We recently came back from vacation, and as I was packing and planning, making sure I had everything we could need for myself and for our son, I started thinking about all the things we equip ourselves with as loss parents.
Sure, I have the usual checklists similar to other parents of a toddler:
- Kid is clothed in weather-appropriate attire
- Extra diapers, wipes, snacks, toys
- Extra shoes for the days when my toddler isn’t going to wear shoes, but may have to or the next size up when all of a sudden, their feet grow from the time it takes to drive from our house to his classes
- Socks for classes and therapy where he can’t wear shoes
- Coat/jacket/sweatshirt (and sometimes with options in case that coat today is itchy or doesn’t fit right)
- All the things we can plan to have in case of meltdowns while we’re out
And then, since we worry about ourselves last, for me, do I have my phone, wallet, keys? Have I remembered to wear a coat? Am I fully dressed? Do I have shoes on (bonus if the shoes actually match)?
It is a lot to remember and track for any parent. This is why there are so many websites, blogs, social media groups, and posts about travel, activities, and strategies for parenting and children.
But, when you are a loss parent, that checklist has more to it because we have to have our tools, our weapons to fight for all of our children, especially our angel babies, in a world that wants nothing more than for us to shut up and never mention them.
So, besides prepping our living children with what they may need, as loss parents, we also have to be prepared for so much more:
For any potential triggers, for strangers who ask questions about how many kids you have, for people who see your child and immediately ask about their siblings, reminding you that the child(ren) need siblings or that if you have only one sex (i.e., only a boy), that they need a sibling of the opposite sex, for the moments when you have to experience the hurt, pain, and grief that comes with every single day of life as a loss parent. You also need to be prepared for seeing and hearing parents who complain about parenting, who yell at their children over the smallest thing, and for all the comments and actions that go along with that.
I’ve written previously about how exhausting grief is. The exhaustion comes in so many levels, but I think in large part, it’s because we have to go through this checklist in our head every day just to leave the house and live our lives.
Fake smile? Check.
Deflectors up for comments that hurt? Check.
Answers to questions about how many children do we have? Check.
Breathwork to control our emotions after we answer that question? Check.
Responses to comments about how our children need siblings when they do have them, but they just can’t be seen? Check.
Tongue ready to be bitten so that we don’t lash out at strangers who have the audacity to make these comments? Check.
Imaginary armor on ready to take on the world? Check.
Phone numbers, emails, texts ready for venting and centering? Check.
Answers to questions our living children ask after these interactions? Check.
Tissues for the tears shed when our angel babies are not recognized as one of our children? Check.
Pillow (proverbial or real) to scream into when the pain turns to anger and frustration? Check.
Prepping this imaginary checklist, which also includes psyching ourselves up with the energy and courage to take on the world, takes a lot out of us.
Above all, it is preparing ourselves to limit the impact of severe emotions while knowing that there are so many things we cannot control or expect. And the constant weighing, expecting, planning, and reanalyzing is the reason why grief is so exhausting.
Being a parent means a lot of planning and anticipating, but as a loss parent, it also means creating your arsenal of weapons to fight the world to acknowledge your angel babies and wearing the armor to protect yourself when that does not happen.