A New Layer to my Grief

I never knew that becoming a parent would alter my grief and orphanhood experience, yet here I am with a two-year-old daughter and a better understanding of the heaviness of my loss. This festive season has opened my eyes to a new level of grief I never knew existed; a level of grief only grievers will understand. It is with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes that I am writing this. I do hope it helps you on your own journey as much as I know that somehow it is helping me...

Prior to mom and dad dying, Christmas was a special time. Both my parents grew up in rural Democratic Republic of Congo, and so Christmas for them was different to Christmas for my sisters and me. That did not stop them from making each festive season special for us. On Christmas Eve we’d dress up all fancy and go to the midnight Christmas mass at our local parish. Christmas Day was spent cooking all our favourite meals and spending quality time with each other (watching our favourite movies, playing games, telling stories…). The house was always decorated with tinsel, fairy lights, bells, banners and a Chrismas tree. I remember feeling at ease and happy.

I remember the very first Christmas without mom and dad. A social worker took my sisters and me to a children’s home where people had donated clothes, toys and food. We all went for a train ride where we were given food and gifts. I don’t remember what I got exactly, but I remember feeling slightly happy. I was grateful for the change in scenery, but I was heartbroken that Christmas would never be the same again. I didn’t want any gifts. I just wanted to have my parents back. My eyes are tearing up as I write this story…

The first few years after becoming an orphan, holidays (especially Christmas) were difficult. The memories were still fresh and as a young child, it was hard having to go through the festive season without mom and dad and the traditions I have become accustomed to. With time, holidays were no longer such a “big deal”. The older I got, the less I cared and the more I was used to not having mom and dad around to carry out family traditions. Christmas became just like any other day of the year. This all stopped this year when I saw my daughter sing along with Peppa Pig during a special Christmas episode. At that very moment, I realized that Christmas (and the holidays in general) had to go back to being special.

Deciding to create my own Christmas traditions with my family enabled me to discover a new layer of grief, and that is feeling grief through the heart of the person/people who have passed on. Prior to this year, my grief had been about how I felt about losing my parents, but now I can't stop myself from wondering how my parents felt about me losing them. See, the older my daughter gets the more I realize just how heavy losing me would be on her fragile heart. It makes me reflect on how my parents felt/feel about their children losing their parents so young. It makes my heart feel so heavy and it breaks a part of my heart I didn’t even know I had. It is as though I carry a piece of my parents’ hearts with me and that piece is letting me know that the tragic loss hurt them too.

Loving my child has made me understand just how much my parents loved (and still love) me. Loving my child has made me realize that there is no way that my parents stopped loving me when their hearts stopped beating. I refuse to believe that! Pure love is just too powerful to be killed by death. Pure love lives on. It is both heart-warming and gut-wrenching to know that I will forever carry my parents’ love for me in my heart. Their love laughs, their love smile; but their love also cries whenever I cry. In essence, I guess my heart carries both their grief and mine because when I lost them, they lost me. In the midst of this double-sided grief, we’ll somehow always have each other. I never knew that becoming a parent would alter my grief and orphanhood experience, yet here I am with a two-year-old daughter and a better understanding of the heaviness of my loss...