A Different Type Of Grief

The Shock

Has this ever happened to you? I was going about my normal business—I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items we were low on, including diaper rash ointment. Jack had just finished antibiotics and that transition always causes a rash. I wandered into the baby section where various diaper rash creams were displayed.

I had two jars in my hands as I mindlessly contemplated the relative merits of Aquaphor versus Desitin. Should I just buy both I wondered? All of a sudden…


Out of nowhere, with the store’s soft rock music as my background, it hit me. My life felt surreal. OMG I have a 15 year old son who needs diaper cream. How did I get here? Moms with typically developing children don’t buy diaper cream for their teenagers. My eyes welled up and grief wrapped me tight in its familiar embrace.

Grief Takes Form

Grief whispers painful thoughts. It reminds me of the typical life Jack will never live and just how far away from that life he actually is. He will always need assistance. He will never live on his own. He will always need help. Always. Finally, I force myself to step back from the dark thoughts and the waves of sadness recede. I respect and acknowledge the grief, but I cannot cling to it. And so it does not linger.

I’ve stopped feeling guilty about these occasional feelings. I know I am grateful for my wonderful child. And I would never compare this emotion to the ultimate loss a parent could experience—the actual death of a child. Still, mourning the loss of “typical” dreams is normal. In time, new dreams come.

Feeling Back To Myself

After the grief subsides, I feel like myself again. Jack is still Jack and he is far more of a person than just the receiver of diaper cream. I love Jack for who he is, but if I could wave a magic wand to make daily living easier for him, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Alas, I am not God, but just a parent. I can only offer my love to replace instant miracles.

Grief visits less than it used to–only occasionally and often unpredictably. I don’t love when it visits, but I accept that it will. Like when we receive coupons for baby formula in the mail. Or knowing kids Jack’s age who are starting to drive. I can’t control the future, but I can control how I manage my grief. I strive to accept what I cannot change—a process that will take my lifetime.

My son lives and loves vibrantly. The brief flashes of grief make our joyful times vivid and meaningful. That’s the silver lining. I know you have had your own diaper ointment moments, even if they look a little different than mine. Just breathe, accept your sadness, and hold on. It will get better.

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