How do I say goodbye? How do I put into words what you meant to me? How do I put into words how much you meant to me? How do we do life without you?
It shouldn’t have been your time yet. We had so many more memories to make. So many more laughs. So many more jokes. So many more hugs. So many more kisses from the dogs. So many more coffees. So many more chats. So many more projects to hear about. So much more reminiscing with you. Now we reminisce about you. Someone didn’t get the memo that it wasn’t supposed to be your time.
How do we honour the life you had? How do we honour the life you gave? How do we carry our love forward? How do we ease the pain?
I was lucky enough to know you before we became family. I was lucky enough to have a mother-in-law I called a friend. I was lucky enough to live with you and to learn from you.
We shared so much more than a last name and I will forever be grateful for all of it.
There are still moments when it feels like not long ago I held you in my arms. But most often it feels as though time is moving so fast – the days, weeks, months fly by. It can’t be seven years, but somehow it is.
As more time passes I worry I won’t remember every detail about you, every memory we made together in your short life.
I worry people will forget you.
But when I think of you, I think of love and then I worry less.
I think of the love we shared. Grief is love and I know I still feel so much grief because our love was so big and so strong. My love for you is still so big and so strong.
I think of the love I receive on your birthday – there are still people who remember you and I so appreciate the loving notes from each and every one of them 🙂
I love hearing your sisters talk about you – what our family would be like if you were here, what you would have wanted to do for your birthday, what they want to do to celebrate your special day. They love celebrating you!
I love that our little family continues to celebrate you each year. And each year it gets a little easier to feel love and joy rather than lean into the sadness of not having you here with us.
I love that I am your mom.
I love that even though time continues to fly, we take the time to just be together and celebrate you.
I love that after 7 years your sisters still want to have a special day just for you.
I’m still not sure how we made it to 7 years, but I do know I will continue loving you for 7 more plus infinity.
For your birthday we went on a family getaway to Niagara Falls. We went on the boat to the falls, the Skywheel, go karting (little sister and I came in last, Daddy and big sister won), even mini golf in the rain! We had ice cream, pizza, cake, pancakes.
It was an incredible little trip! On your birthday we chose joy and celebration. You deserve to be celebrated just like your sisters. They love celebrating you and planning your special day. Their love for you and desire to include you warms my heart. It makes it a little easier to choose joy on a day that feels anything but. As much fun as we had, we missed you every step of the way. How we wish you were here.
If you were here we wouldn’t have to choose joy. It would just be a joyous day. If you were here the weeks before and after your birthday wouldn’t be so heavy. How I wish you were here.
The weeks leading to your birthday are heavy emotionally and physically. I’m sensitive, vulnerable and just so tired. Most days it takes all I have to get through the day doing as little as I can. The weeks after your birthday are heavy still. Only now the sadness starts to wane and the anger settles in. Anger that you died. Anger at the people who don’t show up. Anger at the world for moving on the next day. Anger at myself for not speaking up.
It’s hard to remember what it’s been like the other years. Am I always this angry after your birthday? Is it getting worse? Am I over-reacting? Am I the only one who feels this? How long will it take to process this emotion? I’ve been avoiding processing it. Instead choosing to numb myself of feeling in the hopes I’ll wake one day and it will be gone. How I wish you were here.
If you had one wish, what would it be? Your big sister asked me this recently. I responded with something diplomatic and generic about ending war and hate-motivated crime. Your sister’s response floored me. “I wish Melissa never died and was still with us.” Wow. Didn’t see that coming. They think about you even when I least expect it. Today I wish for my anger to go away so I can go back to living life and these incredible moments with your sisters.
But my forever wish will always be that you were here on earth with us. How I wish you were here.
*When I’m looking back On the time that we shared Hope you know you were loved And that I always cared I always cared… I know in my heart That we’ll meet again I know deep inside This isn’t the end
*I Wish You Were Here by Dropkick Murphys Check it out on YouTube !
I’ve heard this a lot over the last year. My response is usually something along the lines of ‘neither do I’. But I do know how I do it. I don’t have a choice so I just do it. And I’m a fighter and stubborn as hell. I would rather struggle than admit I need help.
In the early days of the pandemic I was stressed and that showed up in the form of rage. I yelled a lot. I swore a lot. I didn’t like myself much. But it felt like it would be short-lived and it didn’t feel like help was an option. I can do this for a little longer I would tell myself. And besides, we weren’t supposed to see anyone, so how was I supposed to ask for help? My husband was still in the office and working from home wasn’t an option, which is still the case. My parents still work so asking for help during the day didn’t feel like an option. The days were intense but by the time I settled into bed it didn’t seem so bad. I made it through another day. I would tell myself it wasn’t as hard as I thought and that I would do a better job tomorrow. Tomorrow would come and it was not better. And still it didn’t seem like help was an option. As time went on we settled into a groove. The kids got to spend a little time at daycare and camp – help that I didn’t have to ask for, yes!
School came and it felt like a huge burden lifted. I had survived working from home with both kids for months! The light was bright! It wasn’t long before the light started dimming. Kids were in and out of school due to covid symptoms, potential exposure, actual exposure, Christmas break and then schools shut down again. We got a glimmer of hope and the kids were able to go back for several weeks before schools shut down again. So now on top of having the kids home while I work, I was a teaching assistant helping them with tech issues, school questions and keeping on top of their schedule to ensure they were in their meetings when they were supposed to be. And all the while helping get snacks, drinks, supplies and giving into their demands to see what they were working on. Somewhere in between all these interruptions is where I get my work done. Along the way my boss would check in and ask what I needed and how they could help. Can the company hire a tutor or nanny to stay with the kids? That would help. I tried to remain positive schools wouldn’t stay closed long-term, even though I knew otherwise in my gut. I told myself I just needed to hold on a little longer. I made it this far. Maybe next week they will go back and it won’t be so hard. I started opening up about how hard it was. Sometimes that’s my passive way of asking for help. People would tell me I did it before and I can do it again. All I could think was yeah it was fucking hard as hell last time and the kids didn’t have to do school and I wasn’t burnt out and why can’t you just let me complain without having to minimize how much this sucks. But I’m me, so of course I don’t say those things out loud. I just keep plugging away. Mom. Meal Planner. Grocery Shopper. Cook. Cleaner. Laundry master. Teacher’s assistant. Wife. Employee. Daughter. Friend. Keep all the balls in the air and no one will know that you don’t have it all together. No one will know you’re only pretending to be Superman. SuperMom. SuperMary.
Spoiler alert: I am not Superman. Laundry piles up. Dishes pile up. Dog hair piles up. (Maybe it’s a good thing we haven’t been allowed to have friends over) Work gets missed, pushed back, piled up. Husband gets pushed aside. I still yell. I’m fucking exhausted.
One day I finally admitted out loud that I’m burnt out. I admitted that I was in need of my own time and space. The weekdays feel like chaos, but that doesn’t mean I have to let the evenings and weekends feel that way too. I can accept help during those times so I can do what I need to do to reset myself. I don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time.
The days are still chaos, but I’ve implemented a few things that help me along the way: I pay my kids to attend their school meetings and I don’t feel bad about it. I give myself grace for how my house looks. There are three humans and two dogs living and working in this space all day every day, it should look like it’s lived in. (The fourth human joins us for evenings and weekends) I let my husband help as much as possible – this one should be easier than it is. I’m not saying he doesn’t want to help, he does. When I say I don’t want to ask for help, it goes for asking him, too. I made the kids each a snack bin that gets filled at the beginning of the week. I don’t care what they eat from there and when. They are welcome to help themselves with the understanding that when the snacks are gone, they’re gone. I take time for myself. Thursdays are my night off from all responsibility. This goes on the calendar so it’s booked in like an appointment. I reflect and journal at the end of the day to take note of the things that went well.
I love my chaos. I know years from now I will look back on this time and remember how incredible it was to get to spend this extra time with my kids. I hope I will also remember how hard it was to try and hold it all together like I was Superman (or SuperMom).
But for now, when people say ‘I don’t know how you do it’, I’ll have a better answer than ‘neither do I’.
*So here I am, doing everything I can Holding on to what I am Pretending I’m a superman
*Superman by Goldfinger Check it out on YouTube ! (Sharing the quarantine video they made because I love it!)
I woke up feeling a heaviness in my chest. Dates are major triggers for me. Often I feel it physically first. I don’t even need to look at the calendar to know a significant date is approaching. I forced myself out of bed and got started on my day pushing the heaviness aside as much as I could.
Later that day I read the devastating news that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s baby died. My heavy heart shattered for them. How unfair that another family is experiencing this. How I wish I could protect all the babies in wombs so no other family would have to know the excruciating pain that runs deep when your baby dies. I took a moment for them. Silently offering support from across the continent.
Later in the day I started seeing stories that made my blood boil. There were people out there who had the audacity to tell this couple that they shouldn’t be sharing such personal news. They shouldn’t be sharing because it’s disturbing, it’s too sad, people don’t want to know about dead babies, people don’t want to see or hear that these things happen, people don’t want to see people crying because their baby died, that they should keep their grief to themselves. Are you fucking kidding me, was the first thing I thought. How dare people tell a family how they should grieve or share news of their baby’s death. I did some digging because I just couldn’t believe that people could be so selfish and ignorant. Sure enough it was true. Then it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be so surprised – this happened to me too. I’ve been told I shouldn’t share my journey. I’ve been told to get over my grief. I’ve been told I’m selfish when I put my grief ahead of other things. I’ve been told to bury my feelings and move on. I’ve been told not to talk about it, to keep it quiet because people don’t want to hear about such depressing things. I’ve always kept it to myself because it only affected me, but hearing it happen to someone else set off a defensive instinct in me. I can’t protect Chrissy and John and all the other families in our loss community from these comments. I can stand up today and plead with you to understand the added layer of pain these comments cause. Please, please do not ever tell someone to get over it or not to share just because you don’t like it. If you see something on social media you don’t like just keep scrolling. It’s actually that simple. If you feel like one of these comments wants to come out, shut your mouth, stop typing. You do not have permission to tell someone how to grieve.
Once again because this is important. You. Do. Not. Have. Permission. To. Tell. Someone. How. To. Grieve.
Sending love and peace to Chrissy and John and anyone else missing their baby.
I’ve never been great at controlling or managing my reactions to the actions of those around me. One minor action from someone can ruin an entire day. A larger infraction can set off a downward spiral that may take weeks to recover from. I’ve never really understood why I let this happen, even when I’ve come to recognize it happening. It has taken a long time to understand that how I feel has a lot to do with the environment around me. I let things that are out of my control take control of my emotions. Learning this about myself has set me on a path of learning how to retrain my brain. I need to learn how I can stop the bad from taking over my life.
One thing I’ve come across recently is the idea of ‘and’ statements or ‘yes, and’.
These types of statements give me the ability to acknowledge and accept the negative of a situation while also reminding myself of the positive.
It seems so simple, but when your brain is wired to focus on the bad it’s not easy to put into practice. I’ve been working hard at it the last week or so and it’s making a difference. Melissa’s birthday is always an incredibly difficult time, both leading up to and the weeks after. Last year I spiraled so far out of control I ended up in the darkest season I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t come out of it until 7 or 8 months later. This year I was determined to not let that happen. This year I decided to let the good overcome the bad.
On Melissa’s birthday I can double over from the pain of grief AND I can celebrate her the way she deserves.
I can be sad she’s not here to celebrate with us AND I can be happy watching her sisters pick out a stuffy for her.
I can be disappointed by the inaction of those I wish I could count on AND be grateful and thankful for the incredible people who do reach out to recognize Melissa’s birthday.
I can feel angry AND I can feel love.
I can be full of grief AND full of love.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. After all, grief is love and it’s important to acknowledge both.
Every negative emotion I can overcome is a step in the right direction. One step at a time.
I can’t control what others do AND I don’t have to let that control me.
I’ll never let you in.
I’ll give you glimpses, but you’ll never really know more than what’s on the surface.
I’m good at hiding and I’m good at lying.
I lie to myself all the time so it’s easy to lie to you, too. It’s so much easier than telling the truth.
It’s not that I don’t want to let you in.
It’s that letting you in means being honest with myself and sometimes that’s too painful or scary to deal with.
It’s not that I want to lie.
It’s that when I’ve told the truth in the past it was met with silence or judgement.
It’s a terrible feeling to finally muster up the courage to ask for help and be let down.
It’s hard asking for help. It’s harder asking for help when you don’t know what you need.
And so it’s easier to hide.
It’s easier to pretend I am all the help I need. After all, I should be in charge of taking care of myself and giving myself what I need, right? Well, sort of. I’ve come to realize that yes, I should be in charge of taking care of myself, but that doesn’t mean doing it all alone.
Being in charge of myself means…
Recognizing the signs and symptoms that I’m not ok.
Learning and understanding the coping strategies that work for me.
Finding ways to ask for help that don’t feel like I’m actually asking for help.
Asking for help in a way that works for me. For me, asking for help can look like scheduling alone time, ordering take out for dinner, a physically distanced walk with a friend, a break from work, a country road drive with the music turned up loud.
Being in charge of myself means being more proactive in caring for myself in the hopes that one day I won’t need to lie to myself anymore.
Any maybe one day I won’t need to lie to you anymore either.
I can’t take the noise.
Everything is SO damn loud.
The rage inside me builds. I can feel it rising to the top. It takes all of my energy to keep it from exploding. I am not strong enough to keep it in and it explodes from the very bottom of my lungs anyway. It doesn’t make the noise go away. Everything is still too damn loud. Nothing makes the noise go away because so much of the noise is in my head.
On that day it became too much.
It was a beautiful summer day and I was working from home.
I couldn’t concentrate. I tried to distract myself, but nothing was working. Nothing had been working for weeks. I went outside to take a break. It didn’t help.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with a feeling of desperation I’d never felt before. I desperately needed to escape the noise. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was looking for an answer to a question I didn’t know how to ask.
I was losing myself.
The noise was winning.
Everything went quiet and dark. I stood frozen in time believing the answer before me. It was quiet – the quiet I had so desperately been searching for.
In that moment all I wanted was to escape into quiet.
I was interrupted by something wet touching my hand. I looked down and there was my dog, Odin, nudging my hand with his nose. He gave it a lick when I looked at him. He looked up at me and nodded to the house as if he was telling me to go inside. We spent the rest of the day cuddled up on the couch.
In that moment I finally understood that I couldn’t get through any of this trying to be strong and taking all this on by myself.
It was still weeks before I told anyone about this and weeks more before I could bring myself to book an appointment with my therapist. I wasn’t even planning on telling her what happened. I was scared of what it would mean. I was scared of asking for help, from my therapist.
We did talk about it and surprise, surprise, it helped. Talking about it out loud helped, a lot. As much as it helped, at first it didn’t make my journey easier.
It was really frustrating.
Depression hit really hard.
Going to work took everything out of me.
In the months that followed I didn’t leave my house for much else.
In that time I did what I needed to take care of myself. I leaned on the supports I trusted the most. I didn’t always get the help I needed, but verbally saying “I need help” is still so hard. It took a while but day by day I eventually started feeling a little better. I started recognizing the early signs that I need a break before everything becomes too much and I shut down. It’s a work in progress. What works today may not work tomorrow. What “taking a break” means looks different depending on my symptoms. I’ve started to be a little more open and honest about my mental health. It helps knowing I have people on my side.
It helps knowing I have a dog on my side. A dog who is, perhaps a little more intuitive than I ever gave him credit for.
I hope to never again feel the way I did on that day and that is what motivates me to take better care of my mental health.
I will forever be grateful to the boy who gave me his paw and reminded me that help is there, even when I don’t feel like it is.
Standing in the wading pool at the water park with The Peanut is when it hit me. I’ve struggled with the idea for a long time. Playing in the water with her and watching other parents with babies strapped to them was the moment I realized I’ve moved past it. I like the way things are. I like that my kids are becoming more and more independent. I like that they’re getting big enough to do more things with them. Suddenly the thought of adding a baby into the mix just didn’t sit right with me. It was the first time I actually felt like I’m “done”.
I had always wondered what it would be like to experience that thought. I didn’t think I ever would. For a long time I’ve been stuck in this place where I know it doesn’t make sense to have another baby, but I think about it often and feel that yearning for one more. It’s a battle of brain and heart. Heart is slowly getting on board with brain.
So what did that moment feel like?
Relieving… The Peanut wasn’t an easy baby. I’m quick to forget the struggle to get her to gain weight, the unpleasantness of a baby that threw up all day and all night, that she didn’t sleep much until she was 9 months.
Sad… Despite the challenges I loved being home with my babies. I loved watching them grow and change so quickly and come into their own personalities. I also loved the snuggles! Not much beats a baby snuggle.
Excited… Continuing to watch my little people become bigger people is just amazing. They’ve both hit some big milestones this year and I love how much more we can do with them. They are less reliant on me, which is kind of nice. As they become more independent I’m excited to get some of my independence back.
Guilty… Because I’m a mom and having independence comes at a price. I’m working on giving myself permission to not feel guilty, it’s a long journey.
So, it was confusing. I had imagined it to be more of a moment of clarity, like I would just wake up one day and say “yeah, I’m done” and know that I truly felt it and truly meant it.
With a piece of my heart missing I will always feel like someone is missing and I’m learning to be ok with that. It’s ok to make peace with the decision to not have more babies and at the same time it’s ok to give myself permission to wonder from time to time what it would be like to have just one more…
*I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a peace sign.
*Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette
Check it out on YouTube !