This one is going to be a little different than what you’ve gotten from me in the past. Some of you may like it more, some may like it less. The truth is that I am in a completely new season of life. A new city, a new state, new ambitions, and new goals. Whereas before I didn’t look much to the future, now I see one more clearly.
Child loss does something to the mind; it’s hard to explain and harder for someone on the outside looking in to completely grasp. Before, I didn’t slow down and consider how other people were affected by my grief. I had my little bubble and all was justified. I was figuring it out for myself and everyone else’s feelings kind of took a back seat to the big thing I was carrying around with me. It’s not that I didn’t care, I just couldn’t really push through the fog of my own thoughts and feelings enough to grasp it.
Opening Up to Others
A relationship, one I never saw coming or knew I needed, helped adjust things into perspective. I say that like it was an easy thing for him to do. That's not true at all. It’s been more like pulling teeth, for us both. Me fighting to express the unimaginable loss of a child to someone who hasn’t had to bear that pain, him fighting for me to see that I could not continue to let myself drown in the deep end of losing my daughter. It has pushed me and helped me to see that I was putting on a face and shutting people out without realizing it. I was using Mila’s death as an excuse to avoid people, places, and things even two years later. And worst of all I had shut off feeling any real emotions after laying her to rest.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a real thing, but let me tell you, it is. I lost the ability to cry even when it was warranted. I tried to be present, but I was only going through the motions of what a friend, a mother, and a daughter should do or say. I made people laugh because I was so uncomfortable with the pity radiating off of everyone who knew me. The sadness and the worry were palpable and I struggled with accepting that, with no longer feeling like the same person on the inside, but it was so obvious to everyone on the outside too.
Putting on a Brave Face
I stayed busy. I re-decorated and painted each room (except for Mila’s) of our home one at a time until there was nothing left to change. I stayed out of the house as much as possible so that I wasn’t imaging every moment leading up to her death and what I could’ve done differently. I self-medicated with wine and I straddled a line I wasn’t comfortable with for a while in the beginning. The first few days, I felt like I was failing her because I let her go alone, and that she was too little to wait for me in heaven by herself. I hid my feelings from everyone, I don’t think I was completely honest with a single person about how I was feeling—my only goal was to hold it together until I was completely alone then pick up the pieces before I had to face anyone again.
People want to believe you are okay, so eventually, they accept your responses and try to get back to normal conversations. It gets to a point that you are the only one still as tied up in the tragedy as the day it happened. This is both a relief and a burden. Because as a mother you don’t ever want your child to be forgotten, but you do want to be treated like yourself again- even if you are still figuring out who your new “self” is.
How I am Now Grieving and Coping
Now that I’m learning how to actually cope with and address my grief in a healthy way, I feel like I’m finding myself again. Our natural reaction is to fight against change, fight back when someone is pushing us and trust me, I did-some days I still do. As a bereaved parent-considering what you’ve lost it’s okay to give your self a little grace and room for error. You just can’t lose sight of yourself completely. I know I will never be the same innocent young mother that I was before losing my daughter. It changes you in a way that is indescribable, the remainder of your life will be spent straddling the line of heaven and earth wishing you could be both places for the ones you love and the child you lost.
I am starting to realize now that I owe it to her to live a life that I would have wanted her to have. I owed it to her to get out of an unhappy marriage and fight for my own happiness for a change. I owe it to her now to keep her memory alive, while still living, still having experiences, and loving others the way she loved everyone.
When she was alive, my little saying each morning to her was that we were going to make that day special. Every single day of her life I did something with her that in her eyes was pure magic. We made crafts, we baked, we played a special game outside, we sang, we got ice cream, we ate dessert first, we played princesses- something small or a big outing. I made it seem like the most exciting thing that you could ever do, and she was the happiest little girl even up until my last moments with her still conscious.
Somehow, God has a way of giving you exactly what you need when you don’t even know you need it. Two years after losing my Mila Rose, I met this man who believes in making every single day special. It’s so much like what I did for her little life and here he is doing that for me and for my son. He never got to meet my daughter, but he acknowledges her life and has so much patience with me even on my worst days. It’s no joke walking into a dynamic like ours and deciding to stay.
It’s a balancing act; the grief never fully leaves you-how could it? Mila took a piece of my heart with her when she left us, it’s my job to keep her memory alive and to live a life that would make her happy.
Words of Hope
Hopefully, some of this will be helpful to other bereaved mothers struggling to find themselves again. I know it feels a lot like you’re trying to dig yourself out of a deep hole of grief that you sunk into the day your child left this world. I used to get so angry reading blogs/articles that said “..but it gets better” and things like that, but it does. It does “get better” than that hole you are in, if you work really hard at getting your self back or at working toward the person you want to be that honors your child.
It isn’t as simple as waking up one day to a grief free life, that will never happen for you mama, you’ve lost too much to kid yourself with that. But, you won’t always feel that deep depression, you will find healthy things that make it better, so prepare your mind to receive those things and stop being closed off to the world because no one understands. You are right, no one will ever fully understand the unique loss and way of grieving you have been subjected to, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you find yourself again.