Grief…it is a tricky thing. When you google “grief” there are countless resources at your fingertips to help you. I did not spend a lot of time planning out my grief…how can one really do that? My plan was (and still is) to feel everything coming at me. To not deny any feelings or sweep them under the rug. No matter how stupid I felt for crying over seeing Cora’s “going home” outfit or tearing up any time I run my fingers over the imprints we have of her hands & feet. I just let it happen. It’s the only way I know how to move forward.
As I look back on these past 5 months, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got to this point. How I am able to get up everyday and still find purpose. Still able to laugh, joke, and dance at wedding with my husband. Make fun of Bachelor in Paradise with my best friends and enjoy “family dinner” with our other best friends. It’s only been 5 months but I think I have done more growing in these last 5 months than I ever have before. So here are some of the ways I learned to cope with my grief & push through the pain.
I had to go into her room every day to face reality. If I didn’t do that then I would become afraid. Afraid of her room, afraid of seeing her clothes, and afraid of the all consuming grief that would wash over me each time. Those first few weeks, it was like a punch in the gut to wake up every morning & remember that Cora wasn’t there. I had to walk out of my bedroom & if I looked left I could see right into her room. So instead of turning right, I would go left. I would run my fingers over her hanging clothes, her blankets, changing table, baby books, toys, crib, rocker, and I would read the Harry Potter quotes on the wall all the while sobbing uncontrollably. I did this every single day. It was brutal and extremely painful but slowly over time, it wasn’t as hard as it was the day before. Her room became a place that I felt close to her and it still does today.
One day, as I was reading the quotes, I read one out loud and felt like I’d got slapped in the face. It is something Dumbledore says to Harry when he is caught staring into the Mirror or Erised: “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. I couldn’t believe that quote had been staring me in the face for weeks and I failed to realize the relevance it had in my life. Cora was not a dream, she was real. But I could not pretend that my daughter dying did not happen. If I pretend like that never happened, then I will never live. At least, never live in the real world. The world I must live in without Cora in my arms.
We have not changed a thing in the nursery nor will we when we have another baby. We will of course take down the Cora specific things & put them in a special place but when I decorated that nursery I made it my happy place. If I was going to be in that nursery at 3 am then I better be looking at things on the wall that I love. I am so grateful for my decision now, I love our nursery. All of the sweet Harry Potter decorations, baby blankets and quilts, and some painted canvases our friends made. I am so grateful I forced myself to go into the nursery because it really is a happy place. A hopeful place that will one day hold Cora’s siblings but still hold her memory.
Running/Walking (ew, I know).
About three weeks after delivering Cora, I felt the urge to get out of our house. But I wasn’t sure yet if I could hold it together in public nor did I want to run into someone I knew. So, I decided I would go for walks at the lake near our house. I was out of breath in about 10 seconds & felt so weak. I would talk to Cora in my head or sometimes embarrassing out loud until someone passing me by gave me a weird look. I wanted to feel the sunshine on my face because to me that was like feeling Cora’s warmth again. I still love sitting in the sunshine when I’m feeling low (with 50 SPF on 🙂 ). Eventually, I started a 5K running program to get myself moving again. Those first two weeks, I felt like I was going to die. Or if I was having a rough day I would cry while running which would even elicit more weird looks from fellow runners. But I never gave up on it.
As the weeks went by I loved my days at the lake. I could feel a difference in my physical well being as well as my emotional well being. I may have looked ridiculous at times with my ugly crying or talking out loud to myself….but I’d past the point of caring a long time ago. Within 3 months of giving birth to Cora, I’d run a 5K & a 10K. I truly believed this helped my confidence and gave me a purpose to get up each day to try to better myself.
My pregnant friends and family.
This is a topic that many, many loss mom’s have a tough time talking about or even dealing with. I mentioned in a post before that my pregnant friends and family showed up for me. I’m not talking a little text message here or there, they were there for me. They showed me that my loss was also their loss. They had hopes and dreams for my child too because our children’s lives were supposed to be intertwined. They let me visit their children and cry at the same time if I needed to. Sometimes, crying with me. They didn’t shun me like I was contagious, they have allowed me to fill my empty arms with their precious babies.
A few days after the hospital, I sent a text to several of my pregnant friends with whom I’d been texting throughout our pregnancies. I asked that they please include me in their texts and still talk to me about their pregnancies. I thanked them for supporting me throughout my pregnancy and wanted to continue to be there for them. I did not want to be isolated and I think in sending those messages to those girls, it allowed them to see that I wanted to be included. Many times, loss mom’s cannot be around their pregnant friends or friends with newborns which I understand. But for me, it was the opposite. I needed to be around these women and included in their lives. Their children remind me of my own and hold a very special place in my heart.
This does not come without heartache. Paul & I’s best friends delivered their son two months after Cora. As soon as we knew they were in labor we held our breaths all day. My chest did not release until we got the message saying mom & baby were both doing well. They allowed us to come up and see him that night. I didn’t think about it before hand because it felt so natural but I am so grateful they allowed us to come see him. When we left the hospital, I had a breakdown. I think all the emotions I’d been holding in for two months came crashing down. Relief that my friends son was here and my friend was safe. Sadness because he was the first newborn I’d held since Cora. Anger that my own daughter wasn’t there. But amazingly, incredible love for this sweet boy I’d just met. He will always hold a place in my heart and it has been a joy to see our dear friends become parents.
I am not saying this is the road for every loss mom. Actually, I would say it is not the road for most loss moms. But for me, it was what I needed. I needed to be with my friends and their children. I needed (and still need) those sweet baby cuddles and to text them when a crazy mom moment comes up. I did not want to be isolated from them so I did not isolate myself.
There was one day that I call my “Scarlett O’Hara moment”…I hope people do not think I making a tasteless comparison here (if you do, forever hold your peace 🙂 thanks!). I was thinking about my life & my future. And realized, this would be apart of me and my story for forever. FOREVER. That thought felt exhausting, saddening, and just down right depressing. Would people always remember me as the woman who lost her child? Would the secretly be wondering what I’d done to deserve this or cause this? Will people wonder if/when I’m going to stop talking about her or my experience? Will they wonder why I haven’t just moved on already? I was then reminded of the scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlett says “I’m too young to be a widow. My life is over”. I knew my life wasn’t over but man, I felt too young to be dealing with this crap. So like Scarlett O’Hara, I brushed off my skirts & continued on with life not really caring what people thought of my grieving.
Paul & I started saying “yes” more. When one of us thought of a new movie to watch, the other would say yes! Going to try new restaurants that we’d been wanting to try, yes! Eating Hypnotic Donuts like it’s going out of style, yes! Rugby 4th of July pub crawl, hell yes! Buying roller blades & busting my ass in front of 15 people at the lake…sure! Didn’t want to bust my ass but it happened and Paul laughed at me while I was on the ground after he checked to make sure I was okay. It was a painful adventure!
My point is, we started saying yes and started living again. Not just existing, but living. Enjoying a delicious glass(es) of Meiomi Pinot Noir or going on our friend’s boat to the lake. I struggled with if I should feel guilty for going out and enjoying myself. But logic told me not to. I wasn’t doing myself, my marriage, or my friendships any favors by wallowing in guilt that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Now don’t confuse this with sadness. I got sad all the time and still get sad today. But when I wasn’t sad, I was challenging myself to be happy. Find the good in each day. Find the good in each person.
Cora does not get to leave her own legacy on this Earth so I am building one for her through my life. And for right now, our legacy is to show those people who are suffering through immense pain and loss that it will get better. You can and will find happiness again. It will never be the naive happiness that you once had but it is so much richer. You know what it is to love and have lost so you will love fiercely.
Cheers to the bright side <3.