We're in week 8. That's how I seem to categorize my "life after Olive". Its pretty natural, don't you think? If she were alive I would tell you she's 8 weeks old. Time, for the first few months of a baby's life, is typically given in weeks - so we're in week 8.
8 absolutely insane weeks. Weeks filled with every emotion a person can possibly feel. Weeks of sadness, difficulty, and gut-wrenching pain. Weeks of confusion, blame, faithlessness. Weeks of love, joy and happiness. Weeks of wonder, amazement and reflection.
If you didn't know that Olive had passed away, you'd think I was just like any other mother of a newborn, wouldn't you? That's what I've been struggling with most lately. Its not the sadness, difficulty and gut-wrenching pain - its the other emotions, the ones that make me feel like a human being again. The ones that have allowed me to pick myself off of the shower floor, and look at myself in the mirror without feeling like I've aged a thousand years. The emotions that have given me a voice that doesn't choke up every time I speak of my daughter, the ones that have allowed me to put on a little make up and buy myself some new clothes. Emotions that don't change the fact that I'm in love with my baby girl.
Yet, a new emotion arises out of all of that: guilt.
Lately I've been having more happy days with a few sad moments rather than sad days with just a few happy moments. I've been preparing to return to work, starting to get back to more of a routine and finding myself thinking ahead to the future.
And then I feel guilty.
I have guilt about everything.
If I'm not sad or hurting then I must not be close to her.
If I allow myself to laugh or have fun then I must be forgetting.
If I look at her picture and don't shed a tear, then I am just the worst mother in the world.
I even have guilt for unborn children that I may never have!
I feel guilty that I will never enjoy another pregnancy the same way
Guilt over not being able to rest for 40+ weeks until I'd hear that baby's cry
Guilt that every milestone another child has will be bittersweet
Guilt that every part of another child's life will have to be shared, intentionally or unintentionally, with a sibling they will never know
Guilt for thinking about the fact that someday we hope there are other children
Guilt that I could ever even love another child
Guilt that it will seem as though we're trying to replace her
It's only been 8 weeks yet some days it feels like a lifetime ago.
Now, I know that "mom guilt" exists and I know that I'm suffering from it. I also know (mainly through the wisdom of my husband and therapist) that it's natural, but I can't let myself get stuck in it. I'm working really hard to acknowledge the feeling of guilt but then trying to move on from it. I have nothing to feel guilty about. Olive isn't mad at me or disappointed in me for living my life -Olive is enjoying the most amazing feelings of unconditional love and peace. She doesn't have to deal with these petty earthly nuisances, and shouldn't I be grateful for that? Isn't it every parents wish that they could take on the hurt and pain of this world in place of their children? But it doesn't have to be all hurt and pain - that's the hard lesson for me in all of this.
Recently a neighbor invited me to a women's bible study at her house. We're reading The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministeries. The study isn't just about helping women to determine how to navigate making major decisions in their lives, but how to "see the hand of God in everything", even in every day decisions.
Today we were discussing assurances and "standing in the reality of truth rather than the reality of our circumstances". How do we trump our feelings with truth? I'm learning to do this by acknowledging my circumstances, acknowledging my emotions and then moving on. Just because I FEEL insecure doesn't mean I have to BE insecure. Just because I FEEL guilty doesn't mean I AM guilty of anything.
I can have a good day and still love my daughter. I can smile and have fun and still remember her. I can plan for my future and she can be a part of it, even if she isn't physically here.
"People fear what they don't understand. People let foolishness take them places they don't want to go. And feelings left unchecked will sometimes flat out lie to you". The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst
While 8 weeks can sometimes feel like ions ago, my daily roller coaster of emotions, left unchecked, can keep these wounds feeling raw and new. Last night, a fellow bereaved parent told me to "sit still in the wound". If we thrash about in the middle of the wound, it will stay open and raw. If we allow ourselves to sit still in it, it will always be there but will heal around us - becoming a part of us, but not scarring us.
"There is no right way to do this [grieve]", my husband told me last week. I can't help what my heart feels when, which is why I may be here in a couple weeks telling you that I'm a hot mess again (which assumes that I am currently less of a hot mess at the moment). For now I am trying really, really hard to welcome the happy days, welcome the moments of joy that come along with thinking about the future, and know that none of those feelings make me love my daughter any less.