“I hope this helps in some small way,” the note read, tucked inside a book about losing a child. I was coming home from watching my third little boy die in my arms on his three-week birthday, on the anniversary of the due date for my twin boys who died a little over a year before that.
I flipped through it, reading flowery words and affirmations, seeing her other children, and the end – what the author felt was a kind of redemption.
I threw it across the room in a fury, and never opened it again.
It wasn’t about her. It wasn’t about the kind woman who sent it. It was me – my anger and hurt and pain. I wanted nothing more in my life than to not be the person I was – a three-time loss mama who could barely function outside of writing and caring for her only living child. I couldn’t believe the first time it happened I’d have to go home as a bereaved mother, a term that I hated with every fiber of my being. But when it happened again, I was sickened. How was this my life? How was I still this person? How did I yet again watch my child stop breathing in my arms as I cried and begged and screamed?
How did anyone walk this and get to the point where the horrific nature of death became something we could put a pretty picture on and write beautiful, calm words about?
Never, I vowed. Never.
Yet. Years have passed. Time has worn down some, not all, of the sharp edges of my grief and anger. It rises up on anniversaries and special dates, sometimes to the point of it being frightening since I have been away from there for so long. I still read words that seem disconnected from what death is really like, and my skin prickles with irritation. My apathy appears in moments I feel overwhelmed by it all still.
But in nearly 6 and 5 years, death no longer holds the power of anger over me that it once did. Not completely. I will never be able to write about my son’s deaths with any words but the most broken, vivid, brutal words I know. But parts of it were beautiful and had to be. It was their lives, and for my twins, that was their whole life. I can’t let death taint every part of what they did live.
I understand better now when I meet women who tell me they’ve lost a child and no, they don’t want to talk about it. Women who have lost and never want to speak about it again. Many of us have become so open to hearing and writing on losing a child, we forget not every parent feels this way. Some do not name their babies. Do not write books. Do not put up pictures. Do not hold birthday parties.
And that’s ok. I didn’t love my babies any less when all I could write was anger, or when I just couldn’t write about them anymore for long periods. When I brushed others off, seemingly apathetic to my own grief, who wanted to hear how I really was. When conversation only went as deep as a small puddle, in those times my grief was just as strong as it was later.
But it was my choice on how to handle the overwhelming pain and anger.
If you are here. If your friend is in this broken place. Ask first. Tell others. They may not know, some of us may want to spill it all or pretend it’s over – and we need people who understand that. However baffling it might be. For most, sadness is a much easier emotion to handle than anger or what seems like apathy.
It’s wonderful to break the silence, but if silence, anger, or apathy is what you need – we affirm that too.
Diana is owner and editor-in-chief of Still Standing Magazine and blogs her own life story at Diana Wrote. She and her military retired husband have two girls and three sons who passed away after birth; Preston and Julian, identical twin boys who were born at 20 weeks, and Kaden, who unexpectedly had cardiomyopathy due to a rare virus called ciHHV-6. He died in her arms at 3 weeks old.
In 2014 she traveled with World Vision to learn about maternal health and infant mortality in Zimbabwe, and is now working on her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. You can also find her work on Babble, Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post.