I stopped for a quick drink with a co-worker this afternoon at the end of a very long and stressful week. I had told myself multiple times throughout my forty plus hours that, if this doesn’t matter 100 years from today, it doesn’t matter now.
We met at the local bar just a mile or so from the office and started discussing everything but work, as is policy for after-office happy hour.
I asked her about her husband, who had been traveling and had a 24-hour bug. And she asked me about my new role as the incumbent PTA Vice President (of pre-school) and if I needed any advice as to how to say ‘no.’
We continued chatting and eventually she told me how she had taken a personality quiz, as part of a team building exercise during her employment. She said there was one and only one thing that the professionals administering the quiz had stated could actually change a person’s personality.
It was the loss of a child.
She went on to tell me that I was the only friend she’d ever had that suffered such a loss, and she saw me as a saint. From that moment on, I tuned out a lot of what she said.
Because, I am not a saint. And yes, absolutely, I agree, as much as I wish, and pretend, and hope, that I am the same bright-eyed teenager, and faithful twenty-year-old, and hopeful young adult that I was – I absolutely have changed. I have changed because I lived, and lost, my only born, beautiful, and perfect son.
Those of us who have suffered the loss of a child do not think of ourselves as saints. We are survivors. We get by. We do what we have to. We maintain this existence in order to do enough to eventually get to where our angels are.
You may admire us. And we appreciate it. But please, do not give us credit we do not deserve. Life is kicking our asses – and we fully comprehend, understand, and acknowledge that it’s kicking yours too. We are no better, or worse, than you.
Our personalities have changed. We’re a select few. We get an excuse. A free pass, as my sweet friends call it.
And part of me – a big, huge, innocent, part of me – wishes I had not changed. But the reality is, for better or worse, whether I love myself or choose to lament in my sorrow for eternity – the entire being and existence that is ‘me’ has changed.
I can never go back to the girl I used to be. I hope and pray that today’s woman is a stronger and wiser version of that girl who never lost her child. But she will forever be changed.