Week 3 ~ Steps Back Into Life
Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?
I think we were all thrust back into the world, into life, whether we wanted to or not. The world goes on around us despite our losses. I know many times I wished that the world could just stop like it felt like it stopped for me. But no, time kept moving and the world went on its merry way with barely a blink of an eye. It seemed like the life of my precious girl was but a blip in the radar, Some may deem that little blip insignificant but to me it meant everything.
The day after we came home we went back to the funeral home so that I could dress Carleigh in her burial outfit. Later that week we had her visitation and her service. We had quite a bit of support that week after her birth as we had family down in the area and everything was being planned for the service. My mom stayed with us to help out with Kyndra. I wish I could say that the support continued but frankly, it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, we received many cards and messages and even phone calls with people giving their sympathies and those were very much appreciated, but they only last for so long. Eventually they stopped. We don’t have any family and few friends where we live so in person support was very limited for us. There were a few that continued to give us support.
The most support I received was from the online blogging community so that is where I spent a lot of my time (plus writing was/is a big outlet for me). I was and still am criticized for that. I have been told that all I do is spend time on the computer and supposedly this is the reason many people don’t come visit us from where we are from. It leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth that people have judged the things I have done while grieving. I wonder if I would have been criticized had I attended a in real life support group? There was no support group for me to go to. The people that have criticized me never called me every day to see how I was doing yet people who I had never met at all were checking up on me and supporting me in ways that so called family and friends failed to do. I understand and give grace to those who weren’t there because they didn’t know what to do or say. I get that. It’s hard to know how to support others when you’re afraid you may say or do the wrong thing. That isn’t the issue I have with people. It is judging how I am grieving and coping and even comparing how I am grieving with how others have grieved. I will openly admit that I spent a lot of time on the computer that first year and even into the second year, but that is what I needed. I needed support and love and my online friends were the only ones still willing to give that to me when I needed it.
For many months after Carleigh’s birth I did not want to leave our house. I was confronted about it by people who didn’t understand. All it did was leave me in tears because I didn’t understand either. I didn’t know how to explain that I just didn’t feel like going anywhere. Going out would mean I would likely see someone who was pregnant or who had a small baby and it was difficult for me to see either one for a while. Going out would mean I would become annoyed and angry for no apparent reason. Going out would mean I would have to possibly face crowds of people that seemed way too happy than they ought to be. Going out only magnified what I was missing. After about 7 months I started to work on getting better with all of this. I didn’t like being like this but I couldn’t help it. Eventually I worked through it but it was something I had to do alone (aside from my online friends who were right there with me).
One thing that helped me (aside from my living daughter) was helping others. With every person I helped it made me feel a little closer to Carleigh. Most of it was helping others in their grief as they walked the road with me, but something I did was pump my breast milk for about 3 weeks and then I gave it to my cousin. It sounds honorable but I didn’t intend to donate when I started pumping. It was merely to avoid engorgement. By the time I had decreased my supply enough to not have to pump I had over 300 oz in my freezer. Naturally, someone had to taint that experience too and I’ve heard conflicting reports that the milk was used and that it was dumped down the drain. I would hope it was used but in the end it doesn’t really matter because I freely gave. What people choose to do with a gift is up to them.
I think one of the hardest things in going into the outside world are the questions that people ask. It’s bound to happen so you can’t avoid it. People will ask if you have any children or how many you have. It is a difficult question to answer for a parent who has lost a child. You are torn with what to tell them. Do you tell them the truth and include your Heavenly child and possibly make them uncomfortable or do you omit your Heavenly child to avoid the awkwardness and in return feel guilty for doing so? It isn’t an easy choice. I don’t think either way is wrong. I think a parent can share as little or as much as they want. I used to include Carleigh every time but there have been times more recent where I haven’t. While I know that’s ok, I still felt a pang of guilt that I should have included her. I think it is easiest to tell strangers because you can act like they are still living. When asked how many children I often just say 5 girls and leave it at that. When asked the ages of my children I just give the age Carleigh would be if she were still living.
Things are much better now than those early months. I can be in public again and be around pregnant women and newborns without feeling that pang. My emotions aren’t all over the place and I if they do go up and down I can get a better handle on them. I do still enjoy helping others though! That is one thing that hasn’t changed.
We live in a society that shies away from death, especially the death of a baby. Many seem to think that since the baby’s life is so brief that it is easier to get over and move on from but that is certainly not the case. I think losing a baby/child is the most difficult loss of all. It is against the natural order of how we think death should be. Children bury parents, not parents bury children. I think each day we get closer to breaking the stigma of baby loss. There are many people and organizations who speak out and bring awareness. Just look how far we have come! As long as people continue to move forward progress will continue to be made.
For those of you that are newer on this walk, you will undoubtedly come across people who do not support you if you haven’t already. I am sorry to say but this will continue to happen. Don’t let it bring you down. While a few may intentionally hurt you, most just don’t know how to handle the loss of a baby. Don’t feel guilty for being happy. It’s ok to laugh and to smile and have fun. Our babies would want that for us. Being happy doesn’t mean they aren’t love or missed. Nothing could ever change that.