Borchardt Consulting

Blindsided

Posted on: September 18, 2017

It’s the things that you least expect that hit you the hardest.

This year, we “celebrated” my daughter’s 25th birthday. Unfortunately, we only got to spend four months of those with her in our arms. I am a SIDS parent. I am a veteran bereaved parent. I have grieved her fully and have come to a comfortable acceptance that comes from very hard work that my baby was only supposed to be physically in my life for four months. I have made the hard transition of carrying her in my heart rather than in my arms.

As many bereaved parents have discovered, the date approaches slowly and your body reacts without your mind being consciously aware. The stress builds in your body like a brick structure being built. Row upon row of bricks being placed upon your shoulders, weighing you down. This year, my “building” didn’t feel very tall.

Despite the fact that this year marks the quarter century birthday, I didn’t expect it to be particularly troublesome. For me, 25 years old doesn’t hold the same significance as going to kindergarten or turning 16. As my oldest daughter said, “The only thing that happens at 25 is you get a cut in your car insurance.” Not very exciting.

But then, we had an unexpected tragedy in our town. A four-year old drowned at the local pool where my youngest daughter works as a swim instructor and life guard. She was not working that day. It was Father’s Day and we had asked her to take a day off so that the whole family could spend the day together. However, later in the day, she received a call to come into work. She came home hours later, devastated.  Mom and teen

Over the next week, the pool board members worked valiantly to help the kids on staff. They made counselors available and held group meetings to help the teenage pool staff cope with this startling tragedy. The county even sent in its Crisis Team to be present when the pool reopened to support the staff and the pool families.

During that week, I tried to help my daughter process this event by using my expertise as Bereavement Facilitator. It’s hard for teens and young adults to express such deep feelings. But, as the week continued I found myself snapping at her. I found myself yelling about stupid things like dirty dishes. As I was lying awake one night reflecting on my behavior, it suddenly hit me! I was reacting not to this current tragedy but to my own 25-year-old tragedy.

This current tragedy was pushing every button I had and triggering my old grief responses to burst forth in a hail or short-tempered, angry outbursts. I was totally blindsided. Over and over I told myself that this was not about me. It was about a new family and their grief. It was about my youngest daughter, a young adult grappling with a new horror. But, my heart didn’t seem to listen. I wept for this child and for my own. I wept for the pain I knew that family was enduring and at the pain my own family had endured. I wept for the journey that no one wants to take. I wept for the sheer unfairness of this world that an innocent 4 month old and 4-year-old died.

I was caught in a grief storm…all the more ferocious because it was unanticipated. Finally, her birthday has passed and with it the storm. There is still some wreckage that I’ll have to clean up but the sun has come out and sanity has returned. A veteran griever knows that the acute pain subsides into a dull ache once more.

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