Thursday, 23 August 2018
Chances are, that if you’re reading this, then you already know what it is to experience that all-consuming, utterly crushing loss of a child. Although it’s been 5 1/2 years since my precious grandbaby Ivy was born sleeping into my waiting arms at 38.1 weeks, I’m as far away as I ever was in trying to convey what that was really like to another living soul. If there are even any words that could do such tragedy any real justice, I certainly haven’t found them.
As so many of you now know, life is not the same. In fact, everything is different. It’s that ‘new normal’ you may have heard about (when everything that was ‘normal’ has also died, and you have to start all over again). I distinctly recall just trying to breath. Yes...it started with that. I was certain the sun would never shine, that I’d never smile, dance or be happy ever again. ‘How could anyone ever recover from THIS?!’ An all-consuming darkness soaked through to my very core and everything changed.
Thankfully, I’ve traveled a ways since that dreadful day and gone from wanting to dissolve through the floor of the delivery room, to where I am now... (but still travelling).
That was Oct. 15th 2012.
Fast forward to April 2018.
I’ve learnt so many things since we lost Ivy, but I wish I’d never had to learn a single one of them. I’m afraid I’m never going to be one of those, ‘If any good has come from this...’, kind of people. Nope! You can keep all that. Nothing about losing my granddaughter will ever be ‘good’ or ‘ok’. It’s just devastatingly sad, and always will be. That’s it.
Needless to say, I didn’t choose this. It was thrust upon me. I simply came to a point where I had to choose, ‘Do I live the life I have, or do I shrivel into nothing’? It took me around 18 months to make that decision.... 18 months to summon enough strength to venture into the world again and make my days count. So what brought me to that point? I decided two important things;
1. I was alive, (that I had a life to live, that there were people who cared about me and needed me), and
2. That when things are this bad, the LAST thing I needed was anything, ANYTHING at all, to make it worse! I realised that whilst I couldn’t make the bad things better, there were things I COULD do to prevent other things from worsening, namely, my physical and mental health. I joined a gym to chase the endorphins (I used to be a gym instructor before I had my eight children, so I knew how that all worked), and I pushed myself here and there to do things that, although horribly difficult, I knew in my head were good for me. I ate more healthily, I organised bbqs with the family, and took trips with them to places like the forest and the beach to get out of the house. The family was ‘safe’, socialising with others, on the other hand, took me at least another six months. Somehow, going out and having general chit chat just seemed so ‘frivolous’ that I simply couldn’t relate. I didn’t want to burden my friends with constant talk of Ivy and what I’d been through. Ivy was my loss, not theirs, and I was determined to keep that in mind, but she was still very much front and centre and occupying my every thought. But eventually, I started accepting invitations for coffee and the movies. And the rest of the time, I kept damned busy! I burrowed down into housework, cooking, sewing and whatever I could find to give my days purpose and some sense of satisfaction. All this took truckloads of grit determination, and practice, practice, practice! I refused to give up! Everyone I ever spoke to, or read about, who was also travelling this grief journey said exactly the same thing...’it does get better. Things DO improve! It won’t always be like it is now!’ I decided that they would definitely be the ones to know, so they had to be right. I trusted them. No one ever suggested things would be the same, or that you’d never feel sad any more....nothing like that. Just that the all-encompassing weight that holds you to the floor, WILL lighten. You’ll notice I didn’t say it will, ‘go away’, or ‘evaporate’...because that’s ridiculous. Some things we simply accept we must learn to ‘carry’, and a beloved child will forever be ‘carried’ in our hearts and minds. Little by little though, often without noticing tiny changes, they appeared; you laugh at a joke, you sing along to a song on the radio, you’re proud of the birthday cake you’ve laboured over for your son all day, and you say ‘yes’ when your husband asks you to dance. Often it’s not until time passes that we have the benefit of hindsight, and can recognise that we’ve made any progress at all. And I came to accept too that there will always be days I deem ‘unsalvageable’, and that it can take more energy to fight them than to just ride them out and know tomorrow will be better. I’ve also been mindful of being kind to myself and not to impose all manner of hard and fast rules about ‘what, when and how’, but simply to go about my days with productivity, rest, and doing something enjoyable for myself in mind. I figured anything in this life that’s considered worthwhile takes practice, so I practiced ‘life’ again.
At this point, I have to be honest, I became an expert at ‘wearing the mask’ (you know, we all do it...faking it). Just because I was smiling at a newborn baby on the outside, didn’t mean I was wasn’t crying and screaming on the inside, for example. Just because I seemingly happily asking a young, pregnant lady how far along she was, I hid the fact that I was really wanting to know if she was at that same point when we lost Ivy (and she was). I can give her a hug and (sincerely) wished her well, but then went home and feel incredibly ‘flat’ for the next few days because it simply brings everything we went through flooding to the forefront again.
So, 5 1/2 years on, the triggers are still all around, sorrow is never far away, Ivy is still gone...but there is ‘light’. Laughter and dancing have returned, (and yes, I’ve had to fend off the guilt that typically accompanies them, and still do, to varying degrees. I catch myself asking, ’How can I be happy, when my grand baby died?’), but genuine happiness is coming back into my life. And it’s good. It’s right...and I deserve it. I’ve worked so, so hard for it!
Work hard for that for you too. It’s worth all the effort. It really is.
With all my heart...I wish you well.
You deserve it! You deserve your life back!
Sarah (Ivy’s ‘Babcia’)
Thursday, 2 August 2018
My husband and I lost our first born daughter, Annabelle on 10 August 2012. She was stillborn, something that you just can not believe actually still happens in this day and age. You realise though as you learn of the secret world of bereaved parents that it happens much more often than you care to believe. It was a difficult and dark time when Annabelle passed and continued to be difficult and dark for many days, weeks and months afterwards.
Coming out of that haze, I realised that life continued for those around me. As I began to go back to “life”, it was hard to work out what to say to people when you saw them again. It was especially hard with those who expected me to have a baby in my arms and they are unaware of what tragically had happened. It’s that difficult circle of people: colleagues and acquaintances that aren’t close enough to be those friends who learnt straight away of our baby’s death, but were well aware that you were pregnant. Going back to “normal life”, meant having to interact with them and explain to them the trauma of our loss. As I found myself repeating the story of the lost of my beloved Annabelle that soothed me but brought such sorrow, I could not bring myself, at times, most times, to do it again tomorrow.
Although blessed with a subsequent pregnancy, it brought such anxiety as innocent questions from strangers abound about the number of children I had and what number pregnancy this might be. I might give an answer that doesn’t sit quite right, so the next time I gave another. As an overthinker, there is a whole lot of mental gymnastics to work out what to say. I wanted to make sure that I respected and honoured my child while managing the emotional turmoil and anxiety I had inside about what further questions may ensue from the answers that I gave.
In the end, I decided whatever answer I gave, they don’t remember it and I sit with the answer for what feels like forever because it doesn’t matter as much to them as it does to me and it just doesn’t seem to do my child justice.
But you know what?
As bereaved parents, we just do what we feel comfortable. There is no right or wrong way to answer such questions as time and life continues following the lost of our children. You navigate life as well as you can and do what you feel right to live and breathe the new normal that is your life without your beloved child. For me, to respect and honour my child, Annabelle is to continue to live my life and what it stands for.
If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 1300 072 637
I am a mother to Annabelle, stillborn on 10 August 2012, BabySo, miscarried at 12 weeks on 20 June 2013 and Jema who was born in July 2014. I share my family's story to help honour the memory of Annabelle and BabySo so they can still make a difference to another family's journey on this path despite not having stepped a single foot on this earth.