Day 16. Relationship – Emilia’s death shattered our world and left a rippling effect on other lives too. While grief drew us closer to some, it also taught us who was truly supportive of us when our lives were at rock bottom. We learned that distant friends and strangers can and will come out of the woodworks to rally for you. We are forever grateful for the family and friends who continue to walk with us through our journey of grief. Grief brought some of us together and strengthened our relationship in a way I never imagined was possible. Grief has also taught us that sometimes blood is not thicker than water. Sometimes family is the first to betray you when you are caught off guard and at your weakest. Grief has taught me that I am allowed to remove myself from relationships that do more harm than good. I do not have to be subjected to people’s abuse. Even if the verbal abuser is family, I have the right to stand up for myself and for my family and say no.
Day 17. Gratitude – I don’t think gratitude necessarily goes hand-in-hand with healing from grief. I believe people who find bits of gratitude or appreciation during intense grief are more likely to rebound quicker. By rebound, I am not implying that a person with gratitude will heal faster than another who doesn’t. I am a firm believer that when you experience something as traumatic as losing a child, you never truly heal. Years will pass and your grief will be woven into the person you have grown to be. What I believe is that people who have a more positive outlook are more inclined to juggle their grief within their day-to-day lives sooner. I believe I have found gratitude in some areas of losing Emilia. I am not grateful for experiencing this loss, but it has made me realize how grateful or lucky I am to have the things that I do. I am grateful for life. I realize how lucky I am to be alive, to breathe fresh air, and to have experienced life these last 28 years. This is a gift that Emilia was barely able to experience in her short 7.5 months here in our world. Disclaimer: Although I feel as though I am on a smoother path on my healing journey, there are still times when I hit roadblocks. I suspect that these roadblocks will continue to pop up periodically throughout my life.
Day 18. Joy – Feelings of joy and happiness after loss seemed like a foreign concept after Emilia died. I thought my life was ruined. I was ready to call quits and I literally prayed to God that he would cut my life short, so I wasn’t forced to live a life that I had grown to hate. I remember the first time I sincerely laughed after Emilia died. The guilt I thought would consume me. I thought that if I was caught in moments of happiness then I was somehow betraying Emilia. But as time has gone on, I have learned that joy and happiness will become a part of life after loss again. I have learned to balance it with the pain and sorrow that will forever be a part of my life story. Happiness, joy, and true healing do not mean that the grief is gone or will be gone. It just means you are learning to live life with that deep wound and that you are able to still find beauty in our world where we are experiencing both joy and pain simultaneously.
Day 19. Learn – My experience with grief has taught me to be more sympathetic towards other people who are going through or have gone through a rough patch. I think there is a misconception that when people lose someone they mourn and then move on. I have learned that that is far from the truth. Although people seem to “recover” from losses, they never really are. They put on a strong face because that is all they have left. Life has forced them to move along, but that doesn’t mean that on the inside they aren’t still hurting. I know I will carry my hurt with me forever.
Day 20. Death – I hear stories of stillbirth 50-70 years ago and I have no doubt that society is changing for the better surrounding bereavement care. At that time, families weren’t allowed to see their stillborn sons or daughters. They were encouraged to not name their children and it was somewhat an unspoken rule that you do not talk about your babies that died. Healthcare professionals truly believed that it was better for the mother’s mental well-being and healing process if we as a society just swept it under the rug and pretended it never happened. Fast forward to present day and almost everything surrounding maternal bereavement care is exactly the opposite. Mom and dad are encouraged to spend as much time with baby as possible. Families are given photos, plaster molds, hand/footprints, locks of hair, etc. While I feel like we have come so far, I’ll always feel like there is more WE as a society can do. I do believe most people are not given nearly enough support in the wake of death. I think most people don’t understand how grief works, not that I expect them to. Grief is complicated and it has many faces, so it can be difficult to know how to tackle. As a whole though, I feel like people are in such a rush to get bereaved individuals back to their ‘normal’ selves. We treat grief as though it is something to be ashamed of and that the bereaved needs to be fixed as quickly as possible. We as a society are uneasy with the conversation of death, yet just as all of us are born — all of us will at some point die. Every single one of us will deal with death and yet we treat it as such a taboo subject. When you add the death of a baby to the mix, it makes it that much more difficult for society to understand. It becomes even more of a taboo subject and one that people try to avoid. I think as time goes on we will continue to normalize grief. We can normalize grief by continuing the work that we are currently doing. Talking about our babies, sharing photos, and advocating for pregnancy and infant loss. I will continue to provide support for hospital maternal bereavement care units and families in the hopes that I am doing just that. I will literally shout from the rooftops that it is okay to voice publicly that “it hurts like hell to lose your child.” Then and maybe only then will people stop and understand the great need that bereaved families need from not just their friends and loved ones, but from society as a whole.
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