”What a difference a year makes.”

This well-known phrase haunts me every day since our son passed away unexpectedly. My son Turner’s first birthday is March 25th, 2018. One whole year has nearly passed since he quietly entered the world and was placed in my arms. One whole year since I had to say hello and goodbye to my precious baby I carried for 9 months. One whole year since my world came shattering down around me. One whole year since I’ve been trying to figure out how my life is supposed to move forward without him here. Yes, what a difference a year can make. For a grieving parent, the difference that year made was the realization their precious child isn’t ever coming home.

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The first year for a grieving parent is horrendous. In the initial months after your child died you can’t seem to pull your head above water. You feel as if you’re drowning, but there is no water in sight. Breathing no longer feels like a natural reflex where your body knows to just breathe in and out. There were moments when I literally had to remember to breathe in and breathe out. My heart felt differently. It literally felt broken. It beat differently, and I couldn’t figure out how it was still managing to beat in its broken state.

The intense fog and shock are so thick you feel as if you can reach out and run your fingers through them. There’s a heaviness and emptiness I didn’t know could be felt by a human being and still manage to live afterward. Not only do you experience the death of your child, but you experienced the death of the person you once were before your child died.

Strangely, the world looks the same physically, but the colors and vividness are now duller and everything looks and feels different than before. I felt as if I had been transported to a new world, but it looked exactly like the one I had lived in before and yet it felt so vastly different. You feel as if you’re a stranger in your own body as you somehow try to navigate this new the world you’re forced to live in.

There are no playbooks, no guidelines, no fixes, no solutions, nothing. You are simply left in this altered universe. Somehow you have to figure out how to pick up your shattered life and soul and piece it back together hoping it resembles a little bit of what it looked like before your child died.

The fog and shock eventually fade. You’re left knowing this isn’t a nightmare you won’t wake up from. All the hoping and praying to just wake up from this nightmare won’t happen. This is your reality. You’re a parent to a child the world can no longer see and sometimes doesn’t want to acknowledge or hear about. You realize you have to somehow live with the massive hole in your heart and life because you know your child isn’t coming home. You won’t ever see their sweet face, hold their body close to yours, feel your arms around them or their arms around you, hear their voice, or kiss their sweet cheeks again. All of those moments are just simply gone.

The days tick on unceasingly completely unaware of your unwillingness for time to move forward. Slowly days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Holidays, anniversaries, and important milestones pass. You quickly become aware of how very different these important dates now feel with the absence of your child. These dates hurt, and the longing for your child becomes more evident with every passing day and milestone you were supposed to celebrate with them.

Related: The Birthday of The Child That Isn’t Alive

Then it happens. You realize it’s nearly been a year without your child and you feel confused as to how this could possibly be. You feel guilty that you’ve somehow lived an entire year without one of your children. You’re left with wondering all the ”whys” and ”if only’s” which you’ve asked yourself a million times since the day your child passed away. These questions don’t consume your every thought but they are ever present. It seems people around you are unaware of the massive milestone that is about to happen. That you’ve lived one whole year without your child. The word ”lived” is a strange word to me…I wouldn’t state I’ve lived one whole year without my child, rather I’d say I’ve existed with the hope of someday being able to say I am living again.

I miss you, my sweet Turner. I miss everything I was supposed to experience with you this last year. I miss having you in my arms and seeing how simply perfect and handsome you are. But know this, I would do it all over in a heartbeat if it meant just one more moment with you. Happy 1st Birthday my dear son. And Happy 1st Birthday to all the other babies who are being dearly missed by their parents each day.

Photo Credit: Desiree Crocker