Author/grieving mom, Emily Rapp's powerful piece and interview on this morning's Today Show resonates with me even more than most because I, too, lost my son in cold, cruel February. My loss was ten years ago and one day later. My son lost his life to complications of cerebral palsy.
We both shared children with big medical challenges, beautiful, smart, charming, much-loved children fully included in our lives and in the world. We both tried and continue to try to make sense of devastating loss for which no explanation will ever be calming enough.
We both chose to help honor our children's lives and help change the lives of others, including by writing and becoming authors about our remarkable and painful journeys. I devoted an entire chapter in my book to facing the death of a child and included a powerful essay about my loss. Rapp details the day-to-day challenges of living with a child she knows is going to die from Tay- Sachs disease, an insidious diagnosis for which there is currently no cure.
Any mother and father can benefit from Rapp's wise words, fresh in their grief and from mine, lessons learned from more than a decade in survival mode. We share similar, hard-won advice from parenting battlefields of grief. We share the joy, the lessons and the love of a child that helps turn you into a bit of parenting sage: Enjoy your children. Be fully present. Ease up. Your children are not projects. They are, however, great teachers. But we must open ourselves up and sit still long enough to learn their lessons.
I hope you take our parenting advice to heart, especially while your children are still yours to squeeze tightly to your chest. Savor the blessings. It can all be over in the blink of an eye.
Special note: A parent never gets over the death of a child. You just learn how to go on breathing moment by moment of each challenging new day, until the horrific stinging finally begins to ease. Finding purpose in sharing your own tough story of loss, while honoring a beautiful child's legacy in the hope it serves others, helps, too. In so doing, somehow, you can survive this loss, even find joy again.
That much I know.
Watch the Today Show interview and find link to Rapp's new book, here.