How Do You Keep Going?
I pressed my head against the cool window of the car as Dallas flashed past me. Sam driving. My daughter Bella in the back seat. It was August and it was hot and sticky. My parents were in a car behind us, heading to a hotel.
Maybe we’ll go swimming tonight, I thought. Dinner, swimming. My son just died.
My son had just died. Maybe an hour before that. In my arms. His three week old birthday was that day. And he was dead.
Two other little boys were on a shelf in an urn at home.
I was in shock. I felt as if my life had completely come to a standstill. It happened again. My absolute worst nightmare happened a second time. I carried a healthy baby to full term and by some freak virus no one even knew about, his heart gave out and he died.
I thought to myself, I won’t grieve this time. I can’t do this again. We’ve done a year and a half of being sad and terrified, and I won’t. I’ll just get pregnant again. No trouble there, just – you know – keeping them alive outside of me seems to be the issue. So I’ll just keep getting myself pregnant until a baby finally lives and then I’ll be happy.
These crazy thoughts rolled through my mind as I tried to find anything and everything that might bring any kind of relief from the pain that was consuming me. I have said it before but there’s no other way to explain it – loss literally feels like it will rip your heart in two. You can’t imagine how you still are breathing through it all. How you even made it out the other side. It’s so painful that there were times I wish I would just have been killed – hit by a truck. Shot. A plane would hit the house. Instantaneous death so that it would end; the pain would finally be over.
Just for me though.
Then I looked around and I couldn’t leave everyone else in more pain, so I kept going. I told others about my pain. I told my therapist. I wrote.
I’ve had people ask how to keep living after you lose a child. I don’t know. I think you just fake it till you make a new normal. That’s all. Get up. Go through the motions. Pretend it didn’t happen. Scream when you realize it did. Cry. Don’t. Throw all your maternity clothes away. Dig them out and sleep with them. Make a slideshow. Hide all the pictures.
All of it. None of it.
After two losses that I handled completely differently – the only thing I can say is that you have to do what gets you through it while minimizing the pain to yourself and others. Remember that even if it feels good now, it might cause you even more pain down the road. Even in moments of grief so thick I felt like I was drowning, I could still have a bit of rational thought where I knew that what I wanted to do wasn’t healthy or was going to help me to heal.
So how do you navigate loss? The best you can. The worst you can. Remind yourself constantly that in this moment, with the incredible pain and stress you have been left to handle, you’re here and you’re trying. It’s all you can do.