This message is for you, with the swollen eyes and the broken heart. The one whose arms ache day and night for the child you should be holding, who doesn’t know how the heck you will ever recover from this loss—or if you even want to.
I’ve been where you are.
Those early days make you wonder why you bother living at all, when the universe so clearly has it out for you. Only you are tired, so tired. Emotionally. Physically.
So you lay there in bed watching the ceiling fan whir overhead endlessly, breathing in and out, and thinking about how tired you are by all this mess and how you don’t have the energy for all this grief and sadness and it would just be easier to not be here at all.
You want to be with your baby.
But you couldn’t do that to your family, or your husband, or your other kids or friends. Or maybe it’s not them at all. Maybe you are afraid. Or just too tired.
And while you are caught up thinking about that, about what it is exactly that you are living for… a day passes. You don’t even realize it has, because early grief feels like Groundhog’s Day, with its twisted cycle of therapist appointments and cemetery visits and time spent looking at the room your child never came home to or the clothes they never wore. You ignore the calls from friends with healthy, living children asking what they can bring, and how they can help, and at the same time feel hurt by the ones who haven’t called, and all the while you wonder how the hell this became your life.
And then another day passes. And another, until one day you hear someone laughing while watching some ridiculous video of a talking shell on YouTube, and you want to yell at them because there is nothing funny in this world if your child can’t be in it, until it dawns on you that you are alone. That laughter came from you. And there is this half a second of joy that sort of bubbles up and escapes out of your heart, and you don’t know what to do with it.
People like you don’t laugh, remember? Your child is dead. You are too sad. You aren’t entitled to finding YouTube videos funny, except you just did, so maybe… you are?
You wonder if this laugh, this tiny little joy bubble could possibly be a sign of that “healing” your friends with the perfect lives and living kids have been promising in their voice messages and emails would come.
The idea feels ridiculous since you haven’t brushed your hair in six months now, and you live at the cemetery most days, but every once in a while, between cursing God and the Universe and your effed up luck you start to get defiant.
Why shouldn’t you be allowed to feel joy too, dammit? There are way worse people than you enjoying their lives right now.
You take a breath and realize that the weight in your chest has lessened, even if only to a microscopic degree, and it’s a development that you don’t know if you should feel gratitude or shame for, because how dare you be healing when your child never got that chance to, right?
Then you see a post on Facebook about a baby and for the first time in what feels like a million years, your first reaction is to smile. And it’s not a forced smile, it’s a genuine one because you feel happy for your sister/friend/co-worker, and it dawns on you that this, too, must mean you’re healing.
I know you can’t imagine ever smiling at a birth announcement now.
I’ve been there. I understand.
For a long time, my life revolved around loss.
A very long time.
For the first, suffocating, two plus years after my daughter Peyton died, I ate, drank, breathed, dreamed and lived grief every moment, every hour, every day.
In the five years since losing her, I have battled depression and PTSD and anxiety and infertility, and yet, today, I am neither suffocating, nor hopeless, nor angry.
I AM STILL STANDING.
I could say that my healing came with the miraculous birth of my rainbow twins—an event that my doctors told me was an impossibility after complications from birthing Peyton left me infertile—but that would be putting too fine a point on it.
I know now, that my healing began earlier.
Somewhere along the way, probably while lying in my bed watching the fan circle over my head and thinking of how doomed I was to never again feel joy, some part of me decided that I was going to ride this storm out anyway. And that was it—that decision was the first teensy, tiny seed of healing to be planted in my heart, and it sent into motion my journey toward the life I live today.
A life of ups and downs, yes. But also of so, so much joy.
Loss and grief and infertility are like that.
They trick you into thinking that you are not entitled to be a part of the living world—the place where life moves forward and new joys are unveiled. Loss and grief and infertility make you think that you will never, ever be happy again. They tell you that you have been forgotten. Left behind. They make you wonder what purpose there is in being alive at all.
But you trudge ahead, regardless, because you don’t know what else to do, until one day, without a blaze of trumpets, or a ticker tape parade, a tiny voice deep within your heart whispers the words you never thought you would hear—I survived.