The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Living in Limbo



The turning point of my life came when I was thirty one. Until then,  most of my moderate expectations had been met.  I fell in love, got married,  gave birth to a beautiful, clever little girl we both adored.   We were financially comfortable and happy together. My mind was uncluttered by much introspective thought or intense emotion.

When my daughter was 7, she disappeared. She’d been playing in the park with friends, and then, they called for her and she wasn’t there. Nobody had noticed anyone or anything. She’d simply vanished.

The police looked for her. My husband and I, our friends and family, we all looked for her. But we didn’t find her. Not alive. Not dead.

And so I lived the rest of my days in a limbo.   I was filled with the kind of intense emotions I’d never felt before, and did not know how to process. I cycled through grief, despair, guilt, anger, sorrow and the occasional scintilla of hope, which was always quickly extinguished and replaced by fresh grief.

Sometimes I heard stories of children returning to their parents after many years.   Somehow, they’d remembered and found their way back.  Naturally,  I hoped for such an outcome,  but after a time, I would have been relieved to know for certain that she was dead. If I could have given her a proper funeral, I might have been able to move on.  If I knew what had happened to her, I might have been able to forgive.   As it was, however, I never could settle on a single emotion, and so this was the cycle which spun the wheel which turned my life.

My husband and I stayed together, but it was never the same. We both felt a similar range of emotions, but our moods were infrequently aligned. We rarely connected, except on her birthday when we both seemed to feel the same.  For many years, we’d get a small cake with a single candle. We’d bring out the old photo albums. But then it became too awful. It made us feel helpless and hopeless.   We each tried to make our way through our pain in our own way, but neither of us had much success. Compounding our pain was that we were of no comfort to each other.  Even after many years, we both suffered alone.

Her being ripped from our lives so cruelly was for a reason; for the lessons on tragedy and mourning. At the time, however, it didn’t feel like any useful lesson. If anyone had suggested to me that it was part of a greater plan, I would have lost all control and attacked them ferociously. The pain was wrapped around me too tightly to loose its bonds. What mother can ever make sense of such a thing? To come to terms with it would have be tantamount to abandoning her; to losing her again.  She remained alive in my sorrow.

Now, however, I am afforded greater perspective. The unrelenting pain of that life is finally healed. She and I are together again, awaiting a next time.



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4 thoughts on “Living in Limbo

  1. Very powerful, capturing one of the most horrible tragedies a human can suffer. It’s difficult to read.

    • It’s difficult to think about! I can barely imagine how awful it must be to go through something like that, to live your life never knowing, never knowing where the ground is in regard to your feelings. Losing a child is horrible enough, but not knowing I think is worse. You can never move on.

      • Maybe, but I wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable comparing. I’ve seen the aftermath of my mother having lost her first born when she was 2. Even though I likely would have never been born if that hadn’t happened, I still was very much shaken up when I saw her shed tears remembering her.

  2. It’s been said that the greatest tragedy in life is a parent burying a child. But perhaps an even greater tragedy is a parent not having a child to bury; not knowing if their child is dead or alive; not knowing if they are living somewhere with different parents or if they were killed violently, painfully. (This is also true for adult children who are lost in war, for example.)

    As dark as the pain is of a child’s death (and I am NOT at all minimizing it), it seems to me slightly better — at least that parent has closure. Or at least MORE closure than the parent who doesn’t know. But neither is an experience anyone should have to live through; and everyone suffers in their own way so it’s not for me (or anyone) to compare the pain of one to another.

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