I was reminded recently of Still Standing’s mission: to help you embrace life for everything that it is after experiencing the loss of a child or infertility. It made me think…in what ways am I embracing life now? It’s been sixteen long months since Ariella unexpectedly died just one week before her due date. Sixteen months of hurt, sixteen months of healing. What does embracing life look like for me?
Embracing life means lovingly parenting Ariella’s little brother. It means delighting in his smiles, giggles and sloppy wet kisses and even joyfully changing nappies, as it’s something I never could do for Ariella. It means holding him until my arms hurt because in my arms is where he wants to be and singing one.more.round of “Row Row Row Your Boat” simply because it makes him smile. It means acknowledging the guilt of feeling so happy but not wallowing in it and becoming stuck. I cannot let Ariella’s death steal any joy that my son brings me. I cannot. I will not. Embracing life after Ariella’s death means embracing all that it means to parent a living child.
Embracing life means doing things that scare me. While pregnant with my son, I needed to book tickets to visit my sister’s family in Japan so that they could meet my son. But booking a ticket for my unborn baby? That terrified me! It wasn’t until he was born safely that I believed he would be born alive. So as I was booking the tickets, all I could think about was how to go about cancelling his ticket after he “inevitably” died. Purchasing those tickets was honestly one of the hardest things I did during his pregnancy, because doing so implied that he would live. It took a few days of trying before I was able to click the purchase button. But I had to embrace life. His life. My life. Our life together.
Embracing life for everything that it is after Ariella’s death means stepping out of my comfort zone. It was one thing to book the tickets to Japan in faith that my baby would live. I found it another struggle altogether to actually go. I was leaving the country while my baby girl’s things stayed here. And that didn’t seem right to me. But it wasn’t just that…home had become my safe place. It’s the place where Ariella lived, where she died and where I grieved. It’s where things are familiar and where I can visit the cemetery whenever I want. I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone, but I needed to embrace life. I needed to step out, visit my sister, trust that things would be ok. And they were. Embracing life is stepping out.
Embracing life sixteen months after Ariella’s death means creating space and time for her. Since my son was born it hasn’t been possible to openly grieve or look through Ariella’s things whenever I want. But it’s still something I need to do. Embracing life means embracing all of life, including the grief. I used to look through her things or at her photos regularly, but these days I have to be more purposeful. It’s not that my grief is being hidden, rather, it has become a part of everyday life. It’s always with me, but it’s no longer at the forefront of everything. This means that I need to be purposeful and allow myself time to focus on my daughter and simply love and grieve her. I’ve found that creating specific moments for Ariella makes the days when I can’t focus on her so much easier.
Embracing life now means writing in her honour, reaching out to other women who have lost babies and creating friendships that would otherwise not have existed. One of my closest friendships has developed after we both had babies die. While I would give anything for us both to have our babies back, that friendship has been such a blessing and I embrace it no matter how it came to be.
Embracing life for everything that it is after experiencing the loss of my daughter is not what I thought. When she died I could not imagine life ever seeming ok again. But it is. And I am ok too. My hope is that you too might be able to embrace all that life is, the good and the bad, honouring your child as you do so.
Larissa is wife to Marcus and mama to four, including one precious girl lost to stillbirth. She writes about her daughter and life after loss at Deeper Still.