TRIGGER WARNING! Grief, Infant and child loss, NICU
No one has the market on grief. No one has the perfect guidebook on how to navigate it either. There is no right or wrong way really, just maybe some better ways to deal with it. Mostly you just have to do what works for you. I’ll have to admit, after Harper died, I struggled with God over my feelings. I knew on one hand, Harper had saved my daughter’s life (Harper’s mom), but on the other hand, how could something so precious be taken so soon. He was just too perfect for this world. His mommy told me that, and that’s what I believe.
You see, in early 2015 her boyfriend committed suicide. And the grief in the house was so thick you could barely move. I sat in my office working, and crying between client calls because in her bedroom, my sweet heartbroken daughter was violently sobbing. Guilt, what ifs and just plain old unadulterated sadness permeated her heart and mind. Her dad and I encouraged her to seek professional help because neither of us knew how to help her navigate this. Two days after her boyfriend passed, she said she was ready for help. Of course you have to wait forever for an actual mental health appointment, so we went to our local hospital ER seeking counsel for her. There lots of standard blood work was run, and we found out she was expecting Harper. We were shocked, but thrilled. I had told Beka the night before, that I knew somewhere, somehow, we WOULD find the silver lining in this sadness. And God surely provided it. He gave my broken daughter a reason to live.
It was all new territory to us, but her dad and I, and all of our friends and family supported her in every decision. Learning at 12 weeks that Harper had health problems meant we were facing an uphill battle. But she never gave up. Even when they offered her (more than once) to terminate the pregnancy. None of them could really grasp the importance of this life growing inside her, and I knew they were just doing their jobs. After a very stern NO the 2nd time they offered, they never mentioned it again. They saw a strong young mom, determined to give her baby every chance he deserved. I’ve never been more proud of her. She still had many sad moments over her loss, but there were many more happy ones. She glowed with the promise of new life and took really good care of herself. We had lots of doctors appointments, ultrasounds, echos, etc. But her dad and I made sure she didn’t miss any, and one of us always went to be a backup for information. Harper was born small, with many health issues, and even though he had his great days, he was taken from us at 4 months and 1 week old.
Nothing could have prepared us for that moment. You hold out all hope, you put your faith in medicine, God, and anything else you can. But somethings just come out of nowhere and bowl you over. No, they RUN you over and squish out every ounce of strength you think you have, leaving nothing but a numb shell. I can tell you that 345 days after losing him, the grief is just as present. It never goes away. As a grandparent, I grieved twice-over losing Harper, but also for my sweet daughter who had lost part of her heart. She amazed me when Harper was born, spending most every waking moment by his side in the NICU, then staying in his room with him when he went to the step-down unit. (most of you are probably saying “Well of course, wouldn’t any mom or dad?”, sadly we learned no, that is not the case.) She learned to change his ostomy bag (and was soon showing the nurses how to do it), how to feed him, pumped continuously, changed his diaper, rocked him, cried when he cried, and it all continued whenever he was at home. Syringes of medications that had to be given through his feeding tube, special feeding pumps, you name it, she did it. ALL!! I don’t know that I could have done all that, and I realized then, that God chose Harper for her, and her for Harper. He knew Harper would need a special mommy, one who would truly give up everything for him. She grew in caring for him, and she’s grown in grieving him. We all have.
A dear friend sent me this link today, and my very favorite (and the most true statement) is at the end.
“ The day I’ll stop grieving—is the day I stop breathing.”
If you’re experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one (I only have experience with my brother, dad and Harper, but you can reach out to me), reach out for help. I’ve found the words that helped me most were not from those who were supposed to be “experts”, but regular people who’ve actually been through it. I am no expert at anything, but I can listen and cry with you, and laugh when you have funny memories too, because you will. One day you will start out crying, and end up laughing. One day........
Cling to your friends who are there for you, your faith if you have one, and prayers, and then more prayers. It’s chronic, and will never go away for most people, but you will one day find you can breathe again.
(picture credit Selena Stoney)
(picture credit Selena Stoney)
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