The Early Days of Loss

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This time, three years ago, were the “early days.”  Sixteen days since we learned that Nelle had died.  Fifteen days since she had been born.  I had already been to see a therapist twice.  I don’t remember if I had started working again or not.  And Theo’s birthday loomed – a trip to a waterpark hotel, planned months in advance.  I was relieved that we were not hosting a party, and simultaneously felt so much pressure to make the weekend celebratory for him – that he could be blissfully aware of the searing pain I still felt every minute of every day.

While having dinner at the waterpark, I received a text message that someone I know had given birth to a baby.  She sent a photo.  I stared at it thinking “How COULD you?  How could you possibly send me that right now, when my baby just died?”  But I couldn’t escape it.  The messages poured in, a flood of congratulations as a result of a group text.  I excused myself from the dinner table with my family to walk away and try to figure out how to silence the notifications.  And cried in the bathroom for awhile.

Those early days…. I don’t remember much.  It was a fog of disbelief and overwhelming grief.  I remember telling my therapist that I would go walking, sometimes long walks, nearly every day.  She encouraged me to look around for something new – a neighbor who had painted his door, a woman taking something from her car to her house, an old refrigerator left by the side of the road – anything that I could focus on in that moment.  It forced me to look around, and see things outside of myself.

Every time I go to a SHARE support meeting, there are always new faces.  Parents who are in the earliest, earliest days of losing their children.  Some in disbelief.  Some angry.  Often they talk a lot, about the plans they had, the baby things they had to pack away, and how alone they feel.

You are not alone.  I hear you.  I see you.  I know.

Those early days are not the only days.  Eventually, you wake and one day it is three years later and you wonder how so much time has passed and it simultaneously feels like yesterday.

You can now use words like “My daughter, Nelle, died.”  I can say her name out loud.  I couldn’t – for the longest time.  I just said “we lost the baby.”  So passive and apologetic, and allows the other person to feel less discomfort.  Not anymore.  Look at me – listen to me.  My daughters died.  That isn’t something that I just “move on” from.  Or forget.  Ever.

The early days are long and the years feel short.  It becomes harder to remember the person I was “Before” because now I have spent so much time in “After.”

Before, I thought pregnancy announcements were funny, the baby section at Target was cute, and pregnancy was an inconvenience for 9 months and at the end you were handed a baby for your troubles.  After thinks none of those things.

Before would spin into various dramas and throw her time and energy into resolutions – work, friends, home, whatever.  After wants nothing to do with that.  It’s too hard.  Tolerance for bullshit = zero.

Before wrote quips about the various family undertakings, carefree, funny, and mundane.  After feels that her only important voice is the one she can share about loss and how it never goes away.

I found myself needing, wanting to dispense “advice” to someone new in loss recently and I could not find the words.  How to articulate moving through those first few days?  The world feels like it is spinning, tilting, and unsteady.  I remember thinking “JUST STOP MOVING” as everything whirled around me.

The early days felt so alone and the later days feel less alone.  I know that other people around me “get” it and for that I am grateful.