Grief – an exhausting, unwelcome beast of an emotion. But let’s be honest – it’s more than an emotion. An emotion is something like feeling “sad” or “melancholy.”
Grief is something much more profound. It’s something that never leaves you. It is a soul-crushing, all-pervasive presence that sucks the life out of you. It is an unbearable pain that has the power to break your heart and take your life. I mean this in the most figurative sense, but also in the literal sense (Google: Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds).
Grief has now become a central part of who I am. In fact, it is in control more times than not. I’m hoping some day in the future this won’t be the case, but for now, it is the case. And I live with it all day, every day – day in and day out.
Each morning, I wake up and remember that my son died. Each day, I painfully realize that the baby boy that grew inside of me for 35 weeks, who held my finger in his tiny hand, is not here on this earth. I’m living while he is not. My heart is beating while his is not. I ask myself every morning: How is this possible?!
Every morning I have to reconcile these incomprehensible facts with my heart that yearns for my son. I give myself a pep talk to get out of bed and get ready for work. Getting out of bed takes an unbelievable amount of sheer determination and will. Some days I can’t even do it.
I am constantly aware of his absence. I walk by an empty nursery every day. I listen to the quiet, stillness of our house. I drive by the day care he was pre-registered for each and every day as I go to work. I listen to everyone else’s conversations about their children. There is a constant, looming emptiness that fills my head and heart. There is no true joy in my life. Not really.
I make my way through the day because I have to function. It’s been 6 months. And yet, this feeling of profound sadness is still here and in some ways, is much harder to handle. Because it never goes away.
Living with grief is exhausting.
Let’s say there is a daily energy scale, and 10 is the point of exhaustion. Grief, and everything that comes with it – the anger, the sadness, the yearning, the bitterness, the memories, the heartache – take about a 6 or 7 on any given day. On my very worst days, it can take a 9. This means everything else – social interactions, chores, errands, work, etc. – get what’s left on my energy scale. It doesn’t take much for me to reach my point of exhaustion. And when I reach exhaustion, I break down.
A break down can happen anywhere – work, the grocery store, my car, a restaurant. It can happen at any time and any place. For whatever reason, I still try to shield others from seeing me cry – as if crying because my baby died is something to be ashamed about. It’s not. I know this.
But most people don’t know what to do when you start crying. They’re uncomfortable. They truly want to say something to make you feel better. And when you’re crying over something that absolutely can’t be fixed – what can someone even say? Some people have said to me, “Jensen’s death has a greater purpose,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t say this out loud because people are only trying to help, but neither of these statements make me feel any better.
These statements are cliche and although meant with good intentions, they make me feel as if people are minimizing my pain. And if you are someone who has not experienced the loss of a baby, I actually get resentful that someone would say that to me as their child lives and breathes on this earth. I want to say, “So you’re telling me there is some greater reason that my child died and yours lives?” And then I get mad at myself because I hate that grief makes me think this way – it makes me resentful of the people who are just trying to comfort me.
The answer is – there is nothing you can say. But most don’t know this unless they have gone through it. And it’s not their fault. I’m glad they haven’t gone through it. So I hide my tears to avoid these interactions.
Another struggle of being a bereaved mother is the hyper-awareness of all things baby related. I hear a baby cry and immediate tears spring to my eyes. I see that Pampers commercial on TV where the baby is born and the doctor places the baby on his mother’s chest, and I throw my remote control at the TV. The pictures of babies and young kids everywhere – magazines, social media, TV shows, movies, commercials, news stories – hurt me to my core. It hurts because it makes me realize what I don’t have.
Grief changes you in a thousand different ways. I’m still learning how it has changed me. And that is a struggle in and of itself. I am no longer in control of my emotions. I am more often than not confused about my grief. I will be making my way through decently enough and then I am right back where I was months ago. Grief doesn’t follow a linear path. Grief is messy and confusing.
I am not the same person I was. I never will be. I’ve learned what is truly important in life. Jensen was our first child, so we didn’t know what having a child of our own felt like. How absolutely precious and amazing it is to have a child of your own. Now we know. And that’s what makes us so wrought with grief.
There is nothing in this life that can fill the void of pure unconditional love that your child brings you – that Jensen brought to us. And the overwhelming thought of living with this sad reality crushes me every day.