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A mother losing her child to premature death is more than missing that child’s presence. It is adjusting to an alternate life. It is growing around a permanent amputation.

Interrupted motherhood is going to bed for the 365th time, and still, the loneliness felt in that quiet, empty home never feels acceptable–all the while knowing it will never be normal. The empty rooms cannot be ignored. The nights no longer bring peace and comfort or the anticipation of another tomorrow, but they assuredly bring the loudness of silence and the void of connection. The morning coffee has no flavor and dinners can no longer be consumed at the table that once held so much joy and conversation before the child was lost.

Interrupted motherhood is walking around the home and having it no longer feel like a home because home incorporated a person. And they’re not there. Homesickness fills your heart, and the certainty that “home” is now a word that is alien to you . . . well, it haunts you to your core.

Interrupted motherhood is seeing all your dreams, hopes, and plans shared with your child crumble around you.

The painful process of searching for new dreams that include only you amount to climbing Mt. Everest, barefoot. And every small victory of creating new dreams for yourself includes a new shade of grief on this unchosen path from which their death propelled you. New dreams or momentary hope for yourself are short-circuited by guilt for having felt them.

Interrupted motherhood is second-guessing everything you thought you knew about yourself. Your life had molded together with your child, your every thought became a lesson or example or excitement to share with them in hopes of improving their quality of life, their insight and their future. And without them, you are having to relearn all your likes, hobbies, fears, goals. It is as though your life-slate has been wiped clean without your consent and with no supply to refill the canvas.

The renaissance of a new person makes you proud and heartbroken simultaneously. But in unequal shares of that emerging renaissance, the heartbreak is perhaps 80 percent of living and the pride in trying to move forward, and slowly doing so over time and contemplation is perhaps 10 percent, with a 10 percent void to which you cannot assign a label.

Interrupted motherhood is being a stranger in your own life.

The unnerving feeling of watching yourself from outside your body, going through the motions of what was your life but being detached from all of it. You don’t recognize yourself. Your previous life feels but a vapor long gone, like a mist of a dreama dream you begin to question whether it ever really happened at all. You have photos that prove this all transpired and proof in your private journal submissions, but your memory of it all is cloudedjust beyond the mind’s reach. It’s like trying to remember a movie you watched 20 years agosnippets remain, but you’re not confident the memory or the order of it is accurate.

RELATED: Grief is a Constant Companion for the Mother Who’s Lost a Child

Interrupted motherhood is the irony of knowing if that one person was here still, to be your child continuing through the years, you would have the strength to grieve that very person. The thought of this ludicrous concept twists and confuses you. If only they were here to hear you and talk to you, you’d have the tenacity to tackle this unwanted life, to tackle the arduous task of moving on without them. And alas, the paradox perpetuates itself.

Interrupted motherhood is missing the one person who could truly understand what is in your heart. The funny joke, the embarrassing incident, the fear compelling you, the pride of the smallest victory, or the frustration tempting you but propelling you to be better by refusing it. To anyone else, you would have to explain, and because that is too much effort, you now keep it to yourself.

And the loneliness grows inside you exponentially.

Interrupted motherhood is struggling with identity. Who are you if not their mother? What do you want to do if not the things you planned together, learned together? What is your favorite color now? You knew it was blue when your child was alive and within reach, but now the colors have become muted shades of grey. What is your purpose if the job of investing into your motherhood, honoring that lifelong commitment, is taken away? Who is your closest companion when your reason for existence is no longer here?

Interrupted motherhood is feeling restless because you lost your home, identity, confidante, friend, adventurer, gaming cohort, movie companion, and joy of life. You find yourself now drifting with an unknown destination . . . a ship on a rudderless sail.

Interrupted motherhood is living in a constant state of missing the closest of relationships. No fight left to fight, no adventures to plan, no goals to help be achieved, no dreams to be considered. No one with whom to hear of burdens and help find a way through them.

Interrupted motherhood is being alone in a crowd of people. Feeling sad even while you’re happy (or at least you think you are happy for a fleeting moment). Feeling guilty while you live. It is looking back while moving forward. It is being hungry but nothing sounding good. It is every special event and every memory turning bittersweet.

Yes, it is much more than simply missing their presence.

It is the pressure and release of becoming a new person, whether you want to or not. It is fighting every emotion mankind can feel at the very same moment and trying to function in life at the same time. It is proffering a smile when your heart is broken and your gait is heavy because you know people will shun you without that smilehowever superficial and concocted it is, they expect you to move on.

After all, you cannot bring your child back. After all, your burdens and responsibilities have been, in their eyes, lifted. You are judged on a level you have never known until this time. You are confused with whether to accept some of their logic as truth or to stand fast in what you know to your core, which they could never begin to fathom.

RELATED: The Impossible Grief of Child Loss Hurts Forever

And, for me personally, having raised a brain-injured-adult son a second time, interrupted motherhood is facing the inalienable terror and fear experienced more often than not. It is the lifting of the burden of locked doors, shame, embarrassment, and physical harm lurking in the shadows to emerge when least expected. It is the weight of enduring and trying to find clarity in the midst of your child’s mental illness, addictions, and traumatic brain injury.

And interrupted motherhood is feeling guilt with the child’s passingto even remind oneself of the reality of that horror because after 44 years, the good that existed and triumphed ought to be elevated.

Interrupted motherhood is frailty. Interrupted motherhood is strength.

Interrupted motherhood is darkness and anger and sorrow. Interrupted motherhood is rebirth, without a physician or a midwife to assist.

Interrupted motherhood is life-changing, and no joy can be found as a result of it. One can only seek alternatives yet unexplored and hope to create joy yet unknown, unfound; to learn to understand more of one’s self and how having been a mother made you better; to find ways to honor the child who is all around you, yet nowhere to be found.

Where there is great grief, there was great loveit does seem to be proportionate, and we are ever reminded that growth seldom comes without pain. We learn to endure, to understand and to accept, but “moving on” is less accurate a phrase than “moving through.” We must move through, one step, one moment, one life at a time.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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