I often wonder what it would be like. What would our lives be like if Alexander were here? What would it be like if instead of grieving the loss of our first and only son and navigating a world full of secondary losses, we were learning more each day about parenting a nine-month-old little boy?
Oh, how different our lives would be right now.
But, though I go there often, I know that I can’t stay there. I can’t stay in the what ifs. Because I know that in order to keep taking forward steps, I have to acknowledge the reality of what is. And that reality is that today it has been nine months since our Alexander was born into the arms of Jesus. The reality is that I wake up every day facing the grief of living in this reality.
And, while that grief no longer leaves me paralyzed and unable to function in day-to-day life, it still remains as an undercurrent to my days.
The reality is that we’re still learning how to navigate this whole grief thing. I read recently that parents are considered “newly bereaved” for the first five years after a loss. Five. Years. I have to keep reminding myself that we haven’t even been at this for a year. We’re going to be figuring this out for a long time. We haven’t even crossed all of the milestones, seasonal changes, and holidays that we are facing for the first time without Alexander. I’m (slowly) learning to take it easy on myself and to be okay with not being okay. That’s easier said than done, and easier some days than others.
Some days I know exactly what I need to help ease the burden of my grief, and other days I have no idea what will make things any easier. I’m learning.
Some days I cope with my grief in ways that are healthy, like by reaching out to a friend, and some days I make less healthy choices, like eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I’m learning.
Some days I can articulate exactly how I’m feeling, whether that’s sad, angry, frustrated, or happy, and some days it takes all my energy to get from one minute to the next or one hour to the next. I’m learning.
Some days I laugh hard, and some days I cry a lot. I’m learning.
Some days I am grateful for everything and everyone around me, and some days I find myself being super sensitive and taking offense at everything. I’m learning.
Five years. Bereaved parents are considered “newly bereaved” for five years. That’s a long learning curve. So, in that case I’d say at nine months we are doing just fine. There’s no timetable for our grief or for “getting better.”
In the past week, I have had several people either ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” or “How can I help you?” or “What do you need?”
The reality is that while the need for practical help like providing meals, cutting our grass, and picking up groceries has (mostly) gone away, and while we are able to function like real live adult human beings at least 90% of the time, there are definitely still ways that people can support us. Sometimes it’s hard for us to articulate what those things are, but as Scott and I have been talking and processing lately, there are a few things that we see as helpful as we cross over the nine month milestone.
Keep showing up. I remember very early on having conversations with people who asked what we thought we would need moving forward. Keep showing up. Keep checking in. Keep inviting. Keep asking. The reality is that we need people. We need people who are willing to be uncomfortable with us and stick around anyway. We need people who are willing to shoot a text that says “hey, can we have lunch or coffee?” And we need people who are okay with us maybe saying no to that invitation, and still be willing to ask again.
Say, write, and use Alexander’s name. I’ve written in the past about how we decided on Alexander’s name and about how we love to see and hear his name used boldly without fear of making us sad or upset. That hasn’t changed. Seeing Alexander’s name in a text message or hearing someone say “I really wish Alexander were here for this” or seeing his name included on a holiday card is one of the most practical ways that people can continue supporting us. It lets us know that we are not alone in remembering our sweet boy, and that the perfect name that we chose for our perfect boy isn’t going to be forgotten.
Rock an #AlexanderScott wristband. When we ordered our first set of wristbands for Alexander’s memorial service back in October, it was because we wanted to give people a tangible way to show their support, and because we wanted to empower people to break the silence around pregnancy and infant loss by giving them (and us) the opportunity to share about Alexander. What I didn’t realize then was how important it would continue to be to me months later to continue seeing those wristbands on people’s wrists. And also how much I would notice when people stopped wearing them. Maybe it seems like a trivial thing, but it’s amazing to me how much can be communicated without any words just by seeing that wristband on someone’s arm. It is a simple thing, but seeing wristbands in our friends’ photos and snapchat stories, seeing our pastor wearing it on Sunday morning (and throughout the week), and seeing dear friends and young people from our youth ministry still wearing their wristbands daily speaks volumes to us.
So, what can people do to support us (or anyone who is grieving) as we cross yet another milestone? Show up. Ask us how we are really doing. Use our son’s name. Invite us to hang out so we can feel like normal human beings. Be okay with us either accepting or declining an invitation, and then be persistent in inviting. Pray for us, and then let us know that you’re praying for us or that you’re thinking about us. Show support nonverbally by wearing an #AlexanderScott wristband. Keep showing up. Keep showing up. Keep showing up.
Last night, we spent the evening hanging out in Alexander’s nursery as a family. We sat in there for hours. I’m so grateful for the time we spent in there, soaking in the love for that sweet boy of ours. It’s the closest we get to whole family time these days. Oh, how we miss that boy.
Alexander, my boy:
You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.