“There may come a day when you go an entire day without thinking about her.”
These are well-intended words that came from my mother at some time in the second week after my daughter was stillborn.
She said these words with love, holding me as I sobbed for the hundredth time.
When I heard it, there was a moment where I thought, “Really? The pain may dissipate to that extent? Is that possible?”
My mother has four healthy, living adult children. While she has experienced loss and death, most recently being the death of both of her parents, she has never experienced the complete shattering of her heart as I did this past June.
In fact, growing up, I can remember her saying many times that she would never be able to bear the loss of one of her children – she would have to be put in a mental hospital, she said.
She would become a vegetable, lose her mind.
What’s more, she believed that God would never impose this reality on her, because God won’t give you anything you can’t handle, and she wouldn’t be able to handle the loss of a child.
She is not alone. No one believes this will happen to them. No one believes they would be able to “handle it.”
So many days I feel like I can’t handle this.
Make that all days.
With every morning, my first thought is of my daughter. I am reminded that an entire day has gone by without her in it.
She is the last thing I think about when I go to sleep, as I hope and pray I will get to dream of her that night.
To date, I have had four dreams of my daughter, two of them horrible nightmares that still haunt me.
As I try to focus on work, my mind drifts and I stare off into space, imagining where I would be and what I would be doing if she had been born alive.
People say, “It must be nice to be working again. Is it a distraction?”
No, I say. Thoughts of my daughter distract me from my work. I have had to step down from a coveted role in my company, one I worked my butt off to achieve, might I add, because my mind no longer has the capacity to be successful in that job.
No, I will never go an entire day without thinking of her.
Perhaps this is true with other kinds of loss. But no other family member’s death has ever caused me to feel like my identity is lost.
The woman I was before is no more. She died on that hospital bed when she heard the words, “Unfortunately, I don’t see a heartbeat.”
Some more of that woman died when I told my husband an hour later that our daughter had died. Since he was working across town at the time, he insisted I not wait for him and told me to get to the hospital immediately after my telling him I hadn’t felt the baby move all day.
The very last of me died when my husband placed our daughter in the bassinet and called the nurse to tell her we were ready to say goodbye.
I consistently feel that the person who is left is a ghost of my old self; a ghost caught between this world and the next.
A huge piece of my heart has gone on to whatever exists after we die. A very small piece remains. So my brain makes up for the part of my heart that is no longer here.
My thoughts revolve around the events of the day I learned my daughter was dead, the following day when she was born, and the way she felt when I held her in my arms.
There is nothing that does not remind me of her. A pregnant woman, the bag that carried my lunch to work that day, the podcast I listened to on the drive to work.
There is no object so mundane that it can’t transport me back in time to those days and the weeks following.
I am branded with the events of those days. They are burned into my memory and my soul. So it would be impossible to go an entire day without thinking of Leia.
To do so would be to go an entire day without a piece of my mind – and then one could say I truly had “lost my mind.”
May I never see the day when I don’t think about her.