Conveying child loss to someone who hasn’t experienced it is like explaining color to someone who’s been blind since birth. When it first happened, I remember the hospital grief counselor telling us that our relationships would change, in good ways and in bad. Hearing it and having it happen are different. This is a hard topic for me because I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. But I’m choosing to talk about it not necessarily for the people in my life, but for the people who walk this journey.
When Noah passed away, people rallied around us. I sometimes look back at messages or cards people have sent, or revisit Caring Bridge, and I’m reminded of how loved and supported we felt at the time. But life goes on. People move on. Except our family. This is still our reality. Before this happened, I was more capable of helping others. I filled that role for a lot of people. But as time goes on and life returns to “normal” for others, how I see the world is still different. Where I was often empathetic before, I find I can’t relate. I’m not as easily riled. Relationships that require a lot of work and energy feel less important to maintain. And I’ve accepted the hurt I felt when people who I thought would be around, weren’t. That’s the ugly side of changing relationships.
But there’s another side that is unexpectedly good. People I haven’t spoken to in years have come back into my life and shown unwavering kindness. I’ve reconnected with acquaintances that have opened my eyes to what being there for someone really means. I’ve even made a few new friends who never knew Noah, but are there to listen when I need to talk and provide a sense of normalcy. My closest friends have stood by me without judgment and with open hearts. I can never convey how much I love and appreciate you. (Because I know you’re reading this.)
Everyone has an emotional piggy bank. It’s full of stress, worry, happiness, anger, sadness, relationships, family–all those things that make you who you are. Grief dumps all the coins on the table and little by little, you have to decide which coins to keep, which ones to toss, and the new ones that will fit in the bank. That’s not easy to do, but it’s what happens when your life is turned upside down. Here’s what I’m learning as I start to rebuild my bank.
Family comes first. If your immediate family is not okay, no other relationships matter. The hubby and Gav are my number one priority. I am my number one priority. We are the most important coins. You simply cannot put energy into other relationships without first taking care of your family.
Stay with the people who aren’t afraid of your tears. Not everyone has the capacity to see or hear you cry. Even fewer have the capacity to cry with you. Even fewer can hold you up when you completely lose it, racked with guilt over things you can’t change. It takes a special person to resist offering advice and just be there. Hold on to the people who can be strong when you aren’t.
Stay with people who don’t need you. There’s something to be said for strong women who can handle their own shit. The relationship tends to be more equal. You share. They share. Sometimes you need more. Sometimes they do. You vent. They vent. But when you hang up the phone or leave their side, you don’t worry about them, because you know they can handle what life throws their way. Keep those people.
Find other moms who have been through it. Tiff is my person. Without her, I would feel much more alone. Our wounds are fresh. We have a history. I don’t need to explain anything to her. Explaining is exhausting. Love you, Lucy. Only another bereaved mom can understand the depth of your grief. We all have different circumstances that have led us to this crappy club, but sometimes you just need someone who knows that pain. Find other warrior moms, whether online or in person. You need people who get it. That’s a new coin.
Forget those who have forgotten you. Silence is not golden. It doesn’t matter why people stay away. It doesn’t matter if “they don’t know what to say.” Say something. Because silence is deafening. It sucks. It’s hurtful. It surprises you. Ditch those coins. You’re going to need that room for the new friendships you’ll make with people who aren’t silent when you need them most. It’s that simple.
Accept that it’s okay to change. A good friend often says, “Do you.” It is okay to do you. You’ve earned it. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Because rebuilding your life isn’t about other people. You do what you need to do to survive. You are the warrior. You are the one who has to refill your bank. It doesn’t matter what other people think and their reactions are not. your. problem. Do you.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m still new at this. But I hope that as time goes on, I’ll build lasting relationships filled with love. I think I’m on my way. For those who continue to be there for our family, it truly means so much more than I can put into words. Just…thanks, and happy Saturday.