Bereaved parents are a kind of reluctant tribe, the one that no-one wanted to join, and some of us have chosen to mark ourselves as such.
The reasons we do it vary and each mark has a different meaning for those who choose it, but many of our motivations and the symbols we use are similar.
I felt after my daughter Zoe’s cancer diagnosis at age three as if I had become become both transparent and luminescent, as if my interior life was so visible that my story could be read on the surface of my skin. I felt that when we left the house strangers would know our story at a glance, that we were visibly marked by cancer. Of course Zoe was visibly marked, though she seemed not too worried by her battle scars (she called the scar from her mic-key button her “other belly button”).
I felt the same after Zoe’s death at age six, that people would know I was a bereaved mother from the grief, pain, love and despair written on my skin. That the wound of having my child ripped from my life must have left a scar. And that felt right, that I should in fact be physically marked from surviving this. Continue reading