Our son Aiden would have turned five years old this month. It was a hard birthday for me this year. Not only is five years a big milestone, but I also felt a lot of emotional turmoil this year. Knowing that grieving is not a linear process and “grief bursts” are a normal part of the process, I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that this birthday was harder than some have been. But there was something different this year that took some time and reflection to come to understand. I felt a lot of turmoil, as if the feelings and emotions I was experiencing were contradicting each other. I felt a lot of tension mentally and emotionally, as I experienced multiple conflicting emotions at the same time.

The biggest contradiction I faced was the conflicting emotions in my heart. We are so fortunate to have two healthy, wonderful children that were born since we lost Aiden. This year I noticed that my heart felt full of love, happiness and gratitude for these wonderful little people I have been given the privilege of calling mine. My days are filled with so much love, I am the center of these precious beings’ worlds, and they are the center of mine. I feel fortunate beyond belief that I get to spend my days with them. But at the same time my heart feels so sad and broken as I am missing our sweet Aiden. Only two of my babies are here with me, one will always be missing, and I will always feel a deep sadness from that loss. How can my heart be full of these conflicting emotions at the same time?

Grief doesn’t make sense. Neither does my heart.

I always struggle with the need to do something special to celebrate, remember and commemorate Aiden’s life on his birthday. It was a happy day after all. We didn’t know anything was wrong with him until two days after his birth, so his birthday really was a joyful day. I want to find a way to celebrate his birthday that will honour the joy we felt. But at the same time it is hard for me to think of ways to celebrate, let alone act upon those ideas when I don’t feel like celebrating in the least. How do I balance these conflicting emotions, the need to celebrate with no desire to celebrate?

Grief doesn’t make sense. Neither does my heart.

Another contradiction I face is my sense of time around his life and death. To me it feels as though he was born and died just yesterday. It seems impossible that it could really be five years ago already. It still feels so fresh to me. But at the same time it also feels like it was a lifetime ago. It feels like a nightmare that happened in another lifetime because it certainly couldn’t have happened in this same life that I am living now. It seems impossible that I could survive something so horrendous and still go on living. How can something feel like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time?

Grief doesn’t make sense. Neither does my heart.

And finally, when I think about Aiden’s life and death and the horror of it all, I feel strong. I survived the horrific death of my precious child. I survived something I never imagined myself being able to survive, and I have come out the other side of that deep, dark bottomless pit of grief. Not to say that my grief journey is over by any means, but I feel like I have survived the very worst of it. I am scarred and scathed, but here none the less. If I can survive that, I can survive anything. But then it also serves as a constant reminder of how fragile and precious life is. Our sweet child was taken from us, we watched his body wither before our eyes and held him as he took his final breath. There is no guarantee in life, for anyone, no matter how precious or loved. This makes me feel so vulnerable and anything but strong. How can I feel strong and fragile at the same time?

Grief doesn’t make sense. Neither does my heart.

This year, Aiden’s fifth birthday taught me to accept that these seemingly contradictory feelings and emotions can coexist. I know this because I am living proof. Nothing about Aiden’s death makes sense, it never will. But I can learn to accept and respect what I feel.

Rather than fight against the contradictory feelings, I can accept that it doesn’t make sense to feel such opposites at the same time, but that is what I feel and it doesn’t always have to make sense. Giving myself permission not to have to try to make sense of these conflicting emotions takes a burden off of my shoulders. I feel what I feel. It is only my job to acknowledge and accept that, not analyze and make sense of it.

After all, grief doesn’t always make sense and hearts don’t always make sense either.

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    Melissa Russell

    Melissa Russell

    Melissa is the mother of three children, two in her arms and one forever in her heart. Her first child, Aiden, died in 2010 at 19 days old. Several days after his birth it was discovered Aiden was missing almost all of his small intestine, and his condition was too severe to respond to treatment. Melissa and her husband have gratefully welcomed two more children into their family since losing Aiden. You can find Melissa at Simple Lionheart Life, writing about creating a simple and intentional life as she tries to figure out the world again after losing Aiden.

    January 24, 2015
    January 29, 2015

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