Blog post

I’m Not Okay

January 24, 2018

Eighteen months into my grief journey, most days it probably seems that I’m doing okay. I even convince myself that I am. My rainbow daughter is here, healthy, and has reintroduced so much joy into my life. She makes me happier than I could have ever imagined. But I’m still not okay.

When sharing about my grief, I tend to focus on my immense love for my son or the good works I’ve done in his name. Or, I share the progress I’ve made along my path of grief. I subconsciously try to project some positivity. I put my happy face on and my best foot forward, and it looks like I’m doing okay. But it’s time to get real, raw and honest. I’m not okay. It’s not okay. It never will be.

Related: Broken, but not Shattered

It’s not okay that I only got to hold my son after he had passed away. Or that I was still coming out of anesthesia during those few precious hours, so my memories are limited. It’s not okay that I entered the hospital 39 weeks pregnant and left with empty arms. It’s not okay that I have to wonder which of Jacob’s little sister’s traits he would have shared, and what unique characteristics he would have had. It’s not okay that every pregnancy and birth announcement from even those closest to me will always sting a little. That my absolute joy for my friends when their babies are born healthy will always be tainted with an involuntary but nagging, “Why not mine?” It’s not okay that I will never have anything resembling certainty that any future pregnancy of mine (or anyone else’s) will end happily. Or that I can’t look back on my pregnancies fondly because they either ended in loss or were plagued by anxiety. It’s not okay that I’m still terrified to lose my healthy living daughter. That any risk or worry (exposure to germs, a particularly fussy afternoon) seems like life or death (if she gets the flu she might die; if she’s crying because she’s sick she might die). That literally every time I reference her hypothetically doing something in the future (celebrating milestones, going to school, getting married) a little voice whispers if she lives that long.

This is my reality of living after suddenly, unexpectedly losing my son. This is my reality of parenting after that loss. This is the reality that I rarely share. But if it’s my reality, it’s probably someone else’s, so hopefully, this reassures you that you’re not alone. Day to day, I smile. I experience real joy watching my amazing daughter discover the world around her. I care for her, cross things off my to-do list, and do things I love. But underneath it all, at least some part of me is not okay. And sometimes the shock, the incomprehensibility, the tragedy, the fear, the anxiety, it takes over and leaves me exhausted and immobilized by feelings of failure and insufficiency. Only recently have I been able to acknowledge that this legitimate “not okayness” is at the root of these difficult days, and that realization has been profoundly helpful in navigating these feelings.

Related: A Life That’s Not Fair

I’ve always been a positive person. Though sometimes I think I’m entirely different after losing my son, I suppose some element of that positivity has remained in my post-loss persona, making me smile and put my best foot forward. But sometimes, I’m learning, for my sanity and my healing, I just have to acknowledge I’m not okay. And it is okay to not be okay.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash

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  • Elizabeth Yassenoff

    Elizabeth Yassenoff lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Erik. She writes for Still Standing and on her blog to honor her firstborn son, Jacob Dale, who passed away three hours after birth due to unexpected complications during labor. Elizabeth is a co-founder of Alive In My Heart, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides connection and resources to bereaved parents in the Columbus area, and she is studying to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Jacob's baby sister, Ella Jane, was born August 11, 2017 and has brought a lot of light and healing.

    5 Comments

    • Nanki Robbertse

      January 24, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      So reassuring to read that it is not just me. Struggling so much with guilt when I do not feel ok while I have 2 living healthy children. Thank you for being honest and brave

      1. Elizabeth Yassenoff

        carryingjacob

        January 24, 2018 at 6:25 pm

        Thank you so much, Nanki for reading and for your comment. I’m glad my words were reassuring to you – I agree it really helps to know we are not alone! Big hugs, Elizabeth

    • Freda Jooste Schoeman

      January 25, 2018 at 8:24 am

      27 years since we lost a little girl, only 2 days old. I still remember every detail, every emotion, every feature of her face. Some things will always open up the pain but” being ok” mean something different every single day. It will always be part of who I am

    • Brittney

      January 25, 2018 at 9:07 am

      I am 21 months into my grief journey and everything you stated rings true with me. I recently made a comment to a loved one that I hope I get to see my living son grow up. They told me I can’t think like that. But I do and I will always think like that. Because I thought I’d get to see Maverick grow up and he was taking away from me in a minute so why would it be any different for my other two children. Grieving parents live in a different reality than the rest of the world.

    • Decisions In Grief – Still Standing

      February 15, 2018 at 8:00 am

      […] Related: I’m Not Okay […]

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