I need to talk about loss. Not just any loss, but the loss of a child. I don't do this often. Normally, I just talk about Emma on her Angel Day and birthday. But it isn't something that is spoken of very often, and it is something that happens all too often.
No one wants to think about losing their children. It happens to other people, it never happens to you. And then it does. And it hurts. And you don't know how you are going to survive this pain. And you don't know anyone else who it has happened to, because it is just a hypothetical situation that you have just found yourself smack dab in the middle of.
So, now you know someone. Me. This is going to be a two part series, what to do if you find yourself in the middle of this nightmare, and what to do if you know someone who is in the middle of this nightmare.
First I'm going to address what to do if it happens to you. I know, you don't want to think about it and really your first inclination is to close your browser as quickly as you can right now so you don't have to entertain the thought. Please don't. Please bear with me.
When Emma died, I didn't know what to do. There were decisions to be made, decisions that I didn't want to make. Where to bury her? What should she wear? What kind of funeral or should we have a funeral? What casket to get? What do I do with my increasingly engorged breasts? Tissue and organ donation? HUH?? Those are just a few of the basic questions that you have to deal with.
Decide now. If something were to happen to one of your children today, where would you bury them? Would you donate their organs or tissue? After Emma died and we'd had a chance to hold her, we were led back into a room in the hospital (or maybe it was before we had even gotten to see her, I don't remember, it is still so fuzzy), and a social worker came to talk to us. She asked us where we wanted to bury her. I was 26, Jeremy was 24. He had just graduated in May with his Undergrad from The University of Kansas and in August, still hadn't found a job. We had no idea where we'd end up. My family was in Kaysville, UT and my brother and his family had just moved from Kansas to Utah. So, we decided to bury her there. The next question was, do you want to donate her tissues and organs? My answer was of course. I wanted nothing more than to help someone else's child live if I could.
We were then taken to see her. I won't go into detail about this, it was very difficult and quite spiritual. When it was time to leave the hospital, it was the worst moment of my life. I couldn't fathom going anywhere without my baby. For the last 16 months, she'd been a part of me. She had relied on me for everything, and now I was just leaving her?!?! My brain and my body couldn't understand it.
Despite knowing that she was gone, I continued to pray for the Coroner to call and say that she sat up on the table and was alive. He didn't. My milk continued to come in and I was in as much physical anguish and emotional. I couldn't sleep and when I did I would dream of her. I would wake up panicked looking for her, sure it was all a really bad dream. But it wasn't.
Emma died on Saturday and on Monday, we flew to Kaysville to bury her. Jeremy and I sat side by side on the airplane, holding hands, knowing that our baby's body was in the cargo area. I prayed that the plane would go down and that this misery would end. It didn't.
During this time, I had opportunity to talk to other Mother's who had lost their children. My dear friend, Michelle, called me the night it happened. She had lost her sweet baby at 19 weeks gestation. She cried with me and offered me words of love, encouragement and understanding. I also spoke with Moms who had lost their children at various ages. The one thing that I kept hearing over and over was that it won't always hurt like this. Know that it won't always hurt like this.
We buried Emma and it was hell. I really don't know how I got through it all. I would only listen to Billy Joel's Lullaby over and over and over. The last time I held my sweet girl in this life, we had some very spiritual experiences. Experiences that strengthened my faith and my resolve to live my life so that I could be with her again. They are experiences that I draw on quite frequently.
After two weeks, we went home. When we got home there was food in our refrigerator and a clean apartment. Friends would call, but then it slowly stopped. Everyone went back to their lives, as well they should. We just didn't know how to go back to our lives. Our lives were forever changed and we didn't know what to do about that.
In the last 5 ½ years, I have learned some things. I have learned that it will always hurt. It will. You will always miss your child. You will always wish that there was more time. It doesn't matter if your child dies suddenly or from a long term illness, it will still hurt. It doesn't matter the age of your child or how much time you had with them – losing a child is losing a child – plain and simple.
If it happens to you -- please, I implore you, please be gentle with yourself. Know that it isn't your fault. This is something that all parents struggle with. These children are given to us to take care of. We are the ones that they look to, we are the ones that nurture them and help them in every way. They are dependant upon us for so many things. With young children, we control every aspect of their lives. But this is something we can not control. This is something that is so far out of our control that it is unfathomable. Our brains just can not wrap around the fact that we can't change this. Be gentle with yourself and know that this is part of God's plan. I know that it doesn't help hearing that. God's plan doesn't fill your arms. But, with time, God's plan can heal your heart.
If it happens to you – find others who have been there. Find others who you can talk to about it. Mothers – realize that the Man in your life may not want to talk a lot about it. He may listen to you until the cows come home, but may not want to talk to you about it. That's ok. We all deal with grief and loss and death in very different ways. If you can't find anyone to talk to, talk to me. I'm here, I've done it and I can help.
If it happens to you – don't give up. It is the first thing you want to do. You want to go and be with your child. Nothing on Earth is strong enough to hold you here. But, look at your spouse. The person who helped you create this beautiful child. Look at that person who is hurting as much as you are. Cling to him. Hold on to each other for dear life. Cry together, talk together, pray together. This will help not only your broken hearts, but will strengthen your marriage.
If it happens to you – don't forget God. It is easy to be angry when your child dies. You want to blame someone and God is the easiest one to blame. I admit it, I blamed Him plenty. I asked why, I bartered, I begged and pleaded. Then, I came to the understanding that this was His plan. I didn't have to like it, but I eventually accepted it. I received comfort knowing that I would see my sweet girl again someday. But that comfort was pretty slow in coming. Pray for understanding, wisdom, strength, courage, peace and comfort. Know that He will not leave you alone, He will not leave you comfortless, He will be with you, always. Know that He lost His Son also, that He understands your pain better than anyone. Don't forget The One who blessed you with this sweet child.
Original Art work by Jean Keaton