Fractal alligator

*Jake has not been found. Thank you for checking.


Everyone knows that the big, bitey, scaley lizard-looking thing in the Everglades is an alligator. That single word encapsulates everything it is and stands for.
My grief is an alligator, lately.

For centuries–millennia–eons–mothers have coped with the loss of their children. Miscarriages. Stillbirth. Childhood illnesses. Adult illnesses, accidents and other unforeseen circumstances. Any loss at any time is backwards and devastating, and yet we have no single word for that now-childless mother.

But she isn’t really childless, either. She has a mother void. Or is it a child void? Is she now a void mother?

I struggle for words lately, like my vocabulary has deserted me. But the problem is that what I need to articulate doesn’t have words in my lexicon.
I don’t know an English word that captures what my motherness is concerning one of my children.
And all of the phrases are awkward:

  • mother of a murdered child
  • mother of a child who died of cancer
  • mother of a stillborn baby
  • mother of a kidnapped child
  • mother of a suicide victim
  • mother of a missing son

I need a name for it.
It’s not for the sake of having a label to go by. It has to do with navigating the muddy swamp of grief. I have no bearings.
I need a word that tells people NO CRAP TODAY OR I WILL IMPLODE.
A word that reminds people that I look functional but sometimes I am tsunami wreckage inside. And anything can be a trigger.

I am silent but whole. Fractured. You can be whole yet fractured. I have fractures in my ankles. My sense of humor is fractured.
I am whole but silent.
Fractures are silent.
But fracture is akin to fractal, and fractal is beautiful.
I care only a little bit that fractal is beautiful. I recognize that beauty rises from the ashes but right now everything just burns.


I’ve been practicing this loss for a long time. First when I gave my baby up for adoption so many years ago.

When Jake moved out I felt the loss keenly. But he was not lost.

When he joined the National Guard I got to practice again. But he was not lost.

And when he stopped speaking to me it was more practice. But he was not lost.

Then he disappeared. And it was the real thing.

So like, what? I’ve been warming up for this?
And the family patterns on both sides: loss, abandonment, loss, loss, loss.
I’m a fractal inside the fractal.
So I stay very, very busy.
And most days this is enough to put some distance between me and the alligator.


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