I sometimes worry I’m neglecting this blog. I’m constantly thinking about what my next post should be about, but actually writing one is an entirely different story. Things like sleep, work, and other responsibilities tend to get in the way. Sometimes, when I do have time to write, my thoughts and emotions feel too complex to put into words. If I can barely make sense of them in my head, how am I going to get them down on paper? Other times, I wonder if anyone really wants to read about my life as a loss mother. That’s the self-doubt and insecurity talking. I need to push them out and keep going. The conversation needs to continue. I may be just one loss mother, but there are many others out there. Grief doesn’t end after one month, three months, six months, one year, or five years. It’s a lifelong journey. So I will continue to talk about my experience. We all need to continue talking about our experiences. Together we can break the silence and stigma surrounding pregnancy/infant loss and the grief that comes with it.
So here I go again, sharing some very personal details of my life. When I started this blog, I promised myself that I’d be completely honest about my experience. I’ve divided this post into two parts and will post them separately. They touch on different areas of my life, but are equally important.
A lot has happened in the past two months between Christmas, Ireland, family events, and trying to settle into real life again. Christmas was hard. I knew it would be difficult, but beyond that I didn’t know what to expect. I cried a lot on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. A simple question, such as “How are you doing?” was enough to send me into a tailspin. If I could keep it together enough to actually respond, I’d lie and say I was fine and then run to the nearest exit to take a few moments to collect myself.
As hard as Christmas was, it turned out to be a nice day. We opened stocking stuffers and gifts for Elliot, which really helped. I don’t know how I would have made it through Christmas without including her in some way. Ben gifted his baby Mickey and toy train to Elliot. That was by far the most emotional part of those two days. It was such a beautiful and loving gesture; just when I think I couldn’t possibly love Ben any more than I already do, he goes and proves me wrong. Those well-loved toys now have a home in Elliot’s room. We also received a lot of beautiful cards, messages, and gifts for Elliot. Thank you to everyone who thought of us. I can’t tell you how important those acts of kindness are to our family.
Running off to Ireland on Christmas evening was probably the best thing we could have done for ourselves. We wanted to have some time at home during the day. We needed to have time at home. We couldn’t hide from the range of emotions we knew would come up. We had no choice but to face them head on, and we felt home was the best place to do that. As good as it was for us to be home in the morning, it was also good for us to have something to look forward to after.
Ireland wasn’t our first trip post loss. Ben and I went to Puerto Rico two weeks after Elliot was born. Our family offered to send us away on a trip (which we will be forever grateful for) when we got out of the hospital. We were hesitant at first, but after just three days at home, we realized we needed to get away. The destination didn’t matter all that much, we just needed a change of scenery. I can’t say we had fun. It certainly wasn’t a vacation. But it was exactly what we needed at the time. We needed to get away from rainy New England. We needed to feel the warm sun on our faces. We needed to have some time and space to digest everything. It was so hard to be home, and it was equally hard to be away. The shock was starting to fade and reality was setting in. The grief hit me so hard, I ended up having to schedule an emergency grief counseling session because I couldn’t stop crying. I was so desperate to get in, I took the next available appointment, which was just three hours before our flight out of Boston. I really feared for my sanity at that point. I knew I couldn’t go on like that. I don’t think I would have made it much longer if I hadn’t started going to therapy when I did. Not that I would have harmed myself. I never thought about that. But I feared I would be committed to a mental health facility based on how quickly my emotions were spiraling out of control. It really helped to admit that I needed professional help. Having my feelings validated by a therapist was so important in the early days of my grief. After that appointment, we went away to PR for a week. It may not have been a vacation, but it was therapeutic (and a beautiful destination) and I’m so glad we were able to get away when we did. It’s hard to describe exactly what that trip was like for us. We decided to share our story with the world while we were there. We also found out the cause of Elliot’s death. So yeah…it was a difficult time.
Ireland was a very different experience, aside from the obvious change in weather. We’re in a much better place these days. Ireland felt like a vacation. It was the perfect choice for us at this point in our journey. We were able to laugh, smile, and have fun – guilt free. Learning how to include Elliot in our everyday lives and allowing ourselves to see the signs and feel her presence has really helped us along the way. Ireland was no exception. Her presence was as strong as ever. I felt closest to Elliot when we stopped along the Wild Atlantic Way. I think this video and exchange between my friend and I says it all.
Poulsallagh Viewpoint in Ballyryan, County Clare.
“Breathtaking! This was the image I had of you in Ireland. Standing on a cliff with the waves, sun, and reflection on the water. Hopefully a breeze on your face. Right where Heaven meets Earth. I’m sure you felt her holding you.”
“We absolutely did. We went to the Cliffs of Moher yesterday, which was so beautiful and amazing. But these smaller cliffs were more striking. It truly felt like we were at the edge of the world, where heaven and earth meet. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to be there during sunset. The waves were massive and the wind cool against our faces. This place is how I picture the entrance to heaven, Elliot standing there at the edge of the cliffs waiting for us.”
That was the highlight of the trip for all three of us – Ben, Elliot, and me. There were many other special moments, lots of good food, and craic. It was a special trip and we went at just the right time in our lives. By the end of the trip, even though we had a great time, we were ready to go home. Traveling around a country for ten days is fun, but also exhausting. After a fun getaway, I usually experience post-vacation blues. Not this time. It felt really good to be home again.
To be continued…