This year Angie has decided to run the project again, and I read her post on being three years out and felt so inspired (per usual!) by her words.
Then, I went back and read my submission to her project from last year.
It was incredibly painful for me to go back and read, to be honest with you. Partly because I can’t believe I ever felt so low. Partly because some days, I still do feel that low, even a year later.
Does that mean I’ve stagnated? I don’t think so.
You see, the Ugly Raw Grief only comes out to play every now and then.
So here is today’s post: Right Where I am: 1 year, 5 months, 24 days.
The weather is getting warmer, sunnier, nicer all around. Most of the time, this is a good thing – getting out of the house, taking my daughter to the playground, going for walks and staying active. As I said, the Ugly Raw Grief stays at bay most of the time, because Life has simply gotten in the way. Last summer, my daughter was just an infant. This summer, she is a toddler, and there’s a lot more to do together. Grass needs trampled on by bare toddler feet, sandboxes need played in by grubby little hands, and sprinklers need jumped over by exuberant children.
The warm weather sometimes has its downsides. Pushing my daughter, the empty swing next to her at the park seems to mock me, haunt me, remind me of my biggest loss ever, the loss of my daughter’s twin brother six days before they were scheduled for delivery. I feel myself going back to that dark place, being pulled away. Back to the grief, the self-pity which I’ve come to loathe, to the “Why me?” train of thought, “Why him?” “Why us? Why our family?” I feel sorry for my daughter having to go through life without him here, and the tears fall so easily, for all of us.
Then, I say in my mind, “Hey buddy. I love you and miss you so much and wish you were here to enjoy this day with your sister.” And instead of being reduced to tears, mostly, usually, I consider those moments to be times that the universe is winking at me and simply reminding me to enjoy the present. To enjoy the life we do have. To live every breath to the fullest for my dear little boy who can’t be here to live his. Slowly and steadily I have felt less sorry for myself and more capable of grieving his loss.
I look at my daughter and see her smiling, playing, unaware. She isn’t half of a person. She isn’t half of something lost. She isn’t broken. She isn’t anything less with his not being here. She is her own unique person, and I celebrate her more and more with each day, knowing that not only does she deserve it, but so do I, and my son wouldn’t want it any other way.
This is one of the greatest ways my son has changed my life for the better. I make an effort to live in the moment and enjoy each one as it comes, to live fully, to embrace each experience. I’ve grown as a person considerably over this past year, and in some ways even though I’m broken inside I also feel more whole than I’ve ever been, which is yet another paradox I can’t quite wrap my mind around.
The biggest heartbreak of my life was losing my son just days before he was “scheduled” to come into this world. I would do anything to have my son back, and that still includes giving my own life for his, but I obviously can’t. So here I am. I do what I can for others, and some of my pre-loss friends have judged me harshly for it, saying I need to “Get over it”. They are no longer my friends anymore. More accurately, they weren’t ever my friends. They don’t understand that to ignore the gifts that have come from my son’s existence would be to dishonor him, and I’m not about to do that. So instead of being ashamed of those gifts, I embrace them. The increased sensitivity I have for others. The compassion. Being “let in” to others lives, stories, and losses. People say, “I could never read stories about babies who died. That’s too sad. I would be so depressed talking to those kinds of people over and over.” To me, what’s depressing is that society has labeled us as “those kinds of people” who simply deserve pity and nothing more. What’s depressing is that people see us as defined by our losses and nothing more. What’s depressing is that people want us to “get over it”, not realizing that it would be much more disturbing and alarming if somehow we were able to do that. That if we pretended our children never existed, it’s the same thing as saying they never mattered, that we don’t love them, that they don’t deserve recognition, that their lives had no impact on the world. To be present with others and to be let into their worlds, their stories, and their losses, is not something I take lightly. It is truly a gift. I try to help others in small ways, whenever I’m given the chance, and anytime I’m contacted by someone needing support, I feel my son is bettering the world around him. His life may have been cut short, but I hope to see to it that he lives on through the changes he’s made in me to help others.
Where I am now is in a place of remembering my son without always breaking down. Where I am is in a place of healing and renewal but also anger, I must admit. Trying to figure out what to do with the anger I have toward our society for making the topic of baby loss so incredibly taboo that women feel they must deny their children ever lived, that they must keep everything mum, that they should feel like a freak for something happening to their child in this incredible age of medicine and technology, that they should feel they failed their child somehow, that their motherly instincts should have saved their child somehow, that they must have had negligent medical care, that they must have not been eating right or paying attention or their child would have lived. I have felt the crippling effects of how our society deals with baby loss. Society is backwards in a way I never realized before. The stigma attached to child loss is something that needs to change. The real heroes in this world are all the amazing people, many whom I’ve been privileged to be in contact with, who have been real advocates for women in the loss community, who have helped to give them a voice, who have given them places to share their stories and connect with one another, who have helped them to realize they don’t need to hide in the dark or feel alone. At this point in my journey, these heroes and the avenues they’ve created for positive changes are what sustains me through my moments of anger toward society.
I thank you, Angie, for being one of Our heroes.