by Kellie Soper
"I can't even imagine..."
I've heard this hundreds of times from people. Before Lily's diagnosis, I even muttered these words myself. These words are often following an I'm sorry with a sympathetic head tilt. Maybe it's because there's usually a silent void following an I'm sorry because I don't always know how to respond. I can't reply "it's okay" because it's not okay. And "thank you" just sounds weird. So there's this weird silence after I'm sorry and I've learned it's often followed by an "I can't even imagine."
*Let it be known - it's okay to just say "I'm sorry" and sit in the silence with someone.*
I have heard this from everyone - from strangers, close friends, even family. I have heard it so often it makes me cringe and it makes me retreat further and further away from people. It has turned close friends into acquaintances.
I get it. I really do. I used to be one of those people who had no idea what to say. I used to be one of those people on the other side feeling so much sympathy for someone who lost their child, but at the same time thanking God that it wasn't me. Thanking God that "I couldn't even imagine" because it was not my broken heart but someone else's.
But to be honest, it puts up a road block between you and me. Because the truth is, if you can't imagine what it's like to walk in my shoes, you can no longer truly know who I am. I'm not the person I once was and I will never be that person again. I am a grieving mom who is living the unimaginable. So if you can't allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to "imagine my pain", then we must sever our ties and go our separate ways.
I remember vividly when I was so tired of hearing "I can't even imagine". I was actually still pregnant with Lily. She was so strong and I could feel her moving constantly. Someone said the obligatory I'm sorry and then the awkward silence led to "I can't even imagine what this must be like!" I wanted to scream, "Yes you can! You have kids! You CAN imagine!" But instead, as Lily kicked me in my rib, all I could muster through my tears and wavering voice was, "Me either. I can't imagine this either." It was true. It didn't matter how many times a doctor explained the diagnosis. It didn't matter what the likely outcome was going to be. It didn't matter what I had read or googled because in that moment, I couldn't imagine my life without her either.
Because the truth is, especially if you have children of your own, you can imagine my pain. You can look into the eyes of your child/ren and imagine them being taken from you. In that moment, you can put yourself in my shoes. You can imagine never seeing their beautiful eyes open. You can imagine missing every. Single. Milestone. You can imagine the hole in your heart from grieving your child. And most likely, the tears will begin to sting and you will need to catch your breath. It will feel like a giant boulder has been placed on your chest. You won't have the strength or even the desire to move it. It will make you rethink gossiping with anyone about"how long it's been" or "shouldn't she be better now?" You may rethink wondering why I'm not handling my grief as well as you may like me to. Because even though you can't seem to imagine it, the truth is you can.
I still find myself uttering these words..."I can't believe she's gone. I can't believe I have to trudge through the rest of this life without her." Because honestly, I still can't imagine it and I have been living this unimaginable life for nearly two years.
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Kellie Soper lives in Arizona and is wife to her amazing husband, Jason. Together they have three beautiful children, one on earth and two sweet, perfect souls in Heaven. Ted is a wild, silly, and rambunctious toddler. Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on November 12, 2014. They learned at their 18 week ultrasound that Lily had a fatal neural tubal defect the doctors said was "incompatible with life." Kellie and Jason both knew Lily was not a "decision", but their precious daughter and they believe her life was of value, no matter what. She carried Lily with love for 42 weeks and 2 days. They miss her every single day, but are grateful for the honor and privilege of being her parents. Their youngest daughter is Clare Therese. She met her big sister in heaven after a few precious months on earth with her family. You can read more about their family on Kellie's blog, Life and Love.