When people ask, “How are you?” I really wish I could give a one-word answer, but I figured out it’s not as simple as that. This is what our life and missing our baby looks like right now. There are still so many more emotions that I cannot verbalize it yet.
How does grief feel?
Grief is not a linear curve as I assumed it was. It’s not in stages like denial -> anger -> depression -> acceptance. There are simply good moments and hard moments. The shock and denial that existed in the first couple of weeks of losing Elliot started to wither slowly. I cannot pinpoint a particular day or a moment when the numbness faded away and the realization hit me. Maybe when I turned in my bed and realized my stomach was feeling like a jelly, I don’t know. A part of me is still numb and dead.
I don’t know how I feel until that moment or the hour. There is anger because just like that I lost my whole future with sweet Elliot, I feel robbed and cheated. But there is also laughter, hurt, silent tears, sobbing, pain, unconditional love, gratitude, and hope. Physically I am sleep deprived, exhausted, and disoriented. Feelings go from “I have got this,” to “please sit a knife in me, I am done!” in a span of a few minutes! Scenes from when we heard the news and leading up to Elliot’s funeral run in my head in an unending loop with flashes of pregnancy days. And during those days, waking up and taking a shower is the best achievement.
And then there are triggers! Disassemble the crib, hide all the baby stuff in the basement, out of sight and out of mind. Right? I wish it was that easy. It did nothing because every mommy fiber of me reminds me of the love that I am missing. My arms ache for the weight I felt at the hospital carrying Elliot, and my body aches for a physical child to feed and take care of. Yes, mother nature is cruel.
Walking the corridors of the hospital, looking at the ultrasound machine where time stood still, the parking lot that reminds me of how we left him behind, passing by a young mom with her newborn, my throat tightens, and as I try to catch my breath, I feel suffocated and jittery. I am jealous of all the pregnant women and newborn families who have never experienced loss. We saw this family with the newborn, the dad pushing the stroller and mom in a dark blue mamalicious pregnancy jacket the same that I am wearing at that time, tired but looking very satisfied. “That should have been me,” a silent scream in my head. My pulse rises and I grow a knot in my stomach.
“You don’t know how much that family has gone through to bring that little baby home! You don’t know their story! It’s not their fault!” another whisper.
However, I also feel genuinely happy for women who are pregnant after loss. I miss talking to some of my friends who were pregnant together with me. When one of the babies made it safely into the parent’s arms, I took a deep breath of relief. And I am ardently praying for the rest. If you are reading this, “I love you and your babies very much but I miss my Elliot so much. Someday, I will be ready to take your children in my arms and shower them with love without feeling this jealousy and I wish to tell them all about their friend, Elliot.”
Grieving at corona times
When the whole world is grieving for their new normal, I totally miss the physical hug of my friends and family. It frustrates me so much that my Indian family couldn’t make it to see our Elliot. Well, we can all hate 2020 together. But we also witness the beauty in the ashes, a roof over our head, people’s love, thoughts of our son, and Barney’s cuddles.
“Time heals,” one of the clichés that are yelled at my face repeatedly by people who haven’t experienced any kind of loss. Experts on grief who have walked through the path themselves and other bereaved parents tell me otherwise. Can you please define “Time heals?” If you are saying in 5 years I will forget my son and life a happy life. And everything will go again back to how it was, you are wrong. It is true that time gives time to process your grief and learn to live your new normal. That you learn how and when the grief hits you and you are prepared to handle it. But even years after the loss, fresh waves of grief hit you so strongly. Please don’t say that to me again, it makes me sick. Instead, you can say, this sucks and I am sitting here with you.
I hope you will come out of it stronger!
“I hope you will come out of this stronger”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” another cliché. Can you please also define what you mean by coming out of this? The reality is I don’t see an end to this, and I don’t feel I will ever stop missing Elliot. The truth is, I don’t fight to come out of him either. If at all that moment comes, I promise I will let you know!
As I learn to sit with the pain, God is sitting together in my ashes, comforting, giving us moments of peace, and assurance of eternal hope. I haven’t experienced him like I experience him now, that is again something that I struggle to put in words. He is learning us the ‘why’s and what-ifs are not so important as we think they are and there are simply no answers to some of the questions! Would I question him if I am experiencing joy? Would I be satisfied with the answers to my questions? Will it emerge into dozens of other why’s and what-ifs? Will the list ever end? “I don’t know.” It’s a hard pill to swallow but I am processing it. And with all these scientific advances, we humans cannot dictate the number of days.
Everything is changed but still, nothing is. We are dealing not only with emotional pain but also our identity as parents without a living child in this world. But I am beginning to realize that I don’t need this society’s approval for loving my child. And what I know is that my whole world revolves around my baby boy’s existence and It will continue to be. We still parent him in our hearts. The love for him keeps growing day by day. We loved him when he was present and we are now transitioning to love him in his absence. And just like that, we have engraved him in our hearts forever. And we are taking one day at a time.
Elliot is not a nightmare but the death that caught him is. Elliot is so much loved, so much missed and so much remembered. So when I say his name or say “when I was pregnant with Elliot,” it doesn’t mean I am not coping well enough with my grief or I haven’t moved on, it means he is very much present and will be present in our family. And we are who we are because of him. There is hurt because there is love. Our love is all he knew and love is all he will know. We are not stuck in our grief, we are so much in love.
As a mother, the first lesson I had to learn is the art of letting go even before I got a chance to learn him better in this world. That’s a huge change in the order of nature. And the transition of mothering him from far away is all so foreign to me. It’s a new change that I have to learn to embrace and make it a part of me, that takes time and a huge amount of my energy.
Someone close to me recently said, “Stop talking about him, you are not healing. Just focus on getting another child.” Let me ask, “How come talking about your children is love, and talking about mine is a wound?” It’s by writing and talking about him, I heal. And that is how I am coping up. I remember how I couldn’t say his name aloud to the midwife, the day we heard that he died. But now, I can tell his name and story out louder. Actually, I am doing everyone a favor to myself and to the world by talking about my son out loud. Please be kind and be open-minded to learn how can one live, when their child is not in this world anymore. I am just the tiny voice of one in million parents around the world. I am in 1 in 160. If you cannot hear my son’s name and if his name is making you uncomfortable, “you are not welcomed around my table.” And again, Elliot’s sibling will not replace him.
Meanwhile, Barney is loving all the attention and care. He is enjoying his belly rubs, walks, and cuddles. And he loves to destroy plants and dig holes in the garden. I can’t imagine our lives without him either.
My friends who sit with me through this all not trying to fix it, you are the best. And we value and acknowledge each and every message from people who are sending constant thoughts and reminders. And just like that, we have become a family of four!