‘I really wanted to teach my daughter piano,’ I said to my friend.
She looked thoughtful. ‘You know what,’ she ventured, ‘There are probably lots of kids in your church who would love to learn piano.’
‘Oh yes, there are,’ I agreed. ‘Although I’m not sure I have the experience to teach them piano. And I’m not exactly qualified.’ I had learned to play piano via the Holy Spirit. I had never attended an actual piano lesson!
‘But’, she persisted, ‘I have a little boy who I would love to learn piano, and I reckon you could teach him. I don’t care at all about your qualifications. Kids just love to learn!’
I took a deep breath. ‘That’s not really the point,’ I said. ‘I don’t want to become a piano teacher. I just wanted to share the piano with my daughter.’
’I just wanted to share the piano with my daughter.’
It is surprising how often this happens. Conversations about childlessness often turn to problem-solving. And I know my friend meant well. She cared about me. She just got swept away in the moment of ‘Steph has a problem with wanting to teach piano.’ She gave me what she thought were helpful suggestions.
But she missed the point. I wasn’t lamenting about teaching piano to little children. I was grieving over my lost daughter.
She missed the point.
In my mind’s eye, I had imagined sitting at the keyboard next to my daughter, watching her pick out the notes with her tiny fingers, showing her how to play simple songs. I would have taught her my favourite melodies and, as she progressed, chords and arpeggiations.
We would have played together.
We could have written songs together.
We could have sung songs and harmonies together.
I had no aspirations about my daughter becoming a concert pianist or anything. I didn’t even know if my daughter would have liked the piano. But my dream was to try, to share, and see what she made of music.
Grief says, ‘I wish’.
Grief says, ‘I wish’. For me, I wish I had been given the opportunity to meet my daughter. I could have learned about her interests and sensibilities. If she had developed musical or artistic aspirations, I am certain I could have nurtured those things.
But now I will never know.
I have no wish to be a piano teacher. Rather, I wish I could have shared the piano with my daughter. I wish she was here. I wish I didn’t miss her like this, the daughter who never existed except in my fancy. I wish it didn’t sting.
And I wish my friends would understand that I need their comfort more than their suggestions or advice. I need people who are willing to feel the grief of childlessness that I feel.
Do you feel the pang of missing children you never had? Is there anyone who shares this grief with you? Do you know someone who is childless, and if so, how can you support them without ‘fixing’ them? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.