Last week, I returned to the infant loss support group at the hospital where I delivered both of our daughters. I used to attend every meeting because I found it so healing to meet other parents who could relate. Those strangers literally understood me better than my closest friends, but I stopped attending several months ago because I had moved through the darkest days. After Genevieve’s birthday though, I wanted to talk.
As soon as we introduced ourselves, I felt out of place. The other parents had lost their babies within the past month or two and were still figuring out how to tell neighbors and acquaintances. They expressed surprise at how, on some days, they felt nearly as bad as the day that their babies died.
That’s when I saw how far I had traveled. I, too, once thought that my heart would heal just as a broken bone does. Each day, I expected to feel a little better than the day before. But the path wasn’t nearly so smooth. Grief is often compared to waves, and I find that so accurate.
In the beginning, I’m standing on the beach at high tide, waves constantly knocking me down. But I expect this because it’s high tide. This should be hard. A couple of months later, I think the water will recede. It doesn’t. The waves are fewer, but I’m still battered by sadness. Further, I’m shocked every time a wave arrives. Another one? Really? I thought high tide was over. I even laid out a beach towel because I was ready to have fun. I spend days trying to understand where the wave came from before I begin figuring out how to handle the sadness. This goes on for months, with me thinking the tide is out only to have another wave sneak up. Finally, I learn. Another wave is always coming. They are less frequent, and I scramble up more quickly afterward, no longer surprised at my sadness. But I don’t expect that this sea will ever be completely calm.
I didn’t say all of that to the other parents. I know it’s hard enough to get through a day, let alone a year. I did reassure them, though, that their emotions are typical. And when the meeting was over, I left with the feeling that I probably wouldn’t return. But I might. Always, I might.
(The photo is the charm I received at the hospital after having Genevieve. Every mom in Texas who loses an infant gets one.)