Well I think this will be the last post for this blog, I’m ready to wrap it up. But I wanted to share this before I do.
I have been wanting to write this post for sometime now, I just wasn’t ready to try and tackle it, but now I’m going to try. First I have to say that everyone’s experience with losing a child is different, but a lot of the feelings are the same and I want to try and tell you about it and then give you some ideas on how you might be able to help someone, if you ever need to.
As I was reading over my blog posts after Xander died I realized that I basically only wrote the easy stuff. I wrote things I wanted to remind myself that I believe,feel and know. I didn’t write about the really, real stuff so now I’m going to try, but it’s hard. I want you to know that this is the UGLY side of it all. I have written the other the hope and faith side (sorry all of those are on my family blog) but this is also part of it and I want people to know.
I keep going back and forth on whether I’m ready to share this first part, but I think it’s important to realize that when someone’s child dies, that they then have to physically deal with that not just emotionally. Never mind, I tried to write about it and I just can’t do it. Just know that it’s hard to see (and I mean literally) your child not living anymore. Then to have to deal with it, those memories are hard.
First I want to clear up some misconceptions, I have 6 children, just because Xander died it doesn’t mean he is not worth counting among our other children. If your mom died you wouldn’t say you didn’t have a mom anymore. It’s so weird that people do this but they do and it’s highly irritating. Also just because Xander was a baby when he died doesn’t make his loss any easier, I’m not sure why people think this either. I just have fewer memories of him and that sometimes really ticks me off, but it’s never easy to lose a child, I don’t care how old they are. It is also NOT easier to know your child is going to die, there is no preparing for it. There is NO preparation that you could make, to make yourself “ready” for the pain of it. It’s just makes the pain start sooner, it’s not better or worse to know or not to know, it’s just different.
When your baby dies after delivery, you still have to deal with all the post partum stuff, but without the best part. It’s seriously is one of the worst things imaginable, recovering from having a baby without being able to have your baby. I had a c – section so at first I couldn’t even cry, or sob like I wanted too, because of my incision. Then your milk comes in and there is no relief and after nursing a lot of kids it took my milk forever to go away. It’s like your body is betraying you. Then going to your post partum checkups is torturous. When I went to my one in Seattle at first a nurse came in with my chart, and on it on a little purple sticky note, it said fetal demise. I seriously lost it when I saw that, you would think they would have figured out to remove that kind of thing before entering a room.
The first month-- was pure and utter hell, there is no escaping the crushing, suffocating pain. Even sleep was my enemy, I couldn’t sleep very well and then I didn’t want to because when I did I would have these horrid nightmares, only when I woke up my nightmares were real. I would dream about doctors handing me dead babies and saying “I’m sorry there is nothing we can do.” over and over again. There were others too, but that one was the worst. I hate those words so much…”there’s nothing we can do” they still haunt me. It hurt so bad, sometimes I wanted to bang my face against a brick wall, I wanted my body to hurt as much as my heart did. I liked pain, I wanted to hurt physically because I hurt so bad emotionally. Sometimes I wanted to die, because there was no relief and because I knew that was the only way I could see him. I felt out of balance, lost, overwhelmed and angry, so, so angry. It’s hard to understand why your child had to die. No, answer seems good enough. It’s like you’re lost, you do stuff, take care of people, but you’re not really there. You feel like you’re walking around on a different planet than everyone else. I HATED it when people would ask me how I was. Every time I would think “HOW THE @#%$ DO YOU THINK I’M DOING, PRETTY @#&%^ BAD!!!!” I wanted to rage and storm at the world and at God. I wanted to scream and scream and sometimes I did. You very quickly come to the realization that you will NEVER be the same again. You will never totally be okay again…forever.
It was exactly 4 weeks and 6 days when my heart finally died. It crumbled under the strain, I couldn’t take it anymore, so one day I told God that I couldn’t stand it and I didn’t care what he did but I needed it to be different. I woke up the next morning feeling totally apathetic to the world, I was 100 % numb. It didn’t last long and I don’t know that it was necessarily better it was just different and I was grateful. The next 6 months were very much a roller coaster ride of emotional lows and downs. Struggling and struggling with it. You lean on your faith and what you believe but it still hurts, I know I’ll be with Xander again, but it’s horrible that I can’t be with him now.
It’s hard to get use to the feeling that someone is missing. You know sometimes when you’re gathering your family together and you look around and it feels like someone is missing. Well for me it always feels that way, there is no escaping it because someone is missing, and I hate it. I want people to know someone is missing, whenever we are together and meet new people, I want to scream at them “but this isn’t everyone..this isn’t everyone.”
Then there is the guilt, I’m not sure if all parents feel guilty but I’m guessing a large part of them do, because you are their parent and it’s your job to protect them.
I prayed for a miracle that never happened, that’s hard, especially when you believe in the power of prayer. I know God could have healed Xander but he didn’t…he didn’t. And I knew that he wasn’t going to. (but that’s a whole different blog post) You feel like you must be some horrible person, to have to endure this kind of pain.
Then the real miracle happens. Overtime the pain isn’t so suffocating and you start to cry a little less, and then you feel guilty about it. How could you ever feel better, you feel like a jerk. Sometimes I don’t want to feel better. But it happens, thanks to the grace and love of God and His Son you start to heal, a little at first and then just enough that you can start to pretend. Pretend that you’re really there, and pretend that you care. I haven’t progressed much past the pretending yet. There is a lot of stuff I just don’t care about anymore and I doubt I ever will again.
Don’t expect me to ever be happy about him dying. It’s not going to happen. I find happiness in the fact that I know I’ll be with him again, but that’s were it ends. I can and will be sad about him dying forever and that’s okay.
I didn’t like being around other people for a long time. I wanted zero expectations on me and on my time.
Grief is so unpredictable, you never know when it’s going to smack you in the face and leave you broken once again. I’m still new to this path, and there will always be part of me that is sad, until I hold him again. And as his mom I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s my grief to carry and I do it willingly for him.
I also wanted to give you some ideas of things to do that are very helpful.
Be nice to people. You just never know what someone might be dealing with. I had this experience 3 weeks after Xander passed away.
I was at a store with two of my little ones, trying to get some grocery shopping done. When once again I was crumbling, so I pulled my cart out of the way and was trying to pull myself together. My 3 year old was in the basket of the cart and she started to whimper very quietly, not anything serious. There was an older lady next to me looking at movies, I was pretty oblivious to everything right then just trying not to go into fetal position screaming my face off right there in the middle of the grocery store. The older lady says to me “your daughter is crying” (which she was NOT doing) I sort of looked over at her but mostly I ignored her comment. Then when I finally decide that I could move on without falling apart I hear the lady say “probably because she has you for a mother.” So obviously that wasn’t very nice or helpful to hear right then. SO BE KIND, BE FORGIVING, BE PATIENT to everyone some people are dealing with a lot.
Next be there. If you’re the best friend, mom, sister whatever your job is going to be a long one, at least the first year if not longer. I’m going to use real names of people that helped me because I want them to know what a HUGE difference they made to me and are part of the reason I’m not in a padded cell right now. First my friend Susan literally called me every day from the time I found out that Xander was sick until well, a long time after he was gone. This wasn’t always easy you see, because Susan was pregnant too, and due only 3 weeks before I was. Sometimes her instinct was to stay away because she knew it would be hard for me to see her. And it was, BUT she asked me what I wanted her to do, we had a real conversation about it, she didn’t just disappear because it was too hard to deal with. In the end I needed her more than I needed not to see her. I always thought of those calls as my –make sure Jaime doesn’t want to jump off a cliff today, calls. My friend Keely did the same thing calling almost everyday and just supporting me. The conversations weren’t always long, and sometimes they were just about ordinary life, but I needed them. Both of these awesome ladies helped me, so, so much.
Find someone for them to talk to that has also lost a child. This is where my friend Ashlee comes in. Ashlee lost her son almost exactly a year before we lost our son. Having her tell me that it would get better, that eventually the good days would out number the bad was so important. I clung to those words like a lifeline. It was hard to believe, but I trusted her. I really only wanted to get comfort from someone who knew. It’s hard not to think that-- no one else could possibly understand what it feels like to lose a child. Other people’s comfort didn’t mean as much to me. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer it, you NEED to, but just know that it’s really, really helpful to have someone there that understands exactly what you are going through, it just helps.
Listen if they trust you enough that they start talking to you about their child, it’s because in that moment they NEED to talk about it, so listen! If I trust you and you talk to me long enough I promise I will probably talk about him. It’s hard not too, it consumes my life. Example. One time I was talking to someone I considered my friend about Xander, I just needed a release in that moment and I happened to be talking to her and she interrupts me and says “well I don’t want to remind you” or “make you think of unpleasant memories” something like that. Let me tell you that, that is so ridiculous in so many ways. First to think that I wasn’t thinking about him already is just dumb. You do nothing but think about it, for a long, long, long time. It’s like you are being smashed by this mountain, and someone comes along and says “well, I didn’t want to remind you that you are being smashed by a mountain.” Like you could forget. Plus talking about him is not unpleasant, I love him and all my memories of him are very precious to me, not hurtful. Just listen, it’s easy and just so you know it’s okay to ask questions. Don’t worry, if I ever didn’t want to answer a question or talk about it, I would just tell people that. Trust me you’re not going to force them to do something that they don’t want to do.
Reach out this is more for friends and extended family. Call, they probably won’t answer but that’s okay leave a message. E-mail, send a card or flowers, text, FB them, do something. Not doing anything is never the right answer. Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen because it did. All you have to say is that you’re sorry. That’s it and it’s easy. You can also give relief. Do laundry, bring dinner, take the other kids for a while. I had a friend that would send me funny stories that she wrote. Think and pray about it you’ll know what to do, just do something. I can’t even begin to name all these people, but you know who you are.
Remember, write on your calendar the 1 month date (and other dates) and send an I’m thinking of you message. I always love it when people remember him.
Don’t forget about DAD. Men and women grieve differently, but that doesn’t mean that the dad isn’t hurting just as much as the mom. He will need just as much love and support as the mom does. So please don’t forget him, it’s hard to see your husband hurting and know that because of my own grief that people often overlook his.
Allow them to Serve Obviously they won’t be able to do this at first, but let them do things that serve others. I started with my own children, instead of lying in bed all day and crying my face off like I wanted too, I made myself get up and serve my family. If they are ever going to find themselves again they need to lose themselves in service to others. I know to some people this will sound counter intuitive and you would want to tell them to take care of themselves first. But really they need to do both. So if they volunteer to do something, let them.
Pray for them, they are going to need it for a long, long time.
Be patient, remember you are going to be able to move on a lot sooner than they will. They won’t ever totally be over it so don’t expect that of them.
Don’t talk about them, talk to them! They’ll never know you care, if you don’t tell them. Don’t just ask their best friend or mom how they’re doing ask them.
I know there is probably other stuff, so when I think of it I will add it. This will probably grow and change as I move down the path. I hope this gives someone some ideas and let’s someone else know that they are not alone in their grief and pain. Feel free to share it however you feel like you should. And if anyone else thinks of something that really helped them through this process, please leave a comment.