I will again start this post with the caveat: This is MY experience, and others may perceive or experience grief differently from me.
I will start out by admitting I have always been somewhat of a dramatic person. I have always expressed feelings loudly and vehemently. I like to believe this is because I feel things intensely, and that it’s not just me being loud! However, over the last 12 months, I have felt things to a depth I didn’t experience before.
There are two feelings I want to talk about specifically, and a few others I will mention too.
Sadness (and guilt, and anger)
The sadness really didn’t surprise me per se, but the intensity did. Early on after Charlie died, I would weep loudly and intensely, and it felt like I was turning inside-out. And when I wasn’t weeping, I felt a heavy stone, deep under my sternum, of the sadness and loss. I felt shattered and broken, and there was a hole in my chest where I thought my love of Charlie was. I think it was actually the spot for Charlie’s future… and it got mended by our love and grief for Charlie, which patch over the hole with scar tissue. It’s not perfect, and it will never be the way it was before, but we function now better than we have in months. There is a slow healing which means we can still have life, and do things, and missing Charlie becomes a part of us, rather than the whole of us.
The sadness still sweeps me up, sometimes. When I am overwhelmed or tired, and if I don’t realize I’ve been holding it back for a bit, there are still times I weep and wail so hard I feel like I will fly apart. But less and less frequently, as the months go by.
The guilt is a hard feeling to have. I don’t feel a lot of guilt, as in our case, there is no mystery about what happened to Charlie and it was really chance and an accident… nothing anyone could do. But that doesn’t mean that my irrational grief laden mind doesn’t sometimes play tricks on me, and convince me that there was something I should have done, or that I had done something wrong. Talking this out with someone… a therapist, my mom, my husband, a friend… really helps. Especially if you can find a friend who has been through something similar and really understands what you’re going through.
When the anger comes and yanks on my heart, it hurts. I get so mad – mad at circumstance, mad at the UNFAIRNESS of it all, that we WANTED Charlie so much and didn’t get to bring him home and raise him and care for him, we don’t get to see him learn to walk, get confirmed, convince us he’s not in trouble, learn to swing, dance, sing, eat… it makes me so angry. Often this anger leads me right back to the sadness, though. There is no scapegoat, no-one at fault I can hate. Sometimes, though, when I encounter someone who says something incredibly insensitive, this little stone of anger may cause me to react more vehemently than I might have before.
Jealousy (also, magnetic babies)
This one isn’t really surprising in hindsight, but really caught me off guard. Many loss mamas express a difficulty with being around babies at all. I had the opposite reaction… I have a hard time seeing other moms who get to have living babies, but I want to be as close to them as possible. Obviously I don’t go up to strangers and ask to hold their babies. But if I’m in a social setting, I know where all the babies are in a room, how many they are, and probably roughly how old they are. If the mama offers the baby to me, I will HAPPILY hold it! Even if fussy or squirmy… I’ll hold them all week, if you want. I find the weight and warmth of a baby extremely comforting, and soothing to my heart. Afterwards, I am often down or sad when I’m at home, and I know it is because it reminds me more loudly that I don’t have Charlie to hold at home. But that doesn’t mean I won’t want to hold a little one!!!
When I am physically around babies, the jealousy exists, but is not strong. I just envy, a little. But if I am at home, and am on social media and someone announces a pregnancy or new baby, I hate them. I loathe them and their happiness, because I don’t also have it. I obviously don’t hate my friends, but in that moment, I do. Terribly strongly, just for that one reason. I hate them so much, because they have the very thing I wanted and I miss, and – unsurprisingly – after the wave of jealousy passes, I’m often back to the sadness.
As you might imagine, this emotional roller coaster can be exhausting. I know each person experiences it differently, and has different things that trigger the strong emotions. But in most of the conversations I have had, loss mamas and papas have strong emotions similar to these. And loss relatives, like loss grammies and loss grampies, aunts, uncles, and so on, all have rough feelings they ride out as well. Please, don’t assume I’m non-functional, but be aware that some experiences can be hard or exhausting. Treat each other gently, with love.
Most sincerely yours,
Infant loss resource document: www.tinyurl.com/infantloss