I have five children. FIVE.
I know you don't see all of them. You can count and count and count again, and you will only get to FOUR children when you see our family around town. But, I promise, I have five children.
I have quite a few friends who have five children. Sometimes when I get together with them, I get the sense that I'm not 'quite' as experienced as them, considering they have five children, and I only have four. They see that I have four children, and some will remember & acknowledge that I have one in heaven, but it surely can't be as demanding as having FIVE living children.
This is one of the hardest things to explain to someone who has not lost a child. Just because Link is not here on earth and I don't get to have the daily physical care of him - helping him to get up, get dressed, feeding him, bathing him, teaching him, dealing with tantrums, messes, etc, - does not mean that he requires less mental, physical, and emotional energy than my living children do. I know that may seem a bit of an exaggeration, but I it's true.
MENTAL: Honestly, Link is on my mind JUST as much as my living children. And you know how, when you become a parent, you are always tuned in to where your children are? Yes, I have that with Link, too. That was one of the most difficult things those first few weeks after he was gone. Your momma mind & heart is always searching for them, needing to know where they are at that moment. While I have grown more accustomed to not knowing exactly where his spirit currently is, my heart and mind still try to keep tabs on him, just as I do my living children.
Do I worry about him? It's not the same as my living children, but the worrying component is even there. With my living children, I worry about their safety, their health, their spiritual and educational state. Now, the worry is for me. I worry about my spiritual state, etc, and if I am making the kind of choices that will assure that I will get to be with him forever one day. I can promise you that kind of worry can be just as intense as worrying about my living children. Also - especially at the beginning, I irrationally worried about his cold little body buried at the cemetery after it snowed. And, a huge worry for us loss-parents is that people will forget our sweet child. That a year will come when no one remembers it's their birthday but you.
PHYSICAL: No, I am not waking up with him at night, dragging him out of the store during a tantrum, strapping him into his car seat, etc. I don't have those everyday specific physical drains with Link, but ask any parent who has lost a child and they will tell you that there is a VERY large physical toll that comes with this journey. Grief from not having Link here wears me out more physically than if he were here. I know, it's hard to believe. But, it's true. I've lost more sleep from grief than an entire lifetime of night-wakings I would have gladly taken in its place. Many of us loss moms will tell you, and I'm sure research would agree, that losing a child takes many years off your life. Gray hairs, weight gain or weight loss, wrinkles, etc. There is an enormous physical, DAILY toll that comes with losing a child.
EMOTIONAL: Raising children is hard emotionally. SO HARD. Some nights you go to bed just wanting someone to hold you and tell you everything will be okay. Especially after a day of orneriness, back-talking, tears, yelling, cutting teeth, sibling rivalry, disobedience, puberty, etc. You name it. It is HARD. But it doesn't even compare with the emotion of grief. Never. Living-children emotional drainage is difficult, but you know eventually it will get better - there's a new day tomorrow and children go through phases. With grief, you feel like the only thing that will really cure it is getting to hold your child again. And you do not know how many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, or decades that might be. And so the emotional pain is just there. And the hardest part is, unlike living children, you don't have the milestones, the proud moments, the sweet talk, the hugs and kisses to offset all those negative behaviors and emotions. Just like with living children, some days are easier than others, but the hard days are just harder when you are dealing with grief.
So - yes, having a child in heaven is very different than having a child here on earth, but the toll it takes on me as a mother is very similar, if not more demanding than a living child. If anything, I would say that Link is probably my most demanding child. Physically, emotionally, mentally. He's also so very beloved. And I feel so blessed to be his mom.
Thank you for all those to give me "credit" for my five beautiful children. You'll never know how much it means to me.