Still Standing

Facing Trauma While Grieving

Since my daughter, Blake, died, I’ve heard the word “trauma” a lot. Therapists have said things like, “…because of all the trauma you’ve experienced…” or “…you’re having a trauma response…”  I decided to google this word and here’s what I saw:

The experience of losing a child is actually part of the definition of trauma. I guess I always reserved that word for something horrific;  I hadn’t considered trauma when it came to my family. I’ve come to realize, as parents who lost a child, we have been through so much trauma and it pops up all the time.

A few months ago, my 3-month-old daughter, Ayla, spit up. Obviously, this is a common thing for a baby to do. I wiped her little face and moved on. Just a couple of minutes later she did it again; only this time, it was clear she was vomiting. It happened again and again. My husband and I cared for her, of course, but all the while I began to panic. She threw up until there was nothing left and she was dry heaving. All I could hear by then were my own thoughts.

I sat on my bed cradling my baby while I cried. My husband looked at me, concerned. “Babe, what is wrong? Her stomach is just upset.”

The words fell out of my mouth: “I just don’t want her to die.”

In that moment, I believed it. There had to be a serious cause for her being sick. Maybe she has an infection that was killing her or a disease we didn’t know about. “This is how terrible things start,” I said to myself.

I’ve learned that right there is a trauma response.

Related: The Lingering Effects of a Traumatic Loss

Looking back on it now makes me feel like a crazy person. I stayed up with her all night long, watching her chest rise and fall. I called the doctor, who advised us to watch her carefully for a few days. I know from my clear view today that she was okay. But, not then. Then, I was in the pit of the deepest darkest hole that exists: the one where I helplessly watch my child die. I’ve been there before.

Fortunately, I don’t have such a severe response often. I am, however, faced with a tremendous amount of anxiety since Blakey was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, type 1. I constantly worry about my two living daughters and my husband. Not in the typical way that a mother worries, it’s worry on steroids. Many mothers in the loss community tell me they are overcome with anxiety too. That gives me a little bit of comfort in this journey, I’m not the only one.

It’s taken me a while but I know I’m not crazy. I’m trying to function while living with a broken heart and a truckload of trauma.

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