I was inspired to write this post by another mother's blog. Her idea was to write about your grief wherever you are in the grieving process. So here goes:
8 months. 8 months since I gave birth to Caleb and then three hours later handed him over to a nurse and watched her walk out of the room with him, never to hold him again. 8 months since we said our goodbyes this side of Heaven.
I am a completely different person than I was 8 months ago. I am exhausted all the time and getting plenty of sleep doesn't help it. I feel like time has stopped, even though I know it hasn't. To me it feels like April 14th all the time. It feels like I am stuck watching everyone else's life go on around me and I can't figure out a way to make mine start moving again.
I still cannot be around babies. When I see one in a store I immediately go the other way. This makes me feel strange, not normal, like a crazy women. I spend ALOT and I mean ALOT of time prepping for situations that used to take no thought. Every time I leave my house I usually have to go through a list of "painful" things that I could encounter or see and talk myself through how I would handle them. Simple questions like "Do you have any children?" require me to have a handful of pre-planned answers for various situations so that I don't break down crying at the check out counter.
I am constantly worried that everyone around me will die. When my husband leaves for work each morning I wonder if its the last time I will ever see him. When friends and family tell me they are pregnant I immediately get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I start thinking about all the things that could go wrong with their pregnancy and how their babies could also die. I never say anything out loud, instead I smile and say "congratulations!" The motto "fake it til you make it," rings constantly in my head during most social situations.
I am not social like I used to be. Large groups and crowds give me anxiety. I feel the weight of possibly having to explain myself, my life and then I just get overwhelmed with.... what? I don't know, just overwhelmed in general. I feel isolated, handicapped in a way that only I can feel, but no one can see. Having a full nursery stocked with everything and no baby makes me feel like I am living in the twilight zone. I keep wondering- what happened? How did it go from so perfect to so empty?
I don't cry as much or as often as I used to. The grief attacks are less now. One place that is constantly hard for me is Church. I manage to cry there almost every Sunday. Its where my arms feel the emptiness the most, where the reminders of how it should have been seem to stick out the most. I wrestle with God. But I am closer to Him than ever before. I feel a pressure from holy people who want me to grieve a certain way. I don't feel that pressure from God. I love the crucifix. I love that our church has one and that it never comes down. Jesus nailed to a cross stays up though all the happy times in the Church, kinda like my grief. I have had good times in the last 8 months, but the grief is always there. The crucifix has more meaning for me than it ever had before. That was Mary's son on that cross and I often cry with her as only mothers who have had to bury their children can. Mother Mary is a constant companion to me. I feel most understood by her.
I appreciate life much more. The simple things- hot chocolate and a game of scrabble are enough to get me through a week. I see a beauty in the seasons that I never noticed before. Even now when the trees are bare, the sky is grey, and the ground is cold- it all speaks to me. Its like God is showing me through nature what my heart feels like in this season of my life. My marriage is stronger. My husband has been through it all with me and I feel a oneness with him that I don't think we could have had otherwise.
I am learning a "new normal" each and every day. The parts of my life that used to work don't anymore. I have had to stop teaching because it was too much. I have taken up sewing and get a lot of accomplishment from finishing a simple project. I feel like my whole life is one big session of rehab therapy right now. Learning how to function all over again. My short term memory is frazzled. Its as if I cannot unlock certain parts of my brain that used to be wide open. Take for instance the pumpkin pie situation a week ago. I went to the store to buy a pie crust and could not for the life of me remember where they were. Like, not even a clue. All I could remember were the graham cracker and oreo pie crust, so I went with those (those are no-bake in case you are wondering and ruined our pumpkin pie). Its like I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't tap into the right answer. This happens for a lot of little things. All of which make me feel even crazier.....
I am also pregnant with Caleb's little sister. Most of the time I feel like this pregnancy is an episode of the twilight zone. I get mentally confused from time to time and wonder which child I am carrying. I know its Abigail, but some mornings I wake up and touch my stomach and think "maybe you will come today, Caleb." Then like a huge wave it all come crashing down on me- he's gone, dead, never coming back.
I have all blue stuff for a girl that is supposed to be arriving in March. I cannot prepare for her. I feel a deep need to do the opposite of whatever I did in my pregnancy with Caleb. I love Abigail so much, but I miss him so much too. Grieving one child and anticipating another leaves me emotionally drained. I tend to have short stretches of days where I grieve Caleb intensely, then like a light switch I will forget about him and start worrying about her. Then I get myself so exhausted that I try to put both children out of my mind until my strength come back. Then the cycle starts all over again. Its like a constant dance between joy and sorrow and it leaves me spent.
My friendships have suffered. I feel guilty for not calling people back, not making an effort to see them. But then I am honest with myself and know that I cannot be the person I was and that some of those friendships are forever changed, possibly gone. I try not to dwell on this too much. I just try to look forward more than backward because there is nothing I can do to change the past.
The temptation to play the "victim" card is heavy. I have to draw myself out of the "poor me" attitude often. It helps me right now to be around others who are suffering. I feel like I can relate to them and its less of a temptation for me to let jealousy slip in. My heart seems to go through other people's tragedies when I hear them. Before when I heard about bad things happening I would think "that is sad, I will pray for them," and move on. Now, I feel this emotional attachment to them. I have to physically stop myself from going to their homes and crying with them. I have so much empathy for people who suffer, which is a good gift to have. It also leaves me drained and I have to be careful not to take on other people's suffering because I will end up back in the pit myself. "Weep with those who weep" means so much to me now.
Overall, I am moving forward. It just doesn't feel like it on most days. I was never prepared for a dead child. There are no books for "how to grieve your child week by week the first year." Its like we planned a trip to Hawaii and ended up in Alaska with nothing we need. Losing Caleb has shaped me forever in a way that I can only begin to see now. My hope that I cling to is Jesus and eternal life. I also know that I promised Jesus I would serve Him in whatever way He needed me to. Apparently, this is it. It is a rare gift and some days I can see it that way. Few people are capable of entering into others sorrow and this is a gift I feel He has given me. He is faithful and that I can say with a loud Amen.
That is where I am 8 months later. Caleb, I love you and miss you!