Week 2 ~ Clinging in the Pit
Whether or not you are new to loss, talk a bit about early grief. What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit? If you’re in the pit, currently, share your struggles. What can others do to encourage you?
I started grieving for Carleigh once we got her fatal diagnosis when I was 22 weeks pregnant. We are now just a couple months away from her 4th birthday. Each year, each day I’m on this road of grief it evolves into something different, yet the same.
I remember those early days. There is no doubt in my mind that God carried me from the moment we got the diagnosis through the months after Carleigh’s birth. I felt God’s presence close to me. I felt the prayers so many prayed for us. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I dealt so well with everything even with knowing God was with us. Overall, I had so many more good days than bad days. I do believe I was in the pit of grief but I don’t think I was in so deep that I couldn’t see the light. I think I was rather on the edge of the pit holding on. Some days I’d be able to lift myself out and other days I lost my grip and sank deeper.
The roughest time for me during my pregnancy was the first few days following the fatal diagnosis. I allowed myself to feel it. There were a lot of tears and sadness. I felt shock and disbelief that this was really happening to me. Sometimes it just didn’t feel real. I listened to sad songs and cried. I read stories similar to mine. I looked up so much information about anencephaly because I needed to know all I could about the condition that would eventually take my daughter away from me. It felt like that was all I could really do at the time.
We got the diagnosis on December 15, 2008 and just 4 days later on December 19th we left for a family trip to Hawaii, which included us, my parents, and my sister’s family. It was a trip we had been planning for 3 years. I’m sure many would think that a vacation after such devastating news would really be no vacation at all but it was. It was what I needed. I had decided to just take time away from it all and enjoy myself and I did. I knew that all the worry, problems, emotions would be there when I got back so I guess you could say I said a temporary farewell to them. I wasn’t going to let grief steal away what was supposed to be a fun and happy time for my family. I came back with a better outlook and felt better prepared for what was ahead of us. I think I realized that it was ok to still be happy even in tragedy.
For the most part, my outlook during the pregnancy was good. I had some sad days here and there but overall I stayed pretty positive. I am glad for that because I can look back and truly say I enjoyed and cherished it as much as I could. (Again, I really believe I had so many good days because God was holding me up.)
God continued to carry us through labor and her birth. The peaceful feeling in the room after she was born was amazing and unexplainable. It should’ve been so painful for us with Carleigh being born still but it wasn’t. I think we were a little sad she wasn’t born alive like we hoped but we were still so joyful to be able to meet and hold our daughter after waiting and planning for her arrival.
I won’t ever forget the day when the pain was the worst. It was day I was discharged from the hospital. I dreaded leaving because I knew I would have to let her go. We had originally planned to have the funeral home come to the hospital to get Carleigh but I couldn’t do it. We had it arranged that we would take her to the funeral home instead. I guess I was really prolonging the inevitable but I was glad I didn’t have to walk out of the hospital with empty arms. I cried changing her outfit. I cried holding her as our stuff was gathered around us. I cried as I stood with my nurse and waited for the car. It’s safe to say I cried a lot. Then I cried even more at the funeral home saying my last goodbyes. Then as I handed her over to the funeral director and walked away that was my breaking point. If a heart could literally break this would have been the moment. Anthony had to hold me up and I was sobbing uncontrollably. Anytime (like now) when I relive those moments it gets to me and I cry.
The days, weeks, and months after Carleigh’s birth were up and down. I missed her like crazy but I had hope. I knew I would see her again one day (even if that day seemed so far away). What helped me a lot was my living daughter. She was 15 months old when Carleigh was born. She was oblivious to all that was happening. She gave me reason to be happy, to smile, to laugh. I never felt guilty being happy because I knew that my living daughter deserved my happiness and I knew Carleigh would want to see me happy.
I admit that I did not read my Bible much perhaps not at all from getting the diagnosis and through the first year. I also did not pray much. I just couldn’t bring myself to do those things. I at least managed to make it to church. Those early days in church were tough. It was very emotional and I felt like crying from the moment we stepped in until we left. It still remains an emotional place but at least now I am at a point where I don’t feel like I’ll completely lose it at any minute.
I hit a rough patch around 6 months out and I struggled a bit. God felt farther away then and I think that is why I struggled since it felt like God wasn’t holding me up as much as before. It was about this time I realized some of the things I was doing without realizing. I never wanted to leave the house and when I did I often became angry and annoyed. I spent way too much time on the computer but it was my therapy, my support group because I had no where else to turn. It helped so much to be able to connect with other moms who had lost a baby. Many people didn’t understand my grieving and instead were judgmental of how I coped. Sadly, people still continue to be this way towards me and many others who are grieving the loss of a baby. I never have to pretend or hide my grief with them because they get it.
I remember one night just feeling so sad and missing her like crazy. I went up to the bedroom where I keep her memory chest and I pulled out her soft, pink blanket that I kept her wrapped in. I held it to my chest and buried my face in it. I breathed in the scent of it even though it no longer smelled like her but just hoping I could remember what she smelled like as the blanket absorbed my tears.
The past 4 years have been up and down. More ups, but still, when the downs come they can really drag you down. The hardest time for me every year is the time between the diagnosis day and her birthday. My emotions are heightened and I miss her more. I’m in that place right now. I used to tell people that the first year was the toughest but I don’t so much anymore because I don’t want them to think that after a year things are magically better. I think it is tough because the waves of grief happen more often but when the waves hit you even years down the road they can still sting just as much as if it were early in your grief.
For those early in your grief, please give yourself the time to grieve and don’t rush it. Allow yourself to have those bad days and allow yourself the good days too. Don’t let people tell you that you should be better after so many weeks or months or years. Don’t let people tell you that this is the way you should be grieving or make you feel that you are doing it wrong. There is no right or wrong. I would say if it feels right to you and does not harm you or anyone else then it is ok.