Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Secret Life of a Grieving Mother

Once again, too much time has passed since I have found myself both the time and the inclination to sit down and write here.  We have been busy with, raising our beautiful son, enjoying our family.  Very recently, I had an experience that once again reminded me that our world without Faith never really fades.  Though we are so grateful for J., I can't ever really "get over it," or forget that he is not our first.  Faith was our first born.

Just two weeks ago, as I walked my class into lunch, a friend walked up to me, phone in hand, and simply said, "You have to read this."  I took it from her, prepared for a message, but not for the words I saw.

"With the heaviest of hearts...we lost our littlest granddaughter to what appears to be a case of SIDS."
As I stood in front of my class, gasping, my mouth covered, my eyes welling with tears, I found only the words, "Oh my God," to express my broken heart and weary soul.  I dropped my students off, walked out of the cafeteria, and disintegrated into tears.  I called my husband, told him, continuing to cry and wipe away the tears that wouldn't stop.  I finally managed to pull myself together long enough to eat my lunch and finish my work day.

The following weekend, we attended the visitation for this beautiful little angel that left our world too soon.  I hugged her grandmother, my friend for 15 years; we talked and cried and she said,"I know you know."  I proceeded through the line to this little angel's mother, also my friend, and father, all the while putting some blinders on so I could manage my own feelings and try to offer some measure of support to the family.  Even when I knew there was none that could really be.

And that's the secret.

You never. stop. grieving.  When you have buried your child, you just never stop.  You move forward; you find peace (hopefully); you manage.  Eventually, you find a way to just keep living life and finding joy in the little things of life.  There are other secrets...

Sometimes you yell at your husband to wear the bike helmet because you just can't handle something happening to him, too.
Sometimes you lay awake to watch your baby sleep, just because you can.
Sometimes the anxiety of loss is so crushing you're not sure how you can manage it. But you do.
Sometimes you cut your next baby's food into impossibly tiny pieces because you're so afraid he might choke.
Sometimes you act like a paranoid crazy person, afraid of the littlest things.  Because paranoia is for those people who've never been a statistic.  When you're the statistic, all bets are off.  Paranoia becomes your best friend - and worst enemy.  And most time consuming hobby, as you attempt to keep it at bay.
Sometimes you sleep a little later, snuggling that cozy little boy because you know that before you can blink, he'll be too big to want to snuggle back.
Sometimes when you think you're mostly okay, your world will be invaded by the unfair and heartbreaking loss suffered by a friend.  And then your world will be turned upside down again, your thoughts consumed by the ache and agony of a family, an ache you know all too well.

But here I sit, writing.  Struggling for words that might help someone.  So while the life of a grieving mother is one I don't wish on anyone, I do wish for my friend for her to know something life changing.

You. Will. Survive.

You will cry.  You will yell and be angry.  Your chest will ache and you will be sure that your heart is broken.  But you will - in time - survive.  One day, it won't hurt to breathe.  One day, you will make it through the entire day without crying.  One day, laughing won't make you simultaneously make you feel like you're losing your mind.

And one more will never forget her.  You will carry her in your heart and soul every day for the rest of the days you walk this Earth.  Her image will be your greatest strength, even when it is your greatest heartbreak.  And you will find peace.

For all the mothers - and fathers - out there, suffering through an unimaginable loss today.  Please know that you will not always feel the way you do today.  Your grief will always be with you, but as impossible as it seems, it will change and you will find a way to put it where it needs to be so that you once again find joy and happiness.  Ignore the stupidity of people...even me, if this is too much right now.  Just hug each other, wrap yourselves in a bubble, and be gentle with yourselves.  You are not alone.

And one day, you might just have a few secrets of your own to share.

With all my love,

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year Arrives

*Edited on February 17, 2014 - I realized that this post I'd started several weeks back accidentally posted instead of being saved.  So, here's my attempt to finish it!

Originally started, January 1, 2014 -
This morning I am sitting in my living room, sipping a cup of coffee, the t.v. on in the background, with my new baby boy laying asleep beside me on the couch.  I am listening to the sound of him breathing, watching him stir as his little nap is coming to an end.  Jamie is sound asleep in bed still, trying to fight off a sinus cold that has knocked him down the last few days.  I am counting the last few hours until I go back to work tomorrow...back to reality, to the hustle and bustle of life, to the grind of teaching, grading, managing 24 little people then racing home to enjoy the company of my husband and the snuggles of a little boy that will all too quickly be too big to snuggle.   

The other day my mother posted on Facebook a list of reflections for 2013.  My sister and I followed suit and reflected, also.  That little exercise got me thinking and reflecting further, wanting to elaborate on some reflections a bit more.  2013 was a very good year...probably one of our better years in recent memory, for obvious reasons. 

Little James was born...he made his appearance on August 19, at 6:45 a.m., in swift and decisive fashion.  I'm very glad we had discussed and planned for a natural birth, because by the time we got to the hospital, there was no time for anything else!  He has enriched our lives in so many ways, and his addition to our family has felt so natural, I don't even really remember our world without him.  A year ago at this time I was barely pregnant; we had told no one and were busy navigating several social events and trying to hide the fact that I was pregnant and therefore, not drinking.  We were in the beginning days of a stressful, exciting, roller coaster ride of a pregnancy that was blessedly uncomplicated, but overshadowed by our past.  My mom asked me recently if we think any future pregnancies would be any easier, since this one proved we can have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.  I honestly don't really know.  Maybe a hair...but you can't outrun your past and it will always be with us, so I doubt very much that I'll ever be pregnant and carefree again in my life.  So, what did 2013 teach me? 

My most poignant moment was the death of my grandfather.  I fully expected him to live to be 100, or more, so when we learned over the summer that he was terminally ill and would probably only live a few more months, it was a sad time.  When he only lived a few more weeks and passed away just a week after James was born, it was a bit of a shock.  I have grown close with my grandparents since I've lived near them as an adult and always knew their deaths would be hard, but I have been surprised at the emotion I feel going forward.  I visit his grave and talk to him.  I try hard to channel my mother's thoughts about his death, "This is not a tragedy."  While she misses him and is sad that he's gone, she seems to recognize that his long life of nearly 90 years makes his a life well lived and not a tragedy.  I try...I do.  And rationally, I know that she's right.  Maybe because his death was so closely tied to James' birth.  Hormones, emotions...all wrapped up in one.  I wrote before about the guilt I felt around the fact that Grandpa only got to meet James once.  Once.  At the hospital.  He saw him, we talked.  But he never held him and we didn't get pictures.  I know my grandfather never expected something different, and I believe he knew that his time was limited.  I know he was grateful for getting to meet him, but I am sad every day that I realize he will never know his great-grandson.  That my son will only know his great-grandfather through the stories we tell.  And I will tell them...because he was a very cool nearly 90-year old.  And my world is a little smaller without him.  But Heaven is getting an earful, let me assure you!

2013 was a good year.  James brought us a world of joy that I didn't know could exist.  My best friend told me once, "Having a child is like having a piece of your heart walk around outside your body."  True words.  If I could, I'd buy an island and put him in a bubble.  Not really...but I definitely feel a sense of wanting to protect him at all costs.  As hard as everyone said the infant phase is, it hasn't really felt that way.  It's been amazing...and exhausting...and enlightening...and fulfilling...and frustrating...and heartwarming.  Most of all, it's been healing.  2014 is off to a good start.  May yours be filled with peace.