Joshua was 51 days old when he died.
He spent his entire life in the hospital.
There were only a handful of people who got to meet him while he was alive.
There were a few who knew him more than others- who were present at his birth, or cried when they saw him after his first surgery, who took his pictures, who prayed over him, who touched his tiny feet, who cared for him.
Those people carry a part of my sons life with them.
After losing a baby, a mother's worst fear is that her baby's life will not be remembered. It is a bereaved mother's deepest and darkest fear that her baby will be forgotten.
I know that Joshua's memory is alive and that he will not be forgotten. His name is spoken freely around our home, we share his story with anyone and everyone who will listen, he has CHD dolls named after him. His life will not be forgotten as long as I am alive.
Those things are wonderful, but sometimes a mama just wants to talk to someone who KNEW him. Someone who smelled his little head, who saw his heart beating inside his chest, who caressed his tiny wrinkly feet. Sometimes a mama just needs to know that others who knew him remember him and haven't just shoved his memory into some dark part of their heart to never be brought up again.
This weekend, I was faced with a new feeling that I have not experienced in my journey with grief.
Bitterness that some (not all) of the people who "knew" Joshua have that part of him and that the connection with those people has been cut off. They hurt me and my family so badly after Joshua died, that I can't bring myself to have a relationship with them. Yet, those are the very people who were intimately involved in his life. They have a part of him that I don't necessarily want them to have.
I felt bitter that they "loved" my baby and my family so much and were so deeply involved in the entire situation and then just threw us out like a piece of trash after he died. I felt bitter that they hold physical memories of Joshua, yet within days after he died, were the first to tell me that how I was grieving was wrong and that I needed to listen to the very people who were attacking our family. I felt bitter that these people carried our family through such an emotionally taxing time of our lives, but when it got worse, they were incapable of loving us and helping to carry the burden.
Throughout my journey with grief, I have found myself being fairly graceful to people who say stupid things in an effort to try and help ease the pain. From the very beginning, I knew that people had no idea what to say or do, and that we were facing a parents worst nightmare. Things like, "God needed another angel in heaven," or "you can always have more children," I let go. I didn't let those things bother me and I didn't take them personally. I knew that what we had faced was so far out of any realm of experience any of our friends had ever faced. I knew that they were only trying to help.
But it's the ones who knew Joshua- the ones who held him, or touched him, or breathed him in. Those are the ones that I needed compassion from after he died. I needed them to just sit with me. I needed them to cry with me. I needed them to simply tell me they didn't have the answers and that losing Joshua just plain SUCKED. I needed them to tell me that me and my family were not going to be just another church statistic.
And even though a few of them failed me, I still need them. I need them to remember him. Moreso, I need them to TELL me they remember him. I need them to text or email on his birthday. I need them to talk about him.
They hold a part of him that I wish they didn't. They hold a part of my child's memory that I wish other's had held. They hold a part of him that I wish we could talk about.
But none of those things will happen. The relationships are unrepairable and the bitterness is real and completely unexpected.
I'm working hard to remember that Joshua made an impact in the lives that needed to be impacted. I'm working hard to remind myself that Joshua made a difference in those lives, even if they don't speak his name anymore. I'm working hard to trust that Joshua's life had a purpose for all of our lives, not just the lives of my husband and children. I'm trusting that God worked in their lives in ways that I may never know, and that that will be enough for me.
Above all else, I'm working towards surrendering this bitterness to God. He is the true source of healing.