For all sad words of tongue and pen, the are saddest are these, “It might have been.”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
Most people in my daily life don’t even know that I once had a daughter named Grace. It was a long time ago, and there isn’t really any reason to disclose information that will only serve to make someone uncomfortable. Often, the “face” we present to the world is far different from the person who resides in our hearts.
Thanksgiving is November 24. It’s a day of family celebration. I will celebrate along with those around me. I’ll be thrilled to have all of my kids home and under one roof for several days. What most people won’t know or won’t remember is that November 24th is also Grace’s birthday. It would have been her “golden birthday, 24 on the 24th. I can’t help but think of how things might have been. What an awesome day to have been able to celebrate her birthday. Instead, I will remember alone, and I won’t say a word to anyone. After all, who wants to remember something sad, something that happened so very long ago?
Lately, I have been spending too much time thinking about “what might have been.” I am standing in the present, but too much of the time; my head is turned around looking back at the past. I miss my dad, and it isn’t the same to celebrate Thanksgiving without him. I miss my grandparents during the holiday season, too. And Grace. Thanksgiving will mark the beginning of a time each year when too much of my time is spent remembering and thinking about “what might have been.”
Several years ago, a friend who had lost a child asked me to join her in forming a support group for those who had recently lost babies. It was at a time in my life when I was very happy. I had returned to work. I was moving on and moving forward. I felt sad for this woman. I really did. Her experience had been horrible, but a couple of years had passed since then, and she seemed to still be LIVING for her grief. She wore her baby’s name and birthstone on a necklace around her neck. She set a place at the dinner table for her missing child. While I understood her pain, it made me sad to think of the pain she was causing her children that were THERE. This woman had defined who she was by her grief, and it scared the hell out of me to see that. I had to tell her that I could not help her out with the support group, but I also felt the need to gently explain to her that I while losing a child still hurt; it no longer defined who I was. I offered to help anyone who needed someone to talk to one on one, including her, but I just couldn’t go backwards. I knew that weekly grief meetings would not be something that would help me in healing and continuing to move forward.
What has happened since then? SOMETHING has happened, because I am no longer that strong, positive woman who would not allow her life to be defined by grief. I know from experience that sadness breeds sadness. One sad thought leads to the next sad thought. It becomes a vicious cycle. When it rains, it pours. I believe that! Negativity will only lead to more negativity.
I suppose that by recognizing that I have slipped back to a place that doesn’t feel very good is the first step in pulling myself back up out of the hole. I’m not sure if happiness is necessarily a choice, but I do know that wallowing in self-pity and looking back at “what might have been” is not congruent with moving on and moving forward. Negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative people all need to be pushed out of my life. While these next few days and weeks will be full of sad reminders, they will also be full of moments full of happiness and joy. Those are the moments that I need to pull in close, and those are the moments that will help me to become someone who I can be proud of once again.