46 – Something I Learned About Grief Part I


I was 28 days from my 19th birthday. It was September and I was working three jobs with no real sense of what to do next. 

I only knew I loved a girl. She was in the hospital.

I woke up the morning of the 20th optimistic. She was going to be fine. I think I’d had a dream about it. Or maybe that’s 30+ years in-between playing tricks on my memory. What I do know is that she was not fine. 

The waiting room was empty for the first time in weeks. My memory has me believing the hallway to the nurses station got longer as I walked to the station. Her best friend showed up at some point. The nurse told us she wasn’t there anymore. 

Did they move her to UCLA?

No. She isn’t here anymore. 

Where is she?

I assume the woman who interrupted was a supervisor or something. She pulled us aside and explained that she was dead.

I think I said what a few times. 

Wait, what? No. What?

Whatever I thought about what we would end up being together is not relevant to this story. I promise to tell you our story another time. But today, this story is not about how much I loved her, or even what I lost that day. 

She wasn’t the first person I’d lost to death. She wasn’t even the eighth or ninth. 

But even with all the loss in my life up to that point I’d never buried a child.

Even in my heartbreak and the haze of grieving for the woman I loved, I became acutely aware that my pain was different from that of her parents. Losing a child was the kind of grief that is beyond comprehension unless you go through it. Even witnessing it first hand was almost indescribable. 

We are, all of us, made up of the love and experiences of those closest to us. When we lose that we lose a part of ourselves. For a parent there is no bigger part of them than their children. Losing one is worse, more painful, and a greater loss than losing a limb. 

A part of their soul is gone. 

I watched her parents collect themselves, put on a brave face, and do all the things you’re expected to do when someone dies. 

I also watched her father hold it together for her mother. I watched her mother hold it together for their other children. They each took such good care of me in the midst of their own pain. 

My Uncle Charlie died a little more than a year before that. I was so focused on my loss that I completely missed that my grandma lost her baby boy until almost twenty years later she buried her only other child, my dad. 

Children are their parents world. Their universe. Their everything. 

I guess my point to all of this is that there really is no pain like that of a parent losing a child. It might sound strange, but there is a part of me that is glad my dad died before he ever had to bury any of his children.

No good parent deserves that kind of pain. It’s a grief carried for the remainder of their lives. It’s a loss of more than just unfulfilled promise. It’s a loss that leaves a soul hollow and the pain in that emptied out space is a form of prolonged torture that no human should have to endure. 

There is no startling revelation at the end of this post. I’m sorry. 

I just know that part of the unspoken bit about my desire to not have children is the fear of losing them. I am not that strong. I don’t want to be that strong. 

I also know that as much as I joke about hating kids (and let’s be honest, kids can be little shits) I love your posts about your kids going back to school, or doing a thing that makes you proud, or whatever. And there is a part of me that sends a little prayer – a hope – out into the universe that your annoying progeny is always safe, always comes home, and knows that they are loved.


Copyright 2022 Rudy Martinez
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