I am not the person I once was. Child loss leaves no relationship untouched, no personal belief unquestioned.
I can no longer look at the world with unwavering optimism or subscribe to mantras that oversimplify the human experience.
“Everything happens for a reason.” After witnessing my own child die in my arms, I cannot possibly agree. “Positive thoughts, positive results.” I beg to differ. My husband and I held an abundance of hope for our daughter’s survival, and an entire community lifted her up with their thoughts and prayers. Despite this outpouring of positivity, she died after only twelve hours of life.
No, my rose-colored glasses were shattered when the doctor declared that my daughter was gone. So who am I now?
In this life after loss, my lows are lower, so very much lower.
I am prone to anxiety, episodes of PTSD, panic attacks, and bouts of sobbing. Sometimes I have trouble coping with the demands of everyday life, and I find myself wrapped in a warm blanket, staring blankly into space. I am certain it is not easy to live with me.
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While once full of energy and vibrancy, all too often now I am exhausted.
This is no ordinary exhaustion, but rather the type that seeps all the way into my bones. The weight of grief is heavy and, occasionally, all-consuming. Particularly on the hardest days, an exorbitant amount of effort is required to simply keep moving.
Never before have I experienced such profound loneliness. I am fortunate to have supportive family and friends who remember my daughter. They welcome conversation about her and miss her right along with me. But still, the loneliness claims space in my heart, taking hold, owning me.
Child loss has introduced infinite sorrow to my life. It has taken the bright and shiny, carefree person I once was and transformed her into someone who tends toward anxiety and flakiness.
And yet there is more to my story.
I am no stranger to tremendous heartbreak, and because of this, I am able to feel more deeply. While the lows are lower, the highs are certainly higher. When joy makes an appearance, I can feel the remaining pieces of my heart soaring with gratitude for the love that pours from it. I can see the world in brilliant color again.
I have developed a deep appreciation for the small things in this life. A flower blooming in my yard, a bird visiting my front door, a butterfly appearing before me – these simple things now stop me in my tracks. I allow them to awe me.
I make a concerted effort to observe the wondrous world around me, for my sweet baby was never given the chance to experience life beyond the hospital walls.
Compassion for all humankind fills my heart, more than it ever has before. I know now that everyone has a story, and we cannot possibly know the challenges that those we encounter have been made to endure.
While this person I’ve become carries incredible pain within her heart, she is so much more than the trauma she has faced. She loves more deeply and lives more fully, with her sweet daughter’s spirit as her guide.
Sarah Burg is a wife, writer, and mother of three beautiful children. Following a heroic battle with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), Sarah’s second daughter, Willow Grace, died in her arms shortly after birth in June 2016. Willow’s death has transformed Sarah into a writer with a reason, and she hopes to offer healing and kinship to the child loss community through her words. Sarah also blogs at The Rising (www.sarahjburg.com), where she explores life after loss.