My blog post about how my life has been very different than what I imagined in my misspent youth inspired a lot of conversation. I’m glad that so many of you could relate to my observations and commented on them. It made me feel like a less of an oddball. Not that there is anything wrong with being an oddball, but sometimes it is nice to know I am not the only ball rolling around at a different angle than everybody else.
I think most of the conversation generated from my musings about my childless state. Many of you seem to contemplate what your life would have been with children, without children, with more children, or with less children. I guess that is just one of those things about which we all wonder. In general, it doesn’t bother me too much. I think of my lack of children to be part of my overall existence. I don’t know what my existence would have been like if I had children, but I do know it would have been different…. And I’m pretty happy with the life I have.
One aspect of not having children that I think still does bother me has to do with my mother’s death. I wonder if people who are not parents generally grieve differently when they lose a parent. I did some googling to see if I could find any studies or research to suggest that this is an actual “thing,” but came up empty. Still, just because no one ever studied something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Truthfully, just because I may be the only one to feel it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I’ve talked to some other women about it. I asked women with children and women without children. No one seemed to have experienced what I described. Many offered the perspective that perhaps women with children have a more difficult time with mourning in some ways than women without children. Women with children often have to put the needs of their children over their own need to grieve in their own way. Women with children are often much busier than women without children. Women with children may not be able to spend as much energy on their relationships with their own mothers at the end of life, which may lead to more regrets after the fact. I think all those points are valid and true. I’m not saying women with children grieve in less pain. I’m just saying that the grief may be different.
Being without a next generation myself, I sometimes feel I lost not only my mother, but the entire mother-child dynamic. I’m sure the women who have children often feel a huge change in the shape and balance of the mother-child dynamic when they lose their own mothers, but that dynamic still exists. I remember, very clearly, the day my mother’s mother died. I was six years old. When I came home from school, my mother told me that Nana had died. She sat in the rocking chair my father bought her when I was born. She pulled me into her lap. In the same way as she must have done when I was a baby, she folded me into herself and rocked me as I cried. I remember that rhythmic rocking and the soothing sensation. I also remembered that, on the day my grandmother died, my mother and I were crying together for the first time in my young memory. Even at that young age, I could feel the transfer of emotion in that rocking. I could feel her being comforted by comforting me.
When my mother died, I had no daughter to take on my lap and rock. There was no little person to drain off some of my sadness and to remind me that life goes on and motherly love goes on. Even seven months later, it is difficult to face the reality that my mother-child relationship in this world is gone. It is also difficult to face the fact that, when it is my turn to leave this world, there will be no daughter loving me through that transition.
They say that a parent’s death is part of the natural order of things. Of course, that is true. The implication is that one generation passes and another rises. They call it the circle of life. My circle is incomplete though. Instead of a circle, my life is simply a curved line.
I try not too be too sad about that curved line. Even though I don’t have any little circle-makers of my own, I still know that life really does go on and motherly love is forever. And I am lucky to have had it abundantly.
What do you think? Do people without children grieve differently when they lose a parent than people with children? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a loving day!