Zoey died two months ago today. I am by no means an expert on grief. I am not a therapist nor do I have anything but a freshman level psychology course. But here’s what I would say to a new family to this crappy club:
I’ll start by saying how sorry I am. I know those are hollow words right now. But I am sorry. Sorry you’ve joined me on this path. Sorry your heart is broken. Sorry your arms are empty.
For now, you have to just be. You will probably feel like you are just existing. You don’t know where to go, what to do. You can only do what feels right at the moment. And know that what feels right can change in an instant. Maybe you want to be surrounded by people. Maybe you want to turn off the lights and lock the door. Maybe you just get in the car and drive.
You will have to make decisions you should not have to make. They won’t make sense. Because how do you decide if you should bury your child or have them cremated? How do you pick out coffins and urns? You have to decide if you want their clothes back or not. I said no. I didn’t want Zoey to be without clothes and blankets. It wasn’t for weeks that I realized they’d take them off anyway. Now I wonder where the last dress she wore is. Where the last blankets that wrapped her little body are.
No matter what you do, something will haunt you. I picture what happened to Zoey’s body after I handed her over and it traumatizes me. I wish it was as easy as simply saying “stop thinking about it”. It’s not. You can try. But it sneaks in.
The first time you hear a baby cry it will crush you. There are so many things that will trigger you. Walking through Target is a new experience.
You will try to find the right words to say your baby died. Something gentler– your baby passed away. You lost him or her. None of them will feel right.
I’m not going to tell you to go back to work or not to go back. I’m not going to tell you how to handle the holidays. You may want pictures all over your house. You may want them tucked away in your purse. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else. We may share this path, but we all walk it a little differently.
You and your spouse may grieve differently. Try to be patient with one another. But try to find some common ground too. Joe and I drive. That’s the only time we really talk about our pain to each other.
Your thoughts will be jumbled and scattered. You’ll put the milk away in the pantry. You’ll have an unhealthy reliance on post it notes.
I wish these things weren’t true. That you wouldn’t have flash-backs, self doubt, guilt, anger or fear. But you will. I’d rather you know and not feel like you’re crazy. I’d rather you know you are not alone.
Your heart is shattered. I don’t think it ever really gets pieced back together. You just fill in the cracks. And you can fill them with anger and bitterness, but that won’t make them hurt less. Or you can fill the cracks with the light your child gave you. You may have to dig deep to find it, but please try. I know you can’t avoid the darkness completely. It will always be there. But we have to work towards more light than dark.
For me the light is remembering how happy we were finding out I was pregnant. Hearing her heartbeat. Those gorgeous blue eyes. Holding her close to me. Seeing how hard she tried to smile for us. Knowing we gave her our all. Knowing we loved her every moment of her life.
Life changes with that last heartbeat. I hope you can find peace. I hope you can find light. If you were in front of me right now, I would just hug you because I know all the words in the world will not fix this. But we have hope. And love. And each other.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” Hebrews 6:19