Unrequited Need

Grieving mothers often have an unrequited need to continue to nurture and protect their child.


I was probably just boarding the plane to get back to face it. The unimaginable. By the grace of God, I was with N.  We were both quaking, sobbing, holding on to one another for life-literally, in fresh shock, while someone wrongly jumped to a conclusion about what happened and posted it on social media. An adult did this. Announcing to my world, to Aiden’s world, assumptions about our tragedy without knowing a thing about it. They were wrong, as most people who jump to conclusions and voice it to the world are, but it started a chain of the most irresponsible and damaging kind. The kind that throws rock salt into the torn heart of a family living out hell on earth. The kind that mars one of the few things a suffering Mother has, her child’s memory.

So here I am, months later, dealing with thoughtless theorizations that cast a shadow and was accepted as fact hundreds of miles away to our old community up north. So it was out there, an uncontainable untruth and I was helpless to “right” it. Helpless again. It opened me up and brought me back to it.

So instead of what I’d like to do in this instance, I have this. More insight into the heart and mind of a bereaved Mother.

In this case, the unrequited maternal need to protect.

I could lie here writing into the middle of the night for months with the worlds most eloquent and insightful writer as my coach and never be able to adequately draw a picture of what living each day since that moment continues to be like. What living that moment over and over and over again daily is like. I try sometimes because there’s a side of me, ( and all of us going through this) that wants some company in this. Not an anonymous face from an on-line group, although I’m grateful for them, but someone close, in the flesh, who can get it and look into my eyes afterwards and say, “Oh my God, I get it now”, and really, actually get it. All of it. Just for a day so we can talk. I don’t want them to actually suffer a tragedy of course, just to have a temporary limbic “download” so we can talk about it, like Mother’s need to do. I know and I’ve heard it from others- no matter who is around you, a Mother who has lost her child feels like she is always on the inside looking out. Out into the world she used to know, that continues to go on without her child in it. A world that is now so unfamiliar and wrong.

I’d like to say my faith is so solid that I hear only the voice of God in here. But I don’t. My faith wavers like the ebb and flow of the grief that shattered it. So I hear myself and the enemy of my soul, (which could arguably be one in the same most days.) That’s why I wouldn’t really want anyone to know this- my GOD, no.  It’s just another dubious thought, like someday realizing this has all been a horrible nightmare and I’ll wake up soon and will have my boy back.

One of the things I would want to talk about is this fierce maternal need that has not just remained, but has enlarged.

The need to protect him. Still.

Grieving mothers go on fighting for their child. I’ve learned this from my own experience and from the all-too-many mothers walking their own grief out. We fight for their memory to matter, fight to keep them alive to everyone who knew and loved them, fight to create their place in the world and in our lives that they never had the chance to do. Their physical bodies are no longer here, but that need to protect and nurture is as compelling as ever. To tamper with their memory is, well…

You just don’t.

It’s as if their entire life of unrealized dreams and potential sits in our Mother hearts, regretfully twisting and churning-bursting to get out, but can’t. Every unseen event: his first kiss that will never be, proms, weekends on the lake, graduations, his first love, his wedding, or just simple day to day life like watching him do his homework. The mundane is what I would give anything to have back.

The need is in vain, of course, so we’ve no choice but to settle for their memory because it’s what we have.

And so their memory carries the weight that their life once did.

It has to encompass all they were and

all they should’ve been with no scars or blemishes.

I never would’ve imagined this strange phenomenon.  

The unrequited need to nurture and protect the child that is gone.

Where one mission ends with the physical life, the other becomes exponentially stronger,

making this emotion a bit precarious to walk out.

It’s not just about who they were to us, but who they were to their world. Even if all they were to one person was the cute kid on the corner who played football and smiled and waved as they drove by, the teammate who humbly played the game well and treated people with respect, the friend who made a goofy face to his buddy from across the lunch room everyday, the boy who was kind to the girl nobody else payed much attention to, the friend who was going to help you with your math homework the very next day.

Or the son who was his Mother’s answered prayer.

Those small things, become everything.

Each of those memories

his eternal etch on the world.

It’s precarious because our brokenness makes us so vulnerable and open to more damage- like what happened last week. The kind that wants to lash out, absolutely rabid when our child’s memory is wrongly touched. Never judge a bereaved mother by her Facebook posts or how she seems in public or on the phone. I’m saying this because I know-she tries so hard to be who she was before-to be familiar to everyone and herself, but she isn’t. Her very self and life are unrecognizable to her. What might she have faced that day in spite of how it appears? Her heart and mind are like a fragile piece of over-blown glass. “Intact” for the purposes of this world, but brought just to the point of bursting into irreparable pieces on the craftsman’s floor.

learning to live life after the loss of a child is second only to hearing about the loss of your child.

I believe this is all an intrinsic survival mechanism that was given to us by God who knows a Mothers heart.

For survival of our maternal privilege,

survival of our child’s legacy,

survival of our very mind as we trudge this lifelong burden of out-of-order death.

We are the keepers of their flame, seeing to the true memory of our child until we are with them again.

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About Jennifer

I am a mother first and foremost. I am also a mother who lost a child, suddenly and tragically. Like other bereaved Mothers, I am trying to find my way back, and writing and creativity is a huge part of that. I hope by documenting my climb out of this, that my walk, my struggles, my failings, my faith, my honesty, and my choice to live-in every sense of the word, will help someone else do the same.

2 Responses to Unrequited Need

  1. veranda15 says:

    the pain you feel is so raw, and having lost a child of my own, i know that your heart is bleeding from this rawness. i applaud you for writing this out, because i never could. i wish i could help you, but i don’t know how i have lived 19 years since losing my girl. just don’t ever stop talking about him, celebrating him, or let people stop talking about him and celebrating him. it does help. hugs to you, sweet lady.

    • Jennifer says:

      19 years…. I can’t even imagine it. I’m so sorry. Thank you so very much for your comment and I will never stop talking about him or celebrating him. Thank you for your encouraging words. Love and prayers to you.

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