Our little Brigid died in the summer time.
After the dust settled a bit and the numbness wore off, the heaviness of grief came crashing down on top of me and I found myself pinned under its weight.
Everything was a struggle.
Getting up in the morning was difficult.
Caring for the children all day was difficult.
Making decisions – about groceries or meals or outings or finances – was difficult.
Watching other people just moving on with their everyday lives, whether or not they knew what had happened to us, was difficult.
That fall, I joined a group called Grief Share at a local church. I found it so helpful to learn that a lot of the things I was feeling were normal, but I also had a hard time relating to that particular group of people in their grieving. There was one other mother who lost her older son in an accident. Everyone else was a widow who’d lost her husband. They were all so very kind and understanding, but no one else had lost a baby. The grief process was similar, but our experience wasn’t the same.
Then I found a group online of people whose babies had also died from TTTS. That was where I felt understood. That was where I could say things like
Am I the only one who keeps wanting to claw the ground and dig them up and hold them?
Now that it’s getting cold outside, I can’t stop thinking of lying on top of their graves to keep them warm.
Why, when I go into my other children’s rooms to kiss them before I go to bed, do I see their sleeping faces and think, “This is what they will look like when they are dead”?
Those feelings scared me. I thought I was crazy for having them. It was so helpful to know that I was not the only one feeling those things. I was not creepy or morbid for having those thoughts, and I wasn’t alone in any of them.
I was a mother who had seen her babies die and was desperately missing them. I was longing with all my heart to mother them in some tiny way – by holding them or keeping them warm – and I couldn’t do either of those things. My brain was trying to make sense of that fact. The experience of seeing my children dead was part of who I was now, and I kept thinking about it. I couldn’t shake it, even with my living children.
Being able to verbalize those things, share them with others, and know that they had felt them, too helped me to process my feelings and move past them.
I don’t still think those things. I can kiss my sleeping children without picturing them in their caskets now.
Part of healing from our grief is talking about it. Talking about our precious babies. Telling our story and their story and knowing that there are others out there who understand. Who have been right where you are.
I think it is also helpful for people who have not lost their babies to know that we have been through these things. To know that when they say something like, “Oh my gosh, there is nothing worse than opening a bag of slimy baby carrots” in your presence, you kind of just want to grab them by the shoulders and scream, “YES – YES THERE IS SOMETHING MUCH MUCH WORSE THAN THAT!!”
Because you used to live in Slimy Carrots Are The Worst Land, too, you don’t say that. You remember when that was a problem you used to have. But now it will never be “the worst” again. Not ever. And they probably won’t understand that there might be a time when you need to be away from them for a little while, because something picked you up and dropped you smack dab into the middle of Dead Baby Land. It feels like a you’re on a completely different planet with no map, you don’t know how to navigate it, and you can’t really relate to people living in Slimy Carrot Land or Stuck in Traffic Land or The Newest iOS Upgrade Is Annoying Land anymore. At least not for a long time. It’s like they speak a foreign language now.
I think it’s important for people, in knowing how to care for you or what to expect from you after your baby dies, to know that you might need to withdraw from friends and family for a little while, because it’s almost like you can’t communicate with them now. Even though you used to understand each other.
You feel so alone.
But you are not alone.
When other people tell their stories, you see that there is someone else who has felt what you feel. When you tell your story, it not only helps other people, but it also helps you to process what you’re feeling and validates it. It feels cathartic, putting it out there in words. Saying it out loud or writing it down helps your heart to heal – even if just a little bit – from the pain.
This blog is not just about my own experience with grief. It has helped me to work through some of my thoughts and feelings, but it’s not just about me. It’s about sharing some of my experience so that other people can know they’re not alone. And so that people who have not lost a baby can know what kinds of things someone who has lost one is feeling. And it also helps me to heal.
And you can do that, too. Whether it’s here on this blog, or on another blog, in a support group, or with a trusted friend, telling the story of what happened to you and sharing the brief lives of your precious little ones helps with the healing. It doesn’t mean you won’t still hurt. But it does help.
If you would like to share a little bit of your story here, please feel free to do so in the comments. It doesn’t have to be long. You can tell us about your baby or babies and what happened to them. Tell us how long ago it was and what it feels like at this stage in your grief. You can do it anonymously, with a pseudonym, or your full name – it’s completely up to you. If you have a hard time writing, and want to tell your story a different way, consider participating in something like this project that is a guided way to capture your grief in photographs. Or do both. Or you can find some other way to share with others that you have experienced the loss of a baby.
I know October can be difficult, especially if it’s around the time that you lost your baby. Last year I was weeks away from delivering my rainbow baby in October, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I was already terrified. I didn’t want to think about stillbirth or infant death. If that’s the place you find yourself, then forget about increasing awareness. Do whatever you need to do to get through.
But this year, I feel differently. I think increasing awareness is all about having the freedom to share an experience that societal norms tell us we should to keep to ourselves, it’s about honoring our babies, and it’s about bringing healing to our hearts by knowing that we are not alone.
Would you consider sharing your story somewhere? It doesn’t have to be in October. Anytime will do.