or Children Need To Remain Happy And Healthy
If you thought you’d already baby-proofed your house before, chances are you will do a thorough triple-check after your loss to ensure the safety of your remaining kids. Loss moms tend to be extremely vigilant, noticing the kinds of potential, even small and highly unlikely dangers regular parents might gloss over. Some folks might not get it, but we know we're just don't everything we can to ensure our children are happy and healthy.
You'll Appreciate The Time You Have With Your Remaining Kids Much, Much More
When you become a parent, you imagine what your child’s life will be like and what your lives will be together. You envision future birthdays and milestones, the first time your baby says, “I love you,” or their first day of school. You picture what the holidays will be like, watching them dress up in costumes to go trick-or-treating with friends and opening presents on Christmas morning. When all that is taken away, you begin to cherish all the smaller moments about a million times more.
You Push Harder To Make Your Dreams Come True
Before my daughter died, I wasn’t too sure about my writing aspirations. I had more time back then, but I lacked the motivation and drive to follow through with my dreams of becoming an established writer and author. The one thing I learned from her loss is that life is too damn short. I have been writing non-stop since, getting myself published and even working on several books. I want to make her proud. I want to make my son proud. I want to make myself proud.
You’ll never work harder to make your dreams come true than after you’ve lost the one person who you wanted to have by your side when you finally did make it.
You Know You Can Get Through Anything, Because You've Already Been Through Hell
Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I usually think of my baby girl and how devastating her loss was. Then, almost immediately, I remember that if I could get through that, I can pretty much get through anything. When my son was born and had to stay in the NICU for two long months, at times fighting for his life, the only thing that got me through it was the memory of my daughter. Loss moms are warriors who have already been dragged through the depths of hell. As a result, they are capable of anything.