The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s been a hard few weeks. I’ve been avoiding writing here for the last little while because I had felt I was making such strides forward to making this a place of positive reflection. But these last few weeks have really taken a toll on me emotionally. I am so incredibly lucky to have so much love and support from people who make me smile and make me feel loved even when it’s so difficult to love myself.  You know who you are.

So what happened?

Well  firstly, I guess, my dog died. I had had Cabot since I was 11 years old. He was 17 and he was the best dog I could have asked for. I’ve been trying to be rational in my grief over him, trying to keep in mind, he was 17 and lived an amazingly spoiled life for a little doggy.  But it’s like when your 107 year old great grandparent dies – you’re sad for completely selfish reasons, because you’ll miss them and because your life is missing something without them here.  I’ll miss my little buddy’s slobbery kisses, his pissing because he’s so excited and his ability to hear a cheese slice being opened from down the block.

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Secondly, a very dear friend of mine was very badly injured and has been in ICU for weeks. Because of the circumstance, I have had to keep my distance and I know very little about what’s going on with him, and I don’t know when (or even if) I will be able to see him anytime soon. I worry myself sick over how he is, and if they’ll find who’s responsible for hurting him.

Then there’s the holidays looming. I think about the plans I had for this season, the gifts I tucked away last year. The “Parent-to-be” ornament that’s in one of the Christmas boxes that I know is going to send me into an anxiety attack when I find it. I think about all of my friends who will be celebrating babies first Christmas, and all of those happy pictures I’m going to have to see, and feel conflicted about.  Babies first Christmas clothes. Pictures with Santa. Baby bumps in front of a glowing Christmas tree. I want to be happy for them, but more than that, I want to throw up.  And I think about the fake smile I’m going to have to wear because this is the merriest eff-ing season of them all and it’s expected that I be happy, even when I’m sad. And quite honestly, I’m emotionally exhausted just thinking about it.

I used to be a Christmas person. But this year will be different. Very different. I am filled with equal mixtures of dread and determination to get through this holiday without coming completely unglued with grief.  The thought of it suffocates me.  It’s so hard to know that there are so many people like me suffering silently, putting on happy faces, tears in our eyes remembering our lost babies. I’m so ready for Christmas to be over. I have the biggest lump in my throat right now, I just want to throw up all of this sadness and start over. This is so utterly heart wrenching sometimes I wonder if I can wake up another day and do it again.

Before my daughter died, I had always imagined that child-loss must feel like a guillotine… bang!! Your head rolls off, blood spurts out of your neck hole and that’s that. You are a goner. It’s not that easy or quick. It eats you from the inside out, twisting your bones, wrenching your muscles, straining your nervous system and turning your skin into papery thin wrap. It’s waking up one day, deep in a hole with no flashlight. You hear a hundred and fifty-two voices at once. You feel like you need to outrun them. Hurry. You bump into everything, and your energy gauge is empty before you’ve even left the house. But you have to keep going, and not let everyone know just how tangled in the mind you are. And life keeps moving forward. You smile, and you stand under the mistletoe.

Merry Christmas.

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Recognized.

This will be short.

Five months ago I wrote this entry where I asked the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to begin recognizing the life of children born still with a stillbirth certificate.

This week I got a call from Service NL and was told that systematic changes have taken place, all because of my letter. And on Wednesday I picked this up:

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Thank you to Minister McGrath and Minister Crummell and especially to Ken Mullally at vital statistics for making this possible and helping to prevent families from jumping through hoops like I did at the hardest point in my life. I am so proud of my little Everlee for continuing to change the world. Her little life speaks volumes every day.

Choosing Happiness

I’ve spent a lot of time punishing myself.  When your baby dies it’s hard to see beyond the fact that you feel like a failure as a parent, and a human being.  As a mother, my only job was to keep my baby safe and alive. And I failed. Was it my fault? No. I know that. But the overwhelming sense of guilt sometimes causes me to punish myself for feeling anything but incredible sadness.

It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t walked in my shoes to imagine. The only  way I can possibly draw some parallel for those with living children is to imagine a time something has happened to your child – a bumped head or a scarped knee- because you maybe turned your back for a second. Imagine that guilt. Imagine how you questioned in that instant “if only I hadn’t turned my back for a second?”. Imagine that times about eight hundred million. I will always question what I could have done differently to save her, and I will always feel guilty that I am the one that lived while she was the one that died. It’s a mother’s guilt.

I’ve been trying very hard for the last little while to wake up and choose to be happy that day. Happiness has to be a choice for me.  I don’t just wake up feeling that way. I wake up every day with a feeling of emptiness, and that looming sense that something is missing. I honestly believe that every day for the rest of my life will have that hole in it. I will always wake up feeling sad and confused and empty Therefore, I have to make the conscious choice that despite everything that is missing, it’s still OK to feel happiness.  I deserve to be happy.  Worrying and punishing myself will never change the outcome of what has happened.  I have to start treating the world better than it has treated me, or I will never have a good day again.

These last two months I feel like I have turned a corner on my grief.

I still have awful days. I didn’t anticipate how hard Halloween would be. It makes me fear Christmas. I sat on my couch, home alone on Halloween night, begging to the universe not to send any more trick-or-treaters to my door. I cried my heart out over a “my first Halloween” sleeper that I had bought last year. I hugged it to my chest and cried. I cried because I should have been out with Everlee in her octopus costume. I cried for all of my lost dreams.

But those days are becoming farther between. I’m choosing every day to find some happiness, and to feel the love that I am so lucky to have found in my life.  I can’t believe that when things change I will be happy, instead now I am trying to believe that when I am happy things will change. I have found a place where I accept that I can be happy, and be still be sad and be grieving at the same time.  I don’t need to feel guilty when I laugh, or when I love. It’s not betraying my daughter to find happiness in my life.

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.