No one wants their children to hurt, let's be clear. No one wants to see their child in any type of pain, be it something as small as a paper cut or as all consuming as a broken heart. However, we all know that sadness is inevitable. It as much a part of life as love, as happiness, as laughter. I never want to second guess his sadness and I certainly never want to invalidate it. I want to immerse myself in it as much as I do his joy because it is very bit as valid.
Sadness is distressing and people don't do well with it, so I've noticed. There is awkwardness in sorrow and the desire for people to push it away as if it never existed. It's human nature and I get that. I've found myself more than once telling Ethan "there's no reason to be sad, it's okay" and then mentally slapping myself on the wrist each time the words exit my mouth. If he's feeling sad then there is reason and it is my job as a parent to help him work through it rather than push it under the rug. Just this afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with my parents having a discussion when I had said "but my child died" and before I could even finish the words, my father began hush-hushing me from where he sat because if I don't say it, it didn't happen. Or if I don't speak the words, it's almost as if I'm not thinking about it constantly, I suppose.
I've dealt with depression a few times throughout my life and I don't feel any type of shame in saying so or admitting this. I've been on antidepressants and anxiety medication here and there where the doctors thought it might help. I don't really do stigmas and think there is never anything to hide from in terms of knowing yourself in your entirety.
Perhaps the hardest thing in dealing with sadness is the helplessness those around you feel because they don't know how to reach you and maybe they can't. Maybe no matter how badly they want to, it's impossible for them to reach you. I've had several people tell me following Wylie's passing that they wished they had the right words to make me feel better, and they mean well, but no words can erase the pain of losing a child. Nothing in the world can erase that pain, words or otherwise.
Frequently I wonder if one day when he's older, when he has children of his own, he will recount the summer that we lost his sister and if he will think, "wow, my mother was tough. She was strong. I don't remember her ever breaking down." I wonder if he will think this, struggling to recall a time when life was not sturdy and steady and safe. Other times I wonder if he will think "wow, my mother was tough. She was strong. I remember how she pushed on through her sadness and pain" -- and, admittedly, this is what I hope he remembers so long as I continue to normalize my sadness for the sake of his own.
I don't have all of the answers for how to approach sadness with Ethan because I'm not very good at it. When he falls and bites his lip or he crumbles with frustration over not being able to cut a straight line, my insides hurt because his pain is mine. It is my instinct to reassure him that there is no reason for his sadness but there is, because everything he feels is true and valid and in need of respect. It's practicing what I preach and hoping that practice makes perfect because I admittedly struggle with this. I want him to know sadness without feeling like it's wrong to do so. I want him to know that it's okay to collapse in tears until his pillowcase is soaking wet because that's perfectly acceptable. It's a sign of strength to let your feelings be heard and known and truly felt. I want to learn to talk him through his feelings but not out of them, to encourage without stifling and I want to do this when he is three and scrapes his knee and when he is fifteen and has his first broken heart.
I want him to know sadness, to truly know it and not fear it or avoid it.