Before reading this post, I just want to say that this reflects my personal feelings and experiences. Every parent that experiences the unimaginable pain of loosing a child responds, reacts and grieves differently. I say this to caution anyone reading this to not assume that every grieving parent wants or needs the same things. I also say this because I think grief changes as time passes and the feelings of parents who have lost a child change with that grief. This is merely a reflection of my personal thoughts and in no way is a “guide” or “tips” for how to approach a parent who has lost a child. Knowing how to navigate the days, weeks, months and years is such an unknown for us and we know it is unknown for all of our family and friends too. There is a lot of grace offered and received.
These are rings I wear everyday in memory of Will. The top one says his name. The middle is his and Caroline's birthstone and the bottom is a heart. The bottom two are a set I found called "love and loss," which I thought was perfect for my sweet boy. I was inspired to get a birthstone ring by one of the best and oldest friends. When our twins were in the hospital she sent me a care package and included a birthstone necklace from one of our favorite stores. In her note she wrote "so the twins will always be close to your heart." It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I received and brought me to tears.
My first reaction was to hide. In the days and weeks after Will passed my driving force was to remain unseen. I didn’t want to talk to or see anyone. I wanted to retreat, keep my children, my husband and my parents close, but no one else. It’s not because I don’t love my friends and family and neighbors, it’s because I needed time to process by myself. I didn’t need someone crying with me or for me. I didn’t need to hear advice or comforting words or recount Will’s life. I was in shock. I knew Will not being with us was our new reality but it didn’t seem real. I had just held him in my arms as he took his last breath, I put him in a little basket and the man from the funeral home took him away and just like that he was gone. Intellectually I knew that. I knew he was gone but I didn’t really know what to do about it. I needed space. I needed to think. I needed distance from a world that I imagined Will being a part of. I had imagined taking him on walks, picking up his brother from school, holding him in my ERGO while watching our children play in the street with their friends. I had thought about what it would be like to introduce him to our friends and how my children would sit in our four-seater stroller to walk to the playground in the afternoon. I needed to remove myself from that world. I just didn’t have the energy to engage in a world that Will was supposed to be a part of.
I knew that at some point I would have to reintroduce myself, my family, into our familiar world. I would have to encounter all the places, people and things that I imagined going to and seeing and doing with Will. And eventually I did but it just took time. That amount of time I’m sure is different for everyone and there is no rule or appropriate amount of time that you can hide from the world. It took me a few weeks and even now, months later, I have days where I need to hide and I think that’s okay. Having people not force themselves on us but simply say, “Hey, we are doing this or going here if you want to join” was the most helpful. I have amazing friends who know me well enough to know that I needed to feel they were there but not be right here. That probably doesn’t make sense but I appreciated it nonetheless.
After we started making steps back into our world, there were a lot of “first” to be conquered and I know there are a lot still to come. The first time I drove my car without Will’s carseat in it. The first time I saw my friends. The first time someone who doesn’t know about Will asks “where is Caroline’s twin?” The first time someone asks how many kids I have. The first time someone avoids me in the grocery store because they don’t know what to say. Let me tell you one thing I know for sure, none of us know how to do this. If you have seen me and wondered what to say, not say, how to act, whether to acknowledge Will or not, please know that I have no expectation. I am just as uncomfortable as you, I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to say anything, do anything or act a certain way. If you want to ask about Will, I love to talk about him. I love to hear his name, tell his story and answer your questions. His story, every detail, is ingrained in my mind but I know there is a lot of mystery surrounding it to much of the outside world. If you want to know, ask. If you want to say his name, please do. If you want to give me an extra long hug, that’s fine by me, but if not that’s okay too. I know most people are trying to be sensitive because they don’t want to upset me or cause me to start crying. I promise that I probably won’t burst into tears if you mention Will’s name or ask about him. It’s not because I’m not sad, it’s just not who I am. But if I do, if I have a moment that brings me to tears, I’m okay with that if you are. If you don’t want to mention him, that’s okay too. If it’s not the right time to ask about his story or you feel uncomfortable doing so, then don’t. I promise I won’t be offended or get my feelings hurt. I know there are no words to say. I know there is nothing anyone can say or do to make it better. I know that you don’t know what to do and I want you to know that I don’t know what to do either. I think what I’m trying to say is that however you react, whatever you say or do, it’s all okay. Don’t over analyze it or try to avoid it or apologize for it, just be you and I promise that’s just perfect.
These are some photos from March. We spent a lot of time as a family. The past three months had been hard on everyone and we wanted to do things that were fun and memorable with Will's siblings. One day I will write about everything we did and how it helped us grieve, but having that time together was really special and important to us.
Our mission is to children from developing countries receiving heart treatment in Jacksonville, FL.
My name is Courtney Hughes and I am Will's mommy. I am happy that you are here to read Will's story and make a difference with us!