“Your pics look like your happy again a lot, and your family is happy”.
I had to tiptoe my reply gently as this was a newly bereaved parent. I know what they were searching for. I spent Sonzee’s entire life with parents of newly diagnosed children seeking some sort of hope that maybe their child would be the one to defy the odds while living with a CDKL5 mutation. I didn’t want to crush their dreams early on in their journey, I knew deep down after time went by as their child’s skills or lack there of were more obvious, they would learn the reality, (plus there was a (slim) chance I might be wrong). When the medical interventions became more profound it would be more difficult for them to convince themselves otherwise, better let them figure things out on their own. Not every child with a CDKL5 mutation is affected as severely as Sonzee was, not every 4-year-old with a CDKL5 mutation dies, it just happened to be our reality. So, I didn’t need to throw negativity into their face. As such is the same with newly bereaved parents. They come seeking some sort of hope, some sort of comfort that life will go on, something, anything that says this won’t be as awful as I imagine, forever, right?!
Don’t be confused by a smile and being happy. There are happy moments, and the smiles when they happen can actually be real, but there is always a dark cloud hovering close by. The happiness and smiles are momentary, almost as if reality has halted and for a split second I am living in the moment, a happy one. A moment that will fade all too quickly as soon as the recesses of my mind remind me that I buried a child. Almost 3.5 years later there are more happy days than sad ones, but some days it is still hard to breathe. There are times when the happiness gets smacked out of me like the wind being knocked out of your lungs after a big hit, and I find myself gasping for air. Happiness exists, yes, it does, I can give you that. But will you ever be as happy as you once were as you stood wrangling all of your children after whispering threats in their ears to smile for the family pictures? No. Will you ever be as happy as you were sitting at your children’s school events when all of your children were alive and you were brought to tears by extreme happiness and amazement that your child completed a milestone? No. Will you ever be as happy as you were at your major life milestones when you were a complete family? No.
You will smile again. You will laugh. You will celebrate all the milestones that are yet to come, and you will for those seconds actually be happy. But then the shadow of what your deceased child won’t be celebrating, or the reminder that the last time you celebrated “event xyz” it was for your deceased child will pop into your mind and the happiness becomes muddled. The happiness is split. At least for me it is. I get happy, but there is a max to it. I enjoy life as much as I can, I smile when I am happy, and when I laugh it is genuine, but the realty is, I buried my little girl, there is a max to my happiness. Everything is harder and simple things are difficult.
Are we as a family happy? Yes, our family of 6 smiles and laughs and has an amazing time. We appreciate all of the moments that come our way. But don’t let the smiles and the pictures fool you, because the reality is, we are supposed to be a family of 7, so we are missing the piece that makes us irrefutably happy.