After losing a baby, it is extremely common to feel like nothing will ever be the same again – and it won’t. These harsh realities are not something you are going to easily accept in the first few months following your loss but it is something that is important for all families suffering child loss bereavement to understand. As time passes, you will come to accept that this is the path that has been forced upon you and you can begin to move towards your ‘new normal’.
After about two weeks had passed following our loss, I remember so clearly sitting with my family watching something on TV and everyone was laughing hysterically. Granted – it was funny as hell, but I remember forcing myself NOT to laugh. I felt such an overwhelming sense of guilt towards my son that I even wanted to laugh. To some people, this would sound ridiculous! But to me, I was stuck in such a dilemma. It’s not that I didn’t want to have a good time, it’s just that I felt like I wasn’t taking my son’s death seriously if I started having a good time only two weeks after his death. At the time and still now, the feeling of guilt I felt is/was so powerful it reduces me to tears on a daily basis. I felt guilty that I wasn’t immediately happy when I found out I was pregnant, I felt guilty that I didn’t take all my medication when I was supposed to and I felt guilty that there were three occasions that I couldn’t go to see my son because it was the weekend and the funeral parlor was closed! I felt like I had to be sad all the time – a feeling that wasn’t exactly difficult to feel – but that I couldn’t STOP myself from feeling sad. Grief is only possible when there is love and if my grief alone was an indicator to how much he is loved I don’t think there is anyone out there more loved than him.
I used to feel Rubén was conceived into a life of doom – I was not in the best of health when he was conceived and he was considered lucky to have lived healthily and happily for five months into my pregnancy. But for his overprotective, smothering mummy and excited yet stern daddy – we lived a life of worry from the day we found out we were pregnant. So we were all lucky and unlucky in a way. Psychologists call this drawn out period “anticipatory grief.” Anticipating a loved one’s death is considered normal and healthy, but realistically, the only way to prepare for a death is to imagine it. And I could not stop imagining it. I didn’t allow myself to feel excited about my pregnancy (until three days before he died because we found out he was a boy early) because I was always anticipating that he would not make it. In the weeks after he died, something strange happened. I did not plunge as deep as I thought I would. Life did not stop completely. Instead, I felt something so unspeakably strange, so blasphemous, that I wondered if I could talk or write about it, at all. I felt OK. Even more strange, I found out that it was not strange at all. Derek Thompson wrote in his article ‘The Secret Life of Grief’: “…Despite the warnings that grief would drag me through the prescribed five stages and discard me in a darker place, bereavement researchers have recently learned that we’ve been wrong about loss for centuries. For some, grief is a dull and unrelenting ache that fades—or doesn’t. But for many of us, grief is something else. Grief is resilience.” This feeling of being OK came from 3 things. The first was doing this blog. I kept all of my posts private at first and used my blog as a safe space to express how I was feeling at the time. Most of those posts are still private and maybe one day I will muster the strength to upload them. Another reason my strange sense of strength came from my family. I was lucky enough to have so much support in particular from my wonderful mother and amazing partner Paul. These two were my back bone during the most difficult times and without them I dread to think where I would be. The final cause of my strength was my son. I felt guilty about wasting my life mourning him when his life was so tragically taken away from him. I decided to start his charity and live my life making people aware of his.
The truth is, I didn’t want to feel sad ALL the time. I felt like I was in some way dishonoring his memory by not bringing joy around him. So after his funeral service and his cremation, I made my best effort to try and feel joyous that this gorgeously beautiful boy was MY son. I have a beautiful little family and these two boys (my son and my partner) are mine. Yes – he is not here, but that doesn’t mean I am not a mother anymore. I am proud that, even though he is not here and he will not get the chance at life, he is and always will be mine. It is a feeling of joy that fills my heart every time I think about it. Even though he is not here, I must live my life to honor him; thus, creating a ‘new normal’. Things will never be the same again – why should they be? By things being the same would be that he never existed. My family and I must now try and define a new normality that is inclusive of him and his memory. We have to make our own rules about how we are going to be ‘parents of an angel’ (cliche but true). A new normal that means any siblings of his will know all about him and that anything we do, we do because of him. How can we not find some joy in that?
Not everyone can feel this way and that is OK. Everyone deals with grief differently and no one should tell you how you should cope with your loss. But although you may not feel it now, it may be a week a year or 10 years later, things will get better and you will find happiness again. That doesn’t mean you are forgetting about you child, you never will. I used to hate it when people would say ‘time is the healer’ – no it is not. I will never be healed. There will always be part of my heart missing and that part went away with him. And that is a feeling that may apply to all families that go through that loss of a child. However, when the time is right, try and search for the happiness that is hidden deep in the sorrow and the grief – laugh when you feel like laughing and cry when you feel like crying. That will aid you in your journey through grief.