Here she is again; That viscous, heartless bitch, grief. She has no care for what day it is. She storms in, flinging the door wide open whenever she damn well pleases and ruins everything; Holidays, anniversaries, special occasions are all fair game. Four years after loss, her arrival has gotten a bit more predictable. We don’t feel the weight of her constant, daily presence like we did the first couple years. She’s more like the annoying uncle everyone puts up with at Thanksgiving and tries not to engage in conversation to avoid his off-color jokes. But that doesn’t mean she can’t show up without a moment’s notice and turn your whole world upside down again. People say grief comes in waves. In my experience she’s more of a tsunami attack. You can’t just wade in the shallow side of grief, she’ll drag you into the deep end and dunk you under as you gasp for air, crying out in vein for someone to save you. All it takes is a small trigger or a bad day for her to see her way in. Kick you while you’re down, that’s her style. A real bitch I tell you. But you know the weirdest part of this toxic relationship? Sometimes I see her coming and I invite her in. I welcome her like a long lost friend. Ah (sigh of relief), there she is, just when I was afraid I had “moved on”. That the pain of loss had decided to let go of my heart and somehow that means I miss him less. After a long spell of her silence, of being able to go through my daily routine without a tear, I feel somehow thankful when she returns and she reminds me of how much I lost, how badly I still long for my baby boy. She’s the only one who knows how truly broken I still am. She heard my guttural screams when I was told the news, “I’m sorry, we couldn’t save him. Your son died”, or some similar matter of fact statement that I couldn’t believe I was hearing as I was coming out of the black fog of anesthesia. My husband held my hand, tears flowing. Cries followed that sounded so foreign, but somehow were coming from deep within me; uncontrollable and piercing wails like a wounded animal. Only she knows how we sat together in the darkness every hour of every day after for months on end. I couldn’t imagine life without our son. The only moments I could see the light were when my sunshine came to my bedside to sit with me. My four year old girl, sitting sweetly in my rocking chair smiling at me and instinctively coming to my bedside to hold my face within her tiny hands making mommy smile back at her when I was at my worst. She kept me from being swallowed whole by grief in those early days. My husband too, with his rock solid strength, pushing forward, going back to work to keep us afloat and putting on a brave face though he was also fighting off grief and severe PTSD. God was there too, silent but steady, understanding all to well the pain of losing a child. He never left my side and kept promising me beauty for ashes, asking me to trust Him. Then inexplicably, somehow life continues moving on. We learn to cope, figure out ways to honor our lost loved one and by some miracle we can experience joy and hope again too. Grief takes a break, maybe she finds some other poor unsuspecting soul to ambush. Yet she won’t let you forget her, she comes back unannounced and as much as I dread that day, I can’t help but smile because I know she’s going to bring me right back to that place. That moment I held him in my arms for the first time, smelled his fresh baby skin, took in his perfection, every inch from his soft blonde hair, handsome cleft chin, long, thin body, down to his slightly crooked toes (just like daddy’s). He’s gone now, but he was here. He died in delivery, but he lived in me, and that’s where he continues to live today. Always in my heart, my son, Owen Nathaniel Vick. Grief lasts forever just like our love, they coexist hand-in-hand, and I’ve learned to accept the crashing waves that allow me to feel the depth of that endless love.
Lately my expression of grief has been lingering in the anger phase more than usual. Probably because all my emotions of frustration and anger regarding the loss resurface every time we celebrate our son’s “birth” day (October 3rd). I inadvertently return to that earlier stage of trying to make sense of why we lost him and who was at fault. It’s an extremely lonely and depressing place to be, but I can’t escape it, it keeps me up at night and tortures my mind endlessly. Couple that with the perceived indifference or apathy that I feel others have toward our loss, especially now three years later, it’s a dark and alienating feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Clearly no one would dare say anything suggesting we move on or that they don’t see why I’m still grieving, but it’s what they don’t say. The difficult moments when I or my husband decide to tell someone we lost a son don’t happen as often as before. But when we do, especially when he shares our loss story (because he doesn’t express his grief as much as I do so when he opens up about our son I know it took a lot), I would expect that the person listening could offer their condolences. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy conversation, but a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” would be much less cruel than silence and a change of topic. Why is it that people skirt passed uncomfortable conversations about grief? I guess maybe they think if they talk about the loss then we’ll be reminded and somehow hurt more? I know it’s hard to go there and feel empathy for someone when they’ve experienced the unspeakable and some people are surprised by the shocking, sudden knowledge that we lost a baby so they just don’t know what to say. But coming from a loss mom, if you don’t know how to react just say whatever you can come up with: “I’m sorry”, “That must be so hard”, “I am here for you”, “Can you tell me about him?”, anything, just don’t stay quiet please. It breaks our hearts our child is no longer here and your avoidance of talking about him doesn’t help. If anything it dishonors his memory and makes us feel even more alone.
And since social media is where many interactions take place these days, if you see a post about a person’s loss, please don’t “Like” it or nod and keep on scrolling. And if you planned on just tapping the sad faced emoji (????), reconsider and kindly take a moment to write out a sentence. Again it can be brief, but it means so much if you acknowledge our pain with a few words. I hope my advice doesn’t come off preachy, but I’ve experienced this enough times in three years and I know people mean well, so I’ve decided to share my feelings to tell others who want to be there for us and anyone else who lost a child that it’s okay to talk about our babies. We crave hearing their name and knowing you still care.
If you’re a loss parent reading this and you feel alone, you aren’t. I’m sorry we are here in this unfortunate club together, but I am glad that we can offer each other support knowing exactly what one another is going through. I will always be honored to hear about your child and grieve them with you. Please tell me about them. Comment with your baby’s name and story below, share my post, and let’s keep talking and honoring their little lives. I miss my son, Owen, just as much yesterday, today and always. It is still so hard, but on the good days something or someone reminds me of him and I can smile because he is mine and I am his forever. ????
April 1, 2017
Had a hard night. Just looking through old photos on my phone to try to delete some and make some memory space. I was looking at the days before losing our son. How naively happy we all were. Then all of a sudden, complete and utter heartbreak and unimaginable sadness. I didn’t know this could happen during a perfectly normal pregnancy. I wish I could go back and tell myself that day we lost our son to take a trip to the hospital earlier just to check on him, but I had no warning signs until that night when Owen stopped moving. Why did we have to go through this? Why did we lose our strong, sweet boy?? Being pregnant with another rainbow still doesn’t make me feel any better. If anything I am more saddened that we lost a perfect baby and we have no promises that this time will be different. All this aside, I am very thankful that I’m alive and have a chance to be a mother again to a son who I know I will love as much as Owen. Just wish things would’ve been different and he could be here too.
June 14, 2017
My new purpose since our loss is to spread awareness about kick counting and trusting your intuition in your pregnancy. Don’t take no for an answer if you feel that something is wrong. Be the annoying patient that calls or goes in whenever you feel something’s off. Always push for the extra tests and scans you need to feel at ease. Worst case scenario they find something wrong and you can try to save your baby or yourself. But hopefully everything is fine and you can go back to being blissful and excited about the miracle growing inside of you. All I want is for you to be able to bring home a healthy baby, so I don’t recommend putting blind faith in your medical team. They can be busy, overwhelmed with clients and confined to what they can offer through routine healthcare based on the rates insurance companies pay them, so it’s up to you to be your own advocate and more importantly to be your unborn baby’s voice. I don’t know if any of what I’m saying would have saved my baby boy, but I feel in my heart that it could help you. Please try not to stress, but be an active participant in your prenatal care. I pray that you will have no complications and enjoy every second of this miraculous process. And please, if you have a healthy baby at the end, know how blessed you truly are and treasure that little life!
Praying for all of you and cheering on every mom out there fighting for their baby’s survival through a high risk pregnancy. You are my sisters and my heroes.