Bereaved Veteran

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My dad served in Vietnam.

Horror stories of this misunderstood war, and of my misunderstood father, are all I have.

My memories of him include violence.

Fear.

Pain.

I was raised in foster care because of the damage he and other members of my family inflicted on me.

Today, he is dead.

Today, I am a woman.  A wife.  A mother.

But when I think of him, I still feel like a little girl,

a little girl who longs for her daddy’s attention, and affection.

As I draw on the few memories I have of him, I wonder if he loved me.

I imagine,

what it must have been like.

To enter a war, so poorly trained as those young men – boys – were.

To enter a war, so poorly prepared

To see devastation, to feel devastation, to see death.

Then, to come home to America, and have such an insensitive homecoming.

To be disregarded, disrespected, discarded, by the very nation, even by the very family, he represented and defended.

I imagine his unsupported overwhelm, his hurt, his rejection, turning to anger and resentment.

His inability to recieve the validation, compassion and respect he deserved and needed, turning, festering, into rage of the deepest scale.

I remember being his little girl, in a small, suffocating world of lonliness and pain.

I remember wishing I could have a daughter someday, to show them – show my family, show my dad – how to do it right.

Show them how to love, how to be a good parent.

Today, as a woman, as a wife, as a mother,

I remember that my parents had three boys, then a stillbirth, then me.

And so here I sit, as a woman, a wife, and as a mother, with the same feelings my dad faced.

Stillbirthday is a headstone.  A place where I can come to remember my child, who died.

But this very thing I have crafted out of my own broken heart, in defense of all broken hearted families, has been attacked, lied about, stolen, and ignored.

My homecoming here is not always a welcoming one.

Misinformation and silence is thrust at grieving mothers and fathers instead of the reality that all mothers deserve respect and validation.

Parents find this place long after the most precious mements they had are already gone.

My own grief experience has been gauged against my involvement with stillbirthday, the memorial I have erected for my child and for all children gone too soon.

I have been left feeling defeated  and abandoned.

And now I have an idea of what my dad was left with.

He saw devastation.  Felt devastation.  Saw death.

Then had three boys, one stillbirth, and then a little girl.

And, so did I.

Now, humbly, mercifully, and heartbreakingly, I cry.  I beg for release from this overwhelming burden of rejection, isolation, and loneliness.

I taste the temptation to retaliate.  To close up.  To hate.

Unlike my dad, I resist.

I know what it’s like, to wonder if he ever loved me.  To have memories of him saturated in fear and confusion instead of forgiveness and endurance.

My miscarried baby would by one, this week.  One year old.

My grief is changing, but it’s not over.  As I feel the pressure mount to move on, in a moment of vulnerability I seek to be transparent as I tell you, I am a bereaved mother.

I am a little girl, without a daddy.  In his stead are haunting memories and a lifetime of yearning.

I am a mother, without one of my children.  In his stead are fleeting memories and, a lifetime of yearning.

I yearn for validation, for love, for peace.

For mothers and fathers all over the world to receive the support they deserve and need, when they deserve and need it, through stillbirthday.

For mothers and fathers who’ve seen devastation, felt devastation, seen death, to have this safe place to come home to.

For the war against healing to be over.

Please, tell people about stillbirthday.  They need resources and knowledge prior to the death and birth of their child, the deepest love and dignifying care during the darkest days of their entire lives, and  a proper, respectful, supporting and validating homecoming as they emerge, somehow, afterward.

You have no idea the impact that can have on their life – and others.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. I wish I could give you a hug Heidi. This Remembrance Day, as it’s called in my home country, I remember with you. I think of the poppies that bloomed on the battlefields in Europe, that we now use as our symbol of remembrance, and thank you for letting something wonderful bloom on a scarred landscape. Thank you for being the brave warrior that fights in the service of our babies. And thank you for enabling me to be strong enough to build on the love of my husband, my soldier, who fights the grief of his son with me.

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