Last night I didn’t wear my bracelet. On purpose. I sometimes forget to put it on. But not last night, because my third child, my second daughter, had her farewell evening at primary school. This child of mine will also go to secondary school.
That day I had cleaned out the bedroom of one of the other kids. This child joyfully threw all the old stuff from last school year into the waste paper bin. All this released some dust. We both wanted to take a shower. As I did that and got ready for the festive evening, it occurred to me that tonight it should be just about this daughter.
I would meet other parents. I would be talking about how well this precious girl did in school and in the musical. How she is ready for a new step and already starting to enjoy puberty. I would be her proud mum and at that moment only hér proud mum.
Suddenly I understood what someone was trying to explain to me six months after Amanda’s death. She said, ‘Grief is like …’ She looked around for a moment, then picked up a coaster from the table: ‘Like this coaster. If you hold it very close to your eyes, you will see nothing but this coaster. But if you keep it further away, you will also see what is around it. The coaster (your grief) is still in sight, but you can also see other things now.’ She sat across from me with her arm outstretched and the coaster in her hand. I could see what she meant.
She continued: ‘At some point you can also put the coaster down next to you. Or, if you go somewhere, you put it in your pocket to carry it with you, perhaps close to your heart, but no one sees it. Only you know it’s there.’ I heard what she said, but at the time grief was still so ‘in your face’, well, ‘my face’, that I couldn’t imagine ever being able to put it aside.
So I carried it with me visibly by form of a bracelet with her name. You see my other children walking or cycling with me. But my deceased child is only visible in that bracelet. Sometimes that bracelet provokes a conversation about my third daughter and often I am glad about that. If she was still alive, I would have talked about her too, because she would have just turned two and would have come along with me wherever I went.
But not last night. Last night I left all my children – except one – behind. I wanted it to be only about my third child, my big little girl, who said goodbye and was invited along with her parents for one last speech, a real goodbye.
So that evening I picked out other jewelry and walked with my Love and our excited girl between us, to primary school to celebrate her growth and development. All other children stayed behind, including my fifth. That’s why I didn’t wear that bracelet.
First published in Dutch on July 29, 2019