I’ve been having a difficult time lately. (You’re surprised.) I feel like I need to just write my thoughts in a stream of consciousness format to get them out of my head, and I should probably post them on a baby loss forum or tell them to my therapist, but instead I’m posting them here, because I’m strange like this. But most of these thoughts are rather dark and uninspiring, and I’m sure people will read them and think I’m a mess and then whisper behind my back, “She’s a mess,” which is kind of fair, as I sort of am a mess, but what in the hell do people expect?
I have good days with Joel, great ones even. We have fun. During his waking hours, I put a lot of energy into parenting him, and I’m finally to the point where I feel like I’m doing a more than competent job. I’m also very purposeful about appreciating every moment I get with him, even the small ones. This is certainly an achievement, but lately I feel as though it’s the only thing I do well. If I’m drowning, and I’m low on oxygen, Joel is my brain, and almost all of my oxygen is being shunted to him. And I feel guilty that, during each day I have to almost put my grief (and Matthew) on a shelf, and I also am not the wife, or family member, or friend, or employee I want to be, and I’m fairly certain I’m not meeting people’s expectations, because it’s been 18 months. But it’s also ONLY been 18 months.
Each night, after I put Joel to bed the grief and the sadness and the depression overtake me. Also, this happens sometimes when there’s peace and quiet when I hold Joel while he’s sleeping. It gives me time to think about how much I miss Matthew, and the tears flow freely. The other night Mark was out of town, and I held Matthew Bear tightly as I sobbed myself to sleep.
I can try to distract myself, but it hits me at the most random times. I can be building a spreadsheet or grocery shopping or watching The Bachelor, and the thought overwhelms me, “I’ve held a dead body. A dead baby. MY dead baby.” And the sudden realization knocks the wind out of me. It’s difficult to explain, as it’s not like I ever truly forget this… A baby loss mom friend of mine says it happens to her too.
And then the thoughts spiral from there – I’m in the operating room, pleading, “Please, please, please, don’t let him die!!! Don’t let me die!!!” I wake up in a brightly lit room, my abdomen on fire, and I’m told, “He didn’t make it,” and I scream. Or I’m meeting him for the first time, cold and blue and bruised, representative of a lifetime of dreams and potential lost. Or I’m kissing him goodbye for what will be forever, and he’s taken away to I’m not sure where… I don’t know if I spent enough time with him. But it wasn’t really him anymore – we did the best we could.
It’s times like these when I wonder how anyone can possibly survive this. How I survived this. How I am continuing to survive this. Whether I will be able to continue to survive this for the rest of my years on this earth.
I now understand how war vets often return safely home only to take their own lives shortly thereafter. I know they’ve seen some horrific things – friends and innocent civilians being murdered in cold blood, dead, dismembered bodies. I imagine some of them feel as though they can never recover from it. I’m not comparing my experience. I’m simply stating that I know what it’s like to experience something so bad (holding my dead child) that I don’t know how I’ll ever “recover” from it. I’ll keep fighting, because I want to be here for Mark and for Joel, but I’m not sure how to remedy the flashbacks…
And it sucks to feel like I have to basically compartmentalize my entire life away to function – to get through a day without being consumed by the intense sadness. Life is a gift that should be appreciated, and I do appreciate it, but I also have to compartmentalize so much of it away. And then part of me can’t/doesn’t want to compartmentalize it – because my memories of my short, traumatic time with Matthew are some of the only things I have of him. To let go of these flashbacks, in some ways, feels synonymous with letting go of him. So it’s this weird purgatory of pushing distressing thoughts away and also holding onto them. Even though I don’t believe in reincarnation, sometimes I wonder what I did in a past life to deserve being subjected to said purgatory.
The darkness even invades my greatest moments. Seeing Joel develop and learn and grow brings me so much happiness, but it also rips my heart to shreds. Almost every amazing moment with Joel is quickly followed by at least a pang of devastation that we’ll never get any of this with Matthew. My heart fills with joy and simultaneously breaks apart (again), as I think, “There are two of them, just alike, but incredibly unique. But one of them is dead.” We’ve lost an entire beautiful person with his own soul and personality, and our family will never be the same or as it should be.
I’m trying with my job, but I don’t know if I’m wired for it anymore. A place where I once rocked I now struggle. Accounting is so organized, so linear. There’s not enough creativity in it. I need a creative outlet for my grief. When there’s space for creativity, I can put Matthew into what it is I’m doing. But I can’t do this with a memo on revenue recognition or corporate income tax provision calculation. I don’t remember the girl who excelled at this.
Though I have fleeting periods of motivation, I find I can never sustain them for very long. I never lacked confidence before, but now I struggle with self-esteem/self-worth. I feel like no matter what I do in this life, I will always be a failure, because I failed in the worst way possible. I failed to protect Matthew. Knowing that these thoughts aren’t logical/true doesn’t stop me from having them.
I’ve been feeling so alone, even when I’m with some of those closest to me. As time passes it becomes painfully obvious that I miss Matthew more than anyone else does (except for maybe Mark), and though this is the way it should be (because I am his mother), it still hurts. And I feel even more alone in a room full of people, even if, to an outsider, none of them seem triggering (i.e. they don’t have kids). The thought that (in all likelihood) none of them will ever lose a child is a very isolating one.
Mark is an extrovert, and pre-loss I would have considered myself an outgoing introvert. Now I’m just an introvert. Mark and I argue about my continued inability to be social… I’m not sure how we resolve this.
In my loneliest moments, I draw a hot bath, and I take my phone, and I read the glowinthewoods loss boards. I’ve been through the archives enough to know that almost none of my thoughts are unique. In the earliest days, the long-term nature of this grief was an abstract concept, like, “Okay, this loss will probably tear my life apart, and it will take years and years for me to find my footing again, and the pain is definitely forever, but it changes with time…”
Now, 18 months in, I read with a new perspective in that I feel like I truly know this – it’s no longer abstract. I’ve seen, as someone has described it, this loss take root in every aspect of my life. The roots are long and deep and nothing remains untouched, and the roots are still growing, really – I’m sure there are additional interests to change, relationships to be obliterated. It’s easier to function, and there’s more joy now, and life includes happiness, but the loss and the grief, when there’s the time and space for it to be felt, it hurts just the same. Though it changes, which is good and also bad – it seems I’ll need to reinvent myself several times with said changes. And reinvention takes energy. It’s exhausting.
The other day someone from my past emailed me, “I’m sad that you will suffer in so many different ways from his tragic loss all the days of your life.”
I don’t know if anyone (especially someone who I presume has never lost a child) could have captured it any better than this person did with this one sentence.
So many who are further in seem to write/say that it takes between 5-10 years to really find your footing again after a loss like this… This isn’t to say there can’t be good moments along the way… But it’s just a long haul. I don’t know if the reality of the long haul fully set in with me until now. And I think I’m currently in the process of trying to settle in for the ride.