I have been thinking about writing a post for a while. I wanted to reflect on the last year. How does time fly by so quickly? In the days following our loss of Lincoln, I thought about getting to this point and I couldn’t even begin to imagine it. My grief was all encompassing and suffocating. I was drowning in the need to hold my son, to see his face, to hear him cry. How was I ever going to live without him? But I have. I have dealt with a range of feelings; anguish, helplessness, despair, anger, disorientation. My anxiety almost overtook me for a long period of time. My own mortality slapped me in the face and I feared death at every corner. And not just mine but Kyle’s, my mom’s, anyone close to me. I dreaded going back to work but found that it helped me start to put one foot in front of the other. I became like a puzzle to solve. I worked to put the pieces of me back together and slowly my life as a bereaved mother started to take shape. I have found ways to cope with the depths of my feelings and started to be ok with the new me. I attend a local infant loss group, where I am with other bereaved parents and found a couple of online groups that have helped me to connect with others like me. The shittiness/amazing part of all this is that I am not alone. I am even part of a Facebook group to help with my health journey. We are all loss moms trying to get back to our pre-loss bodies. I have learned to laugh again and find joy in life. I still struggle a little with my faith, but I can pray now and seek out His strength. I just do it on my terms. I don’t have to be in church to feel Him. I am also a crusader for my son. I will never have funny stories to share about parenting Lincoln, instead I am his voice. I want him to be remembered and to be included in things we do. I beg for people to say his name, send me cards on his birthday, include him in holidays and celebrations. The more I hear his name, the more I feel him in my heart. So I guess through all of this, I have reached a good point. I am doing more than ok. I still have times of grief. I always will. I know my journey is not over; but I have reached a good resting place along the way. I am looking forward to the future now and am hopeful for what it has to bring.
I started writing this post several weeks ago. What was once the most wonderful time of year has now become my most dreaded months since we lost Lincoln. The commercials are everywhere reminding us that Christmas is a time for children. Last year when we enjoyed time with our families we dreamed of the chubby little 8 month old cherub that Lincoln would be. Instead I will be lighting a candle to represent his presence in our life. When we took family pictures I held an elephant instead of my baby.
Yesterday was rough. I woke up plagued by my “normal” what ifs. I was back in that moment, wondering what I could have done different. If there was someway I could have sensed Lincoln in distress. Some days I can shake these feelings off. I focus on how far I have come and though I won’t ever be the old me, I am finding the new me that I am ok with. Other days not so much. Today for example, Lincoln would have been 7 months old. My sweet little baby would be sprinting towards toddlerhood. We would have just had his first Halloween. I wonder about his costume. Instead he is in a small white plastic box. He did attend our annual neighborhood Trick or Treat party. I needed him to be there. I simply carried him in my pocket. And of course, the marketing campaigns have immediately thrown us into preparation for Christmas. Kyle and I felt bombarded by Christmas commercials while watching tv. We are still three weeks from Thanksgiving and we are inundated with thoughts of the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t know
I have had many people tell me, that they were unsure of how to approach me or to know the right thing to say. I have found myself in the same boat many times before in my life. You can’t begin to imagine how the other person is feeling or handling what they are going through. What is the right thing to say, to help ease their pain? And those of us who are nurturers want something to do. We want to be able to make it better. I have learned a lot from my own experience and I want to share some suggestions for the next time you find yourself faced with the grief of a loved one. Firstly, there is no right thing to say. Sure there are a few things to avoid. Try to stay away from the typical things we use to assuage our own hurt. Including: God must have needed another angel; At least they aren’t suffering; Everything happens for a reason. These come across empty and cliche. Instead say what is on your heart. Tell them you are hurting too. Share a memory. Speak the name of the departed. Most importantly, don’t avoid that person for fear of saying the wrong thing. It is ok to pick up the phone and call. If they aren’t up to talking, they won’t answer. Also, don’t worry about bringing up the loss. It is always on their mind, believe me. Sometimes a good cry is therapeutic and helps release some of that pent up grief. Secondly, for those who want to do something, I think it is better to have a concrete idea to help. Bring food (that is easily frozen), offer to clean the house, mow the yard. It is difficult to come up with ideas for people to help when you are so lost. And remember that grief is that never ending river and sometimes a call or to help is welcome even months later. It is hard to be forgotten. Thirdly, do research. There are so many websites/Facebook pages/blogs out there dedicated to child and infant loss. Check them out. They have so many things to say and can give insight into this dark world.
Lincoln would have been 4 months old yesterday. How did 4 months go by? I have had many people say to me “I don’t know how you are getting through this.” My response to that is, I don’t have any choice. I can’t sit down and let life go by me. Instead I was pushed into this river of grief and I ride the current every day. I think that some people feel that I should have started to move on by now. But I will never move on. A river has no real end. And some days the waves and current are stronger than I can handle. But I ride them as best as I can. I go to sleep and dream of my child and I wake up and think about him every day. I don’t live in the moments when we lost him but they are still clear as day to me. I remember when the doctor told me he was sorry, that my son was gone. I remember Kyle holding me as I cried the first time. I remember the bed I laid in as I labored. I remember the darkened room, with classical music playing in the background, while I pushed my lifeless child into the world. I remember our parents coming in the room to meet him and say goodbye at the same time. I remember kissing his cold, soft cheek as I said goodbye. I remember the next morning I did not cry when we left the hospital but as soon as I walked into my house, I just held my mom and let loose for the first of many times in the next days. These memories will never go away. I hold them to me, as they are the only memories I got to have with my oldest child. As I mentioned last week, I will never get to have all those firsts in his life. His first smile, first laugh, first words, first steps, first day of school, first date. Instead I have lasts. The last moment I saw his face, the last time I kissed him, the last time I held him and handed him to the nurse. I know some days I seem perfectly “normal.” And sometimes I almost feel that way. I am back to enjoying my days at work and Kyle and I are stronger than ever in our relationship. But I will never move on. I will continue to ride the river and move forward.
Before you were born, I started dreaming of your life and what you would be like. I hoped that you would be smart and silly, like your cousins Henry and Caleb. We knew you would have a big head like your dad. I wondered if you would be as hard headed as him, as well. Your dad and I would fight over whether you would be a Packers fan or a Bears fan (a Packers fan, of course). You would love baseball and be a Cubs fan. I felt you move for the first time during the World Series. I hoped you would be tall and play football. Your dad made fun of me once while I was carrying you, because Eric Church’s “Like Jesus Does” came on the radio. I began to cry; (when didn’t I cry when I was carrying you?) That song was played when your dad danced with Nana at our wedding. It made me think of your wedding and how we would pick a song and dance. Now I wonder if some girl out there might take a little longer to find her soulmate because you aren’t here. I wonder if you would have been a good sleeper or if you would have kept me and your dad up all night. Would you have been a daddy’s boy or would you have preferred me? Would you have laughed and giggled with your Crazy Grandma? I wonder who you would have looked like. Your dad thought you had my lips and you definitely had his nose. I wonder if your feet would have continued to stay big. We aren’t sure where you got that trait. I wonder about the color of your eyes. I hoped you would be a snuggler and love to read books with me. I would have taught you to love Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. How could you not? They were the theme in your nursery. I will never know these things. But I do know that I will always love you. And you will always be my perfect, handsome, little man. Your dad loves you too. We will always keep a space for you in our hearts.
Twice this week I had someone say to me: “that’s not you.” One in response to my post from last week and one who commented that I don’t smile as much as I used to. I had to admit to both of them that I wasn’t the same as “before.” In this world of “after,” everything I do, say, think is touched by the hole in my life. My lifetime has been broken into 2 pieces. When having conversations, I delineate life into before and after. I am more somber. I cry more easily. My emotions frequently run amok. Some of the new me, I don’t like very much. I am easily angered and very intolerant of groups of people. Family gatherings have become something I dread. I feel a strong animosity towards people, who I may have mildly disliked in the past. I make random morbid comments that make people uncomfortable. I use the word “if” instead of “when” when referring to the possibility of having children again. I also have a very real sense of my own mortality. I have lost some of my human invincibility. Sometimes a lethargy roles over me so that I am unable to get out of bed. I dread grocery shopping or going places in public. I prefer the comfort of my house and my husband. Some of the new me, I can’t put into words. I just know that I am different. I am a mother without a living child. I am mothering a child I can’t hold. While I was pregnant, I prepared for my life to change. And it has, just not in the way I expected. The biggest thing I want people to understand, I will never go back to the way I used to be. I ask for patience as I fit into my new skin and don’t be surprised if I am not “me.”
This is a difficult post for me to write, as typically I am very private about my faith. But it is one of the most difficult things that I have dealt with in this dark time. We all have arguments with people. And I am sure there are times where you just needed some space and didn’t want to talk to the other person. During this time for me, that is God. I have only said 2 prayers in the time since I lost Lincoln. The first was last Sunday, when we thought my mom was having a heart attack (she is fine now, still not sure what caused her symptoms, more testing to come). The second was following my first counseling session last Thursday. Both were very, very brief. The first thing I usually hear from people is to trust in the Lord, or believe that He has a plan, or whatever platitude they feel will bring me comfort. I graciously accept them and move on. But right now, I don’t like God very much. I am so very angry at Him and I constantly want to scream at Him and ask WHY??? Why did He take my child? And please don’t tell me that He needed another angel. God does not search the earth to take people to heaven. That is the exact opposite of his teachings. I just cannot take comfort in Him right now. I have suffered through many trials in my life. It seems I rarely get things right the first time. Graduating from college, my choice in husband, my career, to name a few. So why hasn’t that been enough? Have I not always been faithful? I suddenly find myself feeling very unworthy. My faith has been shattered by this tragedy. I have been faced with the realization that God does in fact give you more than you can handle. This is the heaviest thing I have ever had to carry and even though some days I just want to put it down, I can’t give it to Him. He has already taken too much. My rational, Christian educated mind says I am crazy, that I need God to find peace. My broken heart disagrees. Some day, after I continue to heal, I hope my faith returns. Also, I do hope that you all continue to pray for me. Pray that I find comfort in God’s love; pray that I will be able to have babies of my own, pray that I accept the plan God has for my life, pray for my husband and our families. For right now, I just can’t.