Last week was my little Seraphim’s birthday. I have mostly been holed in, trying to cope with the fact that life goes on around me even if I’m not prepared for it. I couldn’t even taken the day off for his birthday. Life keeps moving forward even when it feels like it’s standing still.
I remember so much of the day he was born: being rejected by the local hospital three times the night I started labour since everyone was in disbelief I actually knew what I was talking about, my preterm labour that couldn’t be stopped until I got to the right hospital (only then to need to be restarted), being life-flighted across the state, the amnioinfusion that might have helped my baby make it into the world more safely, the epidural that was almost very bad for both the baby and me, the anxious hours waiting for my son to be born, the anxious hours waiting to find out if he would live. The hours we got to hold him before he died, and then after. I remember his red hair and brown eyes that shocked the nurses and doctors so much.
I remember how much my husband cried. He’s cried in my presence about a handful of times, and always about our children. Seeing him cry is almost hard in itself because I know he is hurting inexpressibly.
A year ago, I was caught up in the belief that if I made it through the first week, the second week, the first month, then everything was going to be OK. That that first month would be the very hardest and then I would start climbing up out of the grief.
As it turned out, it was the opposite.
The first month was the best. I had the brightest outlook on life, the best possible feelings a bereaved parent could ever have about her beloved firstborn’s death. Then things quickly unraveled. Much of it was circumstantial, and I firmly think if I would have had a better support system, the rest of the past year would not have been so traumatic.
I didn’t realise that the feelings I had about the strongest grief being over in the first month were shared by those around me. So though I felt I was handling it well, the lingering grief I clung to shocked those who had initially cared for us and they quickly turned against me. I wasn’t dealing with grief “according to plan” and that made people uncomfortable.
A year ago, we had numerous people who loved us and would do anything to help us. Today I cannot say the same.
I wish I had known that earlier so I could’ve prepared better. All I had seen and read was about how the world comes together to support a broken person in his or her hard time. I had not heard about loved ones deserting.
I still deal with lingering–sometimes mounting–guilt over doing things that may not have been possible had Seraphim not died. To make matters worse, others will often feel it their place to remind me, “You have so much free time without kids!” or “If you had a baby, you wouldn’t be doing that!” I think they are just flippant comments people make to all “childless” people they see–but when they say these things to me, I feel like they are reprimanding me. I have at times opted to not do something I wanted to because I don’t want it to look like I’m grateful my child is gone. Other times, I have to justify an outing with, “Well, we would’ve gotten symphony tickets anyway. Mum would’ve watched the baby, I’m sure.” I wasn’t prepared to have to justify my every decision like this.
In the wake of the death of my child, I also find my courage and confidence completely stripped. I am afraid of failure on an almost crippling level. If I can’t guarantee my perfection at something, I won’t attempt it. A decision I made today (with much vacillating and many more tears than it needed) that would have been simple and exciting a couple of years ago was almost like choosing my own death it was so difficult. I wish I could restore my confidence. I try to look at Seraphim’s picture and say, “I’m doing this for you,” but sometimes not even that helps. I would be making this decision to make a better life for my family no matter what. For some reason, even though I desperately need the change so that my every day isn’t wrapped up in my hardest memories, changing what I’m used to for a great unknown has me grieving the stupidest things. I think this is because change of any kind right now is equally hard. The smallest thing can be a day-changer and can be on par with something that is actually life-altering in the way it impacts me.
I have felt so much grief on so many levels and in so many ways in the past year, it is hard to reach inside of myself and find the “me” I used to be–the “me” I likely would’ve been with my living son, but for some reason retreated deep, deep inside of me in the aftermath of his death.
So this is how I know that the first year is not really progress. Not yet. I wish I could say, “Look at all of the amazing things that happened this past year!” But I can’t. I am still missing my son, and I am still missing the life I had and the life I could have had. The in-between is frankly terrible. I hope I can find myself again soon.