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Posts Tagged ‘Infant Loss

Black Hole of Grief

Black Hole of Grief

Two months after our daughter died, I walked into my first support group for bereaved parents.  I remember thinking that all the people there looked so normal.  I’m not sure what I expected, but at the time, I believed that having your baby die happened to “Other People”.  Not people who looked like me.  I have not idea how I expected the other bereaved parents to look, but different…

As I listened to the others tell their heart breaking stories, I remember thinking: “This is NOT going to be me.  I’m not going to be sitting in this meeting 5 years from now still crying about my dead child.”  I was going to approach this grief thing just as I had the rest of my life.  Give me a book to read.  Send me to a therapist.  Tell me the steps that I needed to take.  I’d follow every piece of advice and I would get OVER this horrible pain…quickly.

I was so naive and so judgmental back then.  At first, I would comfort myself that THEIR pain was bigger than my pain.  It was the only explanation that I could find that years after their babies’ deaths they were still devastated.  As time went on and I continued to attend the support group, I revised my original hypothesis.  No, MY pain was definitely bigger than their pain.

It took me a very long time to come to the realization that there was more than enough pain to go around and that we all had more pain and sadness than we could bear.  It was only by banding together and sharing our pain that we made life more bearable.

After eight years of attending the group every month, I began facilitating that same group.  I began to introduce myself to newly bereaved parents as “the long view”.  Today, my daughter would have been 23 years old.  I am still the long view.

Here are a few of the hard learned lessons that I have learned:

  1. I have very little control over the events of my life, but I do control the grace and dignity with which I respond to those events.
  2. I have to grow my dead child just as I grow my live children.  My dead child still has birthdays, milestones and anniversaries.
  3. The pain of having a child die never goes away.  We learn to live with it and we learn to cope. We rediscover hope.Grief Renewed
  4. I am still her parent.  As her parent, I will never stop loving her and I will never forget her.

Time does not automatically heal all.  I had to put in the hard work.  I had to cry.  I had to rant.  I had to learn that life is not always fair and that I am not entitled to a pain-free, perfect life.  As time went on, my family and I round a new normal. We found hope.  We found the courage to have another baby.  We found the strength to move forward.

I learned to carry my daughter in my heart rather than in my arms.  I learned how to look for the gifts that she gave to me if only I would open my eyes to acknowledge them.

My life has been so unbelievably enriched by the experience.  Of course, I’d prefer that my baby had lived, but all in all, I’m happy.  I have hope.  I am a survivor. I am strong and capable.  And, I’d like to believe that my daughter has taught me how to live in grace and dignity and perhaps to be a little less judgmental.  After 23 years, I am your long view.




Today I am remembering my own personal guardian angel, my sister Becky.  She died 22 years ago today, when I was 4.  I’m having a particularly tough time this year, and I’m not entirely sure why.  My mother says it’s because I’m only just starting to comprehend this with my adult brain. 

Molly & Becky

Molly & Becky


Part of me thinks that is ridiculous.  I remember my sister with vivid detail, and this isn’t something that I woke up with when my frontal lobe was fully formed.  I remember my grandmother holding Becky at my 4th birthday party, and—in my typical 4 year old way—I decided it was time for a musical interlude.  I serenaded Becky with some absolutely preposterous song that had no tune or real story because while I sang, her eyes never left my face and she smiled at me while I did.  Baby sisters make the best audience. 

So it’s not as if I don’t remember my sister or didn’t understand that “dying” meant I would never see her again.  I knew that.  I was angry about it.  I knew it meant my parents were sad.  I knew it made my dad cry, something I had never seen before.  I also knew it was wrong; my baby sister wasn’t supposed to die.  That’s not how things worked. 

But at the same time, there are things I didn’t understand.  The day after she died was Halloween, and my mom said I begged her to take me trick-or-treating.  One of my aunts took me to my preschool Halloween party because I refused to miss it.  I was still 4 and couldn’t miss the chance to dress up.   

Years later, I would get so frustrated with my parents.  Fall is my favorite season, and I take any opportunity to decorate the house, but my mom never wanted to get out the fall/Halloween decorations.  In my narrow teenage mind, I thought it was because my mom doesn’t have any Martha Stewart home décor skills (she doesn’t).  Now I look back and wonder how I could be so completely blind.   

I understood from a child’s perspective, but now I can identify with my parents.  I watch my friends balloon up with their own little bundles of joy and it’s such an incredible (and weird!) process.  One of my friends lets me touch her adorable little baby bump all I want, and I just keep touching it.  How fascinating to grow a human inside of you.  I have no idea how my parents woke up in the morning or kept breathing.  I worry about my future children and my friends’ children too. 

It’s weird to have a child’s grief inside of me as well as an adult’s grief.  I miss my sister for the baby that she was, smiling at my stupid songs, and for what she should have been, my friend and my enemy and my confidant and helping me torture our youngest sister.  As an adult, I’m not sure how I feel about heaven, but I will never shake the thought of heaven as a tea party, covered in pink teacups, balloons, and cakes, completely a 4 year old’s vision of what the perfect world would be. 

 I very rarely dream of Becky, but when I did, she was always a playmate, a fellow child.  Last summer, I dreamed of Becky how she was before she died, a small, warm body with those dark blue eyes.  I was an adult and held her in her old room, rocking her to sleep.  I woke up crying but happy.  It’s weird… this child’s memory mixed with now-grown emotions. 

So while 22 years isn’t a milestone or a particularly special year, I’m having a rough time.  I think as adults we are somewhat dismissive of children’s memories and feelings because they are so fluid.  The stories they tell show us exactly how they remember events, and we giggle more often than not because it’s a very different event than we remember.  Their emotions swing so quickly; one moment they are losing their minds and the next they are playing happily.  But I remember dropping barbies on the ground when we heard the sirens.  I remember seeing my parents cry.  I remember seeing my cousins lined up at the end of my Nana’s bed as she led them in prayer for Becky.  And now, as an adult, I try to just remember my sister.

Last Weekend Together

Last Weekend Together

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