The past week has been hard. I have cried. A lot. This is the reality of child loss, and of grief, and of trying to find a new normal during a season of life where nothing–nothing–feels normal anymore. Because life isn’t how it should be.
There is no fixing this. Losing Alexander will not ever be okay. A lot of people’s lives have started to go back to “normal,” but ours hasn’t. And it won’t. But, a really wise doctor told us to keep taking forward steps.
Here’s the truth: forward steps are hard. They’re not impossible, but they’re damn hard and take a lot of work. And they often involve tears. This broken heart of mine is the heaviest thing I’ve ever had to carry.
But I’m committed to the journey. I’m committed to taking forward steps, and to learning to carry this grief and this loss. I’m committed to community, and to healing, and to making sure my son Alexander is remembered–to making sure that his life matters.
And so, Scott and I are making a promise. I’m making a promise. We are making a promise.
For at least the next year, we are going to unapologetically take care of ourselves and do what we need to do. Sorry not sorry.
It’s a promise to lean into the rumbling and the wrestling of act two. It’s a promise to surround myself with the water and nutrients that I need to survive in my most vulnerable moments. It’s a promise to take the sourest lemon life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade.
More than anything, it’s a promise to guard my heart. And, honestly, it’s probably one of the hardest promises I’ve ever made to myself. I’m a natural people-pleaser. I love to serve, and have always been one to put other people’s needs before my own. But right now, I’ve got to take care of me. And I’ve got to do it unapologetically. So please don’t take it personally when I do what I’ve got to do.
So, in order to guard my heart and keep taking forward steps, here’s some of what I’ve got to do right now:
Feel the feels. The only way to find healing is to give myself permission to feel all the feelings. Sadness, anger, frustration, happiness, joy, laughter. They’re all there. Sometimes in the same day. Sometimes in the same hour. Sometimes in the same minute. And for now, I’m going to be unapologetic and brutally honest. So, just a fair warning that if you ask me how I’m doing today, you might get more than you’ve bargained for. But, I hope you’ll listen.
Hide the babies. Yep, I’m getting really adept at using the “unfollow” button on Facebook. It’s not because I don’t love you or because I’m not happy for you and your happy family and your brand new baby. It’s because every time I see your smiling baby in my newsfeed, I am reminded of what I don’t have. So, I’m guarding my heart. Please keep sharing those photos–because we all know that’s what I’d probably be doing if things were different and Alexander was here. But, for right now, I need to protect myself and my heart in any way that I can.
Stay out of the drama. I just don’t have the energy right now. That doesn’t mean I won’t listen, but I just can’t invest right now. So, maybe I’ll give into things more easily than I would have before or let some things slide that I wouldn’t have let slide otherwise. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s just because I have got to save my energy for taking care of myself. I’ve got enough other things to worry about in my life right now. And, in all honesty, I’ve had a major shift in perspective through all of this–and in the grand scheme of things, when your life takes such a turn that you are planning a memorial service for your baby, a lot of other things just don’t seem to matter anymore.
Surround myself with safe people. Scott and I have been fortunate to have friends who have sworn to protect us, and to help guard our hearts. In the earliest days after losing Alexander, they literally stood between us and the world like Gandalf the Grey shouting, “You shall not pass!” I’m in a season of life right now where I need those safe people. I need to surround myself with people with whom I can just be, who won’t try to fix me, and who will help me keep this promise to myself.
Talk about Alexander. When we lost Alexander, we didn’t just lose a baby. We lost a three month old, and a one year old, and a five year old, and a preteen, and a teenager, and an adult son. We didn’t lose memories, we lost the future. I would have done anything in my power to have kept him alive, but I couldn’t. So, instead I will do everything I can to make sure he is remembered. To make sure that his life matters. To live the life that he doesn’t get to. I will talk about him, use his name, and acknowledge his existence.
Raise awareness about grief, pregnancy and infant loss, and stillbirth. One of the things that Scott and I have become very passionate about is raising awareness. While we knew that there were risks with pregnancy, we thought we were “safe” after the first trimester. Nobody mentioned stillbirth in our childbirth classes or prenatal healthcare. The statistics are staggering. Grief, baby loss, and stillbirth are uncomfortable topics. The month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. These are things that need to be talked about. So, we will talk about them.
Put marriage and family first. We’ve always been pretty good at keeping our marriage a priority, but as we grieve that priority has become even more important than ever. There are some pretty scary statistics out there about divorce rates following stillbirth. We can’t take anything for granted anymore. We’re committed to open communication with each other, to letting each other grieve how we need to grieve, and to putting our marriage at the top of our priorities list. Because right now it’s one of the few solid things that we have to hold onto.
In doing all of these things, I have one goal: to unapologetically do what I need to do. Scott and I have made this commitment to ourselves and to each other. We’ve given ourselves the permission to grieve, to let go of what we need to let go of, and to hold on to what we need to hold onto. This is a promise that will evolve, and that we’ll continue to let be what it needs to be. But it’s a promise that we’ll keep, because we must.
So, sorry not sorry.