When Grief’s Legacy is Fear

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Exactly one year and six months ago, my husband and I said hello and then goodbye to our daughter, Eve.  When the doctor told us that she’d died inside of me, I didn’t see how I was going to survive her birth, much less the days and weeks and months of life-without-her that lay ahead.

In fact, I hoped that I wouldn’t survive.

In the day’s wait that lay between me and the induction that would bring Eve’s body into this world, whenever my benumbed mind managed to grasp at any shred of hope, it was that I would not survive to face her birth, her dead body, and whatever sort of life we could manage to patchwork together in the wake of such devastation.

I wanted to die.  And continued to want to die for some time thereafter.

But I didn’t.  Instead, I lived.

And at first, that living felt a whole lot more like survival than anything else.

The hardest thing to endure was not Eve’s birth, and not holding her for the first and only time.  It was not watching my husband and loved ones tenderly cradle this sad, lifeless little person that had been my daughter.  It was not crawling back into the hospital bed, leaking tears and birthing blood, as the nurse wheeled my daughter’s body away.

It was leaving the hospital and everything that came after.

The silent house waiting for us when my husband and I arrived home from the hospital.  The empty crib that we had just set up.  Night upon night where sleep eluded me and there was nothing standing between me and the wailing agony and the fear.

Since that time, the sharp edge of grief has dulled into something softer, if still unpredictable and painful.  Our home and hearts no longer feel abjectly empty, although there is nothing in this world that will ever fill the space that our daughter left behind.

I have survived.  I am surviving.  And somewhere along the way, I started truly living once again.

And yet . . . there is one piece of those early days of life after loss that remains.

Fear.

Like Carly Marie, a looming, pervasive sense of fear entered my life when Eve left it.  Because when someone precious and innocent and so very, very important is taken from your life traumatically, without warning, suddenly it feels like all bets are off.  Nothing is sacred, nothing is safe.

That’s the thing — my sense of safety, whether it was accurate or not, was shattered when my daughter died.

At first, I was terrified that my husband would die, too.  I went everywhere he went for months after Eve’s death, no matter how quick of a trip it was going to be or how little it interested me.  Fear gnawed at me when he drove away to work in the morning.

And then, three months after we said goodbye to Eve, we discovered that I was pregnant with our rainbow.  For that first day of pregnancy, I was elated; nothing could get to me.  But it was not to last — fear entered in, and has stayed.  Our rainbow son’s pregnancy was an exercise in coping with anxiety.

Now he is eight months old and my battle against anxiety rages hotter than ever.  I know too well how easily he could be snatched away, how fragile this thing called life is

.  Sometimes, I cry because I miss my daughter, and because I know what it would be like to miss my son, too.

That fear has begun to affect me physically.  I carry a near constant ache in my chest, and I am often breathless and dizzy.  The diagnosis is anxiety.

Some days — and lately, a whole lot of them — feel like survival again.  The fears cluster close and my breath catches and catches and it is an act of war to beat the anxiety back.

And it’s hard.  It’s hard to live when you have fears for [some] good reason.  When you know death too well.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Although I am still in the midst of the battle, I know a life riddled with anxiety not where it ends because Eve’s death has taught me than I’m stronger than that.  If I can survive her death and birth and the crushing grief, than I can survive this.  I will not let the fear cripple me.

So although the grief is still heavy at times, and although the fears press too close most days, I am still here.  I am still standing.


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Beth About Beth

Beth Morey is the mixed media artist behind Epiphany Art Studio . Her soulful and whimsical creations are born out of the griefs, joys, and not-knowings of life. She is also the founder of Made , an online course exploring the intersection of faith and art, and the author of the creative healing workbook, Life After Eating Disorder. Beth loves meeting new friends through her blog , where she writes about faith, creativity, and life after stillbirth. She lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their rainbow son, and their three naughty dogs. You can find Beth at Epiphany Art Studio — www.epiphanyartstudio.etsy.com or at her blog, www.bethmorey.com. You can also see her work at
Life After Eating Disorder -- http://www.amazon.com/Life-After-Eating-Disorder-Have/dp/1478105453/

Comments

  1. Lindsey Henke says:

    Great post. I was talking about the exact same feelings of anxiety and fear with my therapist yesterday. How if and when we have our next child anxiety won’t leave when the baby is born, it will continue to weave its way throughout life. It’s as if our innocence is gone. I say my pregnancy virginity has been taken. But there is hope if we learn how to live with it like you write. Thank you for this piece. I am a lover of your work. Oh and this article reminds me of the quote “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” Thanks for reminding me. I wish someone would have told me sooner, ah, but I probably wouldn’t have listened. Peace. Fellow SS contributor, Lindsey.

  2. I think the fear is a pretty tough thing for non-loss moms to understand. I was at the park just yesterday with a neighbor and our children; I was nervous that my daughter was up on the tallest platform, ready to go down a very fast slide.

    “You have to let go,” my neighbor laughed, encouraging me to encourage my daughter. I wanted to tell her that holding a sick baby and holding a dying baby makes letting to a lot more complicated. I mean, I still want my daughter to jump and play and slide and explore, but I have to wrestle with anxiety every moment of it.

    Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for this post. Much love to you.

  3. Lorna Templeton says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been feeling exactly this way about my 10 month old rainbow recently, crippled by the fear something will happen to her. It’s good to know I’m not alone. xx

  4. I can relate! Great article!

  5. These words so well describe how I feel. Thank you for being open and honest about your journey!

  6. Kate Goodwin says:

    Wow, I had all the same thoughts and feelings (though I could never have expressed them as eloquently). They were my companions right through my subsequent son and daughters’ pregnancies and births and they are now 3yrs and 20months. My first daughter would have been 5 this year. Thankfully I saw a really awesome hypnotherapist and was able to deal with a lot of the fear and the terrible images I had of my living children when I went to sleep. It’s so important to share this stuff so other families who are really stuck in their grief can see that eventually there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you.

  7. ❤❤❤. I used to wake my dog up some nights when fear would take hold. It wasn’t so he could sit with me, but that I was afraid he’d die of sids too. Crazy sounding, I know, but very real for me

  8. I recently lost my daughter soon after her full term birth. She was my first born and healthy. This quote helps me and I hope it helps you; he who fears he will suffer, already suffers from this fears.

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