Parenting After Loss: Balancing Happiness And Grief

Last week, during a mundane supermarket shop, I bumped into an old friend from college who I haven’t seen in a while, who told me she had discovered my blog and was so happy to hear I was doing well. “Your children are so beautiful!” she told me, “I’m glad you’re happy!”. And I nodded and told her I am, I really am, and yet later, when I reflected on our conversation back at home, I wondered if perhaps I had protested my happiness a little too much, nodded a little too vigorously in parts, questioned whether I should have told her, whilst I am very happy to have four healthy children in my arms, I am still so sad that one is missing?

And that night, as I lay in bed, going over and over our conversation in a way which only those still awake at 3am would understand, I remembered the words from an old fridge magnet, propping up newsletters, a dentist reminder, a hand painted drawing from nursery, which simply read, “The word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” And I realised that although my sadness at losing Joseph will never go away, and nor would I want it to, there is nothing wrong with balancing out those bad days with good, those sad thoughts with happy ones. There is nothing wrong with having good days, and bad days, or sometimes just a mixture of the two, co-existing, meandering in and out of sight as and where the path may lead us. Perhaps the nature of grief is such that we will balance the two, for always?

And that doesn’t mean that it comes easily, because it is undeniably difficult at times, possibly the hardest part of navigating parenting after loss – wanting to be thankful for the four healthy children in my arms, wanting to be grateful for a family many can only dream of, wanting to be happy to wake up every single morning to a day filled with promise, all whilst feeling sad for the one who is missing.

There are times as the children grow, when their milestones are met – their first steps, their first words, their first days of school – when I feel so incredibly happy that my children are growing healthy and strong, but I still feel sad that Joseph did not.

There are days when I watch the four of them together, when I swear my heart could burst and my cheeks ache from smiling, when we laugh together, and have fun together, and to look at us from the outside in, we are the picture perfect family, but I feel sad that one is missing.

There are moments on Christmas morning, when our living room is a flurry of wrapping paper, excited squeals and surprised faces, and I am so happy to enjoy all of those moments, but I feel sad for the one who did not.

During holidays and birthdays, during Summer days and rainy days, through special days and every days, I am happy. I really and truly am happy. But I wish that Joseph was here too.

And that’s the crux of it, I suppose? That one tiny word which impacts on my happiness on a daily basis.

I am happy, but…..

And if I’m being completely honest with you, perhaps there are fleeting moments when I do feel nothing but happiness. Perhaps there are days when I find myself living in the moment, just a regular Mummy with a little hand in mine, when I laugh right from my belly, when my eyes sparkle and my cheeks crease, when I am the proudest Mummy in all the world, no doubt about it. And in those moments life is wonderful, and joyful, and everything I had hoped it to be and more. Until instantly, that shroud of guilt washes over me, the gnawing feeling of panic clawing at my chest, berating myself for experiencing true happiness when one of my children is no longer here.

And then the scales topple, the sadness taking over, the voice in the back of my mind asking me how can I ever be happy and fulfilled when a part of me is missing? How can I laugh and smile without a care in the world when my son is gone? How can I ever be truly happy again when the eternal weight of sadness lies heavy on my shoulders, when every happy moment is a reminder that one of my children isn’t here to share it with us? And as such, there are days, fewer and farther between albeit, where I feel nothing but sadness at all that we lost.

And I think it is that, learning to balance both happiness and sadness, both gratitude and loss, which is the one I struggle with the most. Perhaps it will get easier with time, perhaps I will berate myself a little less, enjoy the moment a little more? Perhaps I will become more adept at weighting happiness in my favour, or perhaps every single day will be a new balance to decipher, who knows?

Am I happy? Absolutely. 

Am I sad? Always.

And whilst I don’t have the words to really explain it, someone far wiser than I sums it up perfectly,

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

Stephen Chbosky,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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50 Comments

  1. J Williams
    March 13, 2019 / 2:54 pm

    This is so beautiful Laura, you write with such honesty and passion. I am so sorry for your loss. xx

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:55 pm

      Thank you xx

  2. Tony Johnson
    March 13, 2019 / 2:55 pm

    What an honest and heart filled post. I hope you can find happiness in each day, you deserve to be happy and Joseph would want that for you.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:55 pm

      Thank you xx

  3. Rebecca
    March 13, 2019 / 2:56 pm

    Such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. xx

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:56 pm

      Thank you xx

  4. Jenna P
    March 13, 2019 / 2:57 pm

    I can relate to so much of this. Thank you for writing this and allowing me to feel a little less lonely. You are amazing, don’t forget that! xxx

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:56 pm

      Thank you Jenna, it’s always comforting to know we are are not alone. xx

  5. Candy
    March 13, 2019 / 3:17 pm

    Friend of ours just lost their new born son. Going to send this to them. Beautiful written

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:57 pm

      I am so sorry to hear that Candy, how devastating that must be for them. Lots of love, and thank you xx

  6. March 13, 2019 / 3:39 pm

    This post is beautiful! I love the part about how happy you are but sad at the same time. Learning to balance these emotions are so hard. Hugs to you!

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:57 pm

      Thank you Alli, its very hard to balance those emotions but I hope with time it becomes easier and easier. xx

  7. March 13, 2019 / 4:37 pm

    Reading your story is inspiring. You are strong, very strong not only to share this your insight with all of us, but also for how you succeeded or you try to face this. There are no words to describe how much you admire yourself as you are an inspiration.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 4:58 pm

      Thank you Cristina, I really appreciate that. xx

  8. Melanie
    March 13, 2019 / 5:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart through your post. I showed it to a friend today who experienced the loss of a child and she found this post very relatable.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:42 pm

      I am sorry to hear your friend has experienced the loss of a child. Lots of love to her, and thank you for reading, xx

  9. March 13, 2019 / 5:52 pm

    Beautiful. I wrote a blog about parenting after losing my mum, because at times it feels so difficult to be a Mum when yours is no longer there to guide you.

    Sending love x

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:42 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear your lost your Mum. I think grief is the hardest thing to live with isn’t it? xx

  10. March 13, 2019 / 5:58 pm

    I can understand this. Moving on after a loss isn’t easy. You always remember. But you also know you have to live your life.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:43 pm

      Thank you Amber, yes that’s exactly it. It’s so hard! xx

  11. Pam Wattenbarger
    March 13, 2019 / 7:39 pm

    I can’t even imagne how hard it is to parent after the loss of a child. It’s such an immense type of grief.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:43 pm

      It is, and I’m not sure it ever gets easier. xx

  12. March 13, 2019 / 8:15 pm

    omg Laura, i really really feel for you. Thank you so so much for sharing your emotions with us. Am I happy? Absolutely. Am I sad? Always. This killed me…Bless you Laura.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:44 pm

      Thank you for reading Chad, its such a difficult balance and one I am so sad that so many of us have to juggle. xx

  13. March 13, 2019 / 8:53 pm

    My heart is soaring after this, Laura. Love and light to your family and I pray you keep smiling for your all your beautiful children.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:44 pm

      Thank you so much xx

  14. March 13, 2019 / 9:28 pm

    Beautifully written as always my friend. I think you should be proud of yourself, because I think you navigate this so well. You show your love and loss for Joseph always, but at the same time you ooze love and happiness for Lewis, Harry, Eva and Megan. I’m never in any doubt that this is how you are and feel all the time x

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:45 pm

      Ahh thank you lovely, it seems to come in highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like I’ve cracked it and other times I’m right back at square one. I guess that will always be the case. xx

  15. March 14, 2019 / 1:37 am

    This was beautiful. I had a miscarriage and it was hard to explain to my hubs how I felt even though my child wasn’t born I still felt lost. Still do to this day wondering what could have been.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:45 pm

      I’m so sorry for your loss Kita. I think that never knowing who they would have been is so hard to accept. xx

  16. March 14, 2019 / 2:32 am

    This is beautifully written. Balancing happiness and sadness are tough, but I hope you’re getting by. You’re very strong and I’m sure you’ll get through this. I am sorry for your loss, Laura. Hugs to you.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      Thank you Reika. These children in my arms definitely help me to keep smiling that’s for sure. xx

  17. March 14, 2019 / 3:53 am

    The loss of a child is an unexplainable grief. You wrote this beautifully. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      Thank you so much Lisa. xx

    • Laura Dove
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      Thanks lovely xx

  18. MELANIE EDJOURIAN
    March 14, 2019 / 1:07 pm

    A relative lost their first child last year and didn’t even know she was pregnant. I’m hoping their latest pregnancy goes to term. It’s shocking how many are affected by loss of a child. It’s something that you never get over but it gets easier to live with in time.

  19. Terri
    March 14, 2019 / 2:59 pm

    This is a beautiful post. I am sorry for what you have endured, and am happy that you find a way to balance the happiness and sadness. Your kids need you and don’t want to miss out in those special moments with them.

  20. March 14, 2019 / 4:22 pm

    It is completely normal to feel sadness for someone lost but sounds like you have a good balance and kids have a way of putting a smile on your face, even if you are having a bad day

  21. March 14, 2019 / 5:00 pm

    This is such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I loved when you shared that your happy and sad.

  22. Shanab
    March 14, 2019 / 7:12 pm

    I have no words. I hope you find peace and that sharing your story has been somewhat cathartic. I cant even imagine what you have been through. Sending strength and light in your moments of darkness. Xx

  23. March 14, 2019 / 7:56 pm

    Losing a loved one is painful, but losing a son maybe more painful. I am so sorry for your loss. But I’m glad you’re still finding happiness in every day.

  24. March 15, 2019 / 12:50 am

    This post has given me an insight into a mother’s feeling. Your children are beautifully raised and I am so proud of you.

  25. March 15, 2019 / 4:08 am

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Those moments of happiness sound like they are really priceless. Thanks for sharing parts of your journey with us.

  26. March 15, 2019 / 11:58 am

    I always remind myself that we could not be happy without sad, disappointing, painful, and angry moments. It’s important to focus on everything that is wonderful about our life right now. It is very painful to lose a loved one. Take good care of your loved ones and enjoy the happiness.

  27. March 15, 2019 / 2:46 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You are strong and amazing and I’m inspired by your story.

  28. March 16, 2019 / 10:52 am

    My nephew just lost their little angel. She was supposed to be born three days before she was due. So sad but needs to cope with it.

  29. Suzanne
    March 16, 2019 / 11:50 pm

    I can’t imagine the heartache of what you went through, but perhaps without having gone through that journey, you wouldn’t have your other four children now. <3

  30. March 17, 2019 / 7:13 am

    Is that from Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s such an intense quote from such an intense place of love and loss there. I can see how your life has all kinds of strains pulling at it, both happy and sad. Beautifully told here.

  31. March 18, 2019 / 11:39 pm

    So beautifully expressed. I love the quote at the end as well. Yes, you are happy and sad at the same time. Perpexling isn’t it. I am so sorry for your loss. May you and your family continue to heal.

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