Grieving and Healing
I used to think grief was just sadness. I now know it’s not. It’s all the other feelings too. All…at…the same…time.
Grief is the harsh, cruel pain of holding your stillborn son in your arms, whilst feeling utter pride and unbearable love for this perfect, yet breathless little life.
It’s your mind playing tricks on you; saying your baby is just sleeping. Then the overwhelming reality when you realise he’s not waking up.
It’s smiling down at your baby as you take in all his features that come from you and the only other person you love just as much – your husband and father of this child. At the same time, it’s wiping away tears of horror that you will not get to take your baby home and your family is forever changed.
Ann-Marie and her husband.
It’s the relief of walking away from the hospital where your worst fears were realised, whilst your legs are buckling beneath you from the weight of your empty arms.
And that’s just the beginning. You then have go on living. You have to step out into the world with a blended up mess of emotions, and not a clue where to begin.
You still have to eat, so you drag yourself to the grocery store. But this once simple task, feels almost unachievable. There are pregnant women; and dad’s pushing prams; and children screaming in the lolly section. Your heart aches because you are part of this ‘parent club’ too but your baby is gone. And once again your legs buckle beneath you from the weight of your empty arms.
Yet you continue on. Down the cereal aisle, up to get milk. Over to the frozen pizza section because that’s all you can fathom ‘cooking’ right now. Your grief feels palpable. It’s like a strong energy force surrounding you. And a little paranoia creeps in as you imagine that people can see it by just glancing at you. I remember feeling like everyone in the shopping centre knew…like a had a neon sign above me saying “bereaved mum walking”.
You finally make it to the check-out and a queue of two people feels like the longest line you’ve ever had to endure. My husband once put a handful of groceries on the ground; stated “I can’t do this” and promptly walked out. Luckily his brother was there to pick up the pieces (literally and the rest).
If you do make it through the queue you are then greeted by the polite, cheery assistant who asks “How are you today?” You’re gobsmacked…hasn’t she seen the neon sign? Doesn’t she know? How dare she ask such an insensitive question! But you manage to mutter out a “Fine thanks”, and make your escape to the safety of your car, where you hunch yourself over the steering wheel to cry for five minutes before driving yourself home (via the bottle shop).
When you are in the thick fog of grief, life becomes a series of events similar to that of the grocery store visit. Your world that once felt safe, becomes a place of anxiety, fear and sadness.
But something keeps you going. A ‘driving force’ that lets you put one foot in front of the other. A force that on your worst days, helps you get up, shower, and dress yourself. A force that pushes you out of the house, towards the train station to make your way to work.
I’m not exactly sure what this ‘driving force’ is. But perhaps it’s the other emotions. The ones that sit patiently alongside the pain – such as love, compassion and kindness. They are ever present, holding strong. You have to work enormously hard to see them in the beginning because they sit so quietly in the background, but they are always there.
They are there in the moment you are crying so hard you can’t breathe, because your friend is on the other end of the phone, gently repeating, “Its ok. I’m here” – KINDNESS.
They are there in the moment that you feel you have let yourself down, your baby down and your husband down, because he tells you he has never been prouder – COMPASSION.
They are even there as you sit by your baby’s graveside because the sun is shining on your skin, creating a sense of warmth and you can feel your baby’s presence surrounding you – LOVE.
"My baby was stillborn but I still want the world to know him."
18 months down the track, I can say that the sadness never fully goes away but I have been lucky enough to have many noticeable moments of the ‘driving force’ to help me carry on.
Unfortunately, not everyone is this lucky. Often the mere mention of the word stillbirth is met with silence and a lack of understanding. Some people think it’s not a ‘true’ or ‘sad enough’ loss because you didn’t ‘know’ your baby when they died. I’m certain I speak on behalf of all mums when I say that I’ve never known and loved another being more intimately than the child that grew inside me.
October is the month of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance. If you are a bereaved mum or dad you remember your baby every day, but it always helps to have others remember along with you. If you know someone that has experienced stillbirth, miscarriage or neonatal death, please know that the smallest gesture can go a long way to heal a broken heart. All you have to do is open yours.
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