Grief sat heavily on me as I drove home yesterday. It was a day that could have been, might have been, a birthday. A sixth birthday. It's a loss eclipsed now, but not forgotten, even if I might prefer that. Even if it might be more politic. There are days when counting up the missing can leave a very big hole in what I can hold. In cloying mist, chilled air, grey skies, there was a space yawning in the back of my car that was bigger than the one I live with every day. I remember when I thought that space would be something I would always see in my family. How little I knew.
And then came the news. Endless children dead at the hand of someone, in senseless, awful tragedy. More parents setting their feet on a path of endless grief, aching arms, desperate questions, tears that will always come. No family photo will ever be taken again that is whole, happy, content. No dining table will ever be complete, no laundry basket properly full. There will never be enough shoes in the hall, stockings hung up, presents bought. The food bill will go down, the need for a car seat decrease, the budget for activities will have a portion unbearably reassigned. Handed down clothes will not be needed, a name will never be entered on a marriage certificate, futures changed, must be changed, bank accounts closed. When the family sits down to a film, one parent will find a space beneath their arm, a warm body not pressed close. Sweets and cakes will be divided differently, a different holiday villa booked because one less room is needed.
Grief starts with a death and continues to kill a parent with a million small wounds. There is no limit to the emptiness we have to learn to look past. And beyond loss, despair, rage, disbelief, pain, groaning, aching pain, there is the horror of acceptance, the knowledge of a happy day to come, a smile, a laugh, a moment of respite, that will burn with the heat of a thousand flames when it comes.
I have run from a crematorium and not dared to look back and see evidence of the final brutal act of loss, but I do not want to imagine the pain of a parent who loses a child in a school shooting. I have come home to a house with baby clothes ready and nappies bought but I do not want to imagine clearing out a whole life. My heart aches for the parents beginning that journey. It is not fair, it is not right, it is not kind and I am so, so sorry. No parent should have to lose their child.