AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF by ivy nault
Its been two years since we said hello and goodbye. Two years of living life without him.
And these last two years have shattered me, mended me, softened me, and strengthened me. Basically, it’s been a heck of a journey.
It doesn’t really feel like it has been two whole years. But it also seems even farther away now too. I guess the best way I can explain it is that I feel even closer to Beckett but I’m farther from the trauma and pain. I feel as if Beckett has always been a part of my story but now, finally, there is healing here. There is joy and laughter and hope. There are still waves of grief (especially around his birthday and around holidays) but they are farther apart now. And maybe I feel more adapt at bracing for them. Or maybe not. Sometimes the grief still takes my breath away.
But I am here. And I want to walk through what these last two years really looked like. My journey- through my own stages of grief.
Stage 1: Shock and Death
The day we found out Beckett had passed I remember I was laying on my bathroom floor praying. My face red and raw from the tears. Quiet despite the indescribable pain. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I was dying.
I kept looking in the mirror at my round belly and I knew he was still in there. But I also knew he was already gone. There was nothing that made sense in that moment. I was suppose to keep him safe and sound. My body, his home.
I tried so hard to be brave. To be strong. 5am they told me. Be at the hospital at 5am to begin induction. To give birth to him. To meet him.
The intense physical pain of sudden tragedy and grief is hard to put into words. I will never ever forget that night. It was the night of breaking. Utter brokenness spilled on that bathroom floor. It’s a pain so intense I didn’t think I could live through it. I didn’t know people could feel such pain and yet survive. It’s the darkest blackest crushing most suffocating pain I have ever felt. Yet somehow, 5am came and I was still alive.
Induction day came and the pain of grief was replaced with the pain of labor. But I was going to meet him! Sadness was there but so was nervous excitement.
Then, after twelve hours of labor, they handed me a tiny perfect boy. And everything changed. Grief came again. Love came. Joy over how perfect he was. Pride. Then grief again. An ebb and flow of every possible emotion. Back and forth and back again.
I eventually had to hand him back. I had to physically give my baby boy back and leave the hospital with an empty womb and empty arms and a completely shell shocked heart. Driving home that night I remember feeling numb. I hadn’t yet processed anything that had just happened. I couldn’t.
Stage 2: The Spinning
The first morning after his birth, I grabbed a piece of notebook paper and I remember scribbling HOPE over and over and over. I clinged to that word. I was so disoriented and physically weak I needed almost constant care. Recovering from birth and loss takes a toll that I’m still recovering from. Eat, drink, try to sleep. Everything was sore and upside down. One moment would bring a peace and calmness and another complete despair. It’s all spinning and whirling and it’s so hard to find your footing. Life in this stage was very surreal and very fragile. Everything felt raw and exposed. Everything was fragile. And everything was a reminder. The olives on my salad that I couldn’t eat while pregnant because of food aversions? I can eat them now because I’m no longer pregnant. I’m no longer pregnant…… but my baby is dead. He’s not here. He’s not here.
That was my daily thought process with everything. It was on repeat in my head. People worry that if they mention the loss or the baby, they will cause pain. But it was the opposite for me. The pain was there 24/7 and someone talking to me about it meant, for a brief moment, they were sharing in my pain. And for a brief moment my horrible terrible pain had purpose. He was really born. He was here. He has a name. I held him in my arms! Grief is so very lonely. So to have someone just sit in my grief with me was the kindest gift anyone could give.
Stage 3: The Blur
Which funeral home? Do you want cremation or burial? Or both? Do you want a funeral? Or a small memorial service? Catering? Flowers? Choose an urn. Do you have the birth certificate? Do you want an autopsy? Do you want genetic testing? Do you want anything to be cremated with him? Do you want to see him and hold him again?
The questions and final arrangements blindsided us. I had no idea what that process was like and had no idea what was in store for us. Walking in to the funeral home made me want to crawl out of my skin. Don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful and professional and compassionate and kind. But I was a dissaterous wreck. Nothing could have prepared me for that. Nothing. Choosing your baby’s urn is profoundly “wrong”. Laying them to rest in a tiny casket instead of a crib, is wrong. It’s all wrong. Those two weeks of arrangements and decisions was all a blur. You see things you should never have to see. You make decisions you should never have to make. You hold the lifeless body of your child and say your final goodbyes.
Then they call to tell you that your urn is ready. And bringing him home felt SO right. It wasn’t the way I had wanted or the way I would have planned, but he was finally home. And I was determined to fill our home with his presence.
Stage 4: The Longing
In the initial wave of support, we received the most beautiful gifts. Friends and family sent flowers, cards, meals, necklaces with his birthstone and name, lockets, willow tree figurines, shadow boxes, pictures, prints, blankets. All manners of keepsakes.
It was so unexpected but it soothed my heart so much. I could feel their prayers and love. I slowly started to buy things that reminded me of him too. I printed pictures, I ordered Christmas ornaments, I bought angel wings and paintings of his name. It brought a little joy to shop for him. To be able to physically do something for him. I bought more and more things. It made me smile to have a tangible reminder of him. To have something tangible. I needed that.
It was never enough though. There was an ache so deep and a hole so large that no quantity of items and pictures and keepsakes could fill it. I tried so hard to fill my home with him but the one thing I needed most I couldn’t have. I wanted my baby in my arms. I would do anything to have him in my arms. And while the keepsakes of him are some of my most prized possessions, in the end they could never be enough.
Stage 5: The Void
I had an intense desire to prove he was real. To have something to show for his life. That he was my son.
At this point in my journey, I was very much alone in my grief. It had been a few months and the initial outpouring of support had subsided. There was a quiet suggestion that I should try to move on. That it “was time”. Friends and family stopped mentioning his name and my loss seemed to disappear for everyone but myself.
Life was moving on now. There were sports games to attend, meals to cook, a house to clean, a business to run. There was life.
But I want to tell you something. Life may have continued on, but for me it didn’t. And as I watched the world move past my loss it broke me. Because I should be doing all of those things. I should be going to games and birthday parties amd decorating for holidays and making dinner too! But I should have my baby in my sling snuggled on my chest. I should be singing him lullabies and rocking him to sleep. He should be here too. And the events and invitations were heart breaking. I wasn’t ready to move on. I wasn’t ready to let go. I just wasn’t ready.
And then Christmas came. Not quite four months after his birth. I remember sitting alone on my bathroom floor once again. I remember longing for it all to end. Not only was grief a close friend but I also had post partum depression. My milk had finally dried up and my stomach was flat again- from the outside I looked fine. On the inside, I felt broken beyond repair. That first Christmas was a tough one. As were all the “firsts”. The void was all encompassing. The emptiness of a grief so large but a grief that you alone endure. It’s dark there in the void.
Stage 6: Could it be?
Slowly, slowly, something started changing in me. I didn’t want to acknowledge it for fear of it all unraveling. I had lived in the void for so long. Had settled in deeply with the grief. But there it was none the less.
It started with a smile. With a laugh. With a hug. It started like warm sunshine trickling in. The tiniest bit of healing. I don’t know what spurred it. Was it time? Was it my desire and determination to find joy again? Was it Jesus? I have a feeling it was all of those things.
A few weeks after Christmas we found out we were expecting again. Pregnancy after loss is a whole lot of emotions. But it brought something for me. It brought hope. Not to replace the son we lost. We could never do that. But a hope of new joy and new life. It also brought indescribable fear. But oh how I clung to the hope.
As spring came, I started to heal more and more. Maybe I was good at staying distracted. I’m not sure. But it was working.
I don’t believe there is a set time table for grief. I believe every story is different and there are no right or wrongs in grief. But I started to have half my days filled with happiness again. And I remeber telling myself I could do this. This “half and half”. Half joy and half grief. A dance of hope and loss. Making it to where half my moments were happy was a HUGE milestone to me. I started to feel like I could breathe again.
Now, half my time was also surrending to the grief I knew all to well. And unfortunately I couldn’t plan which half was grief. It would hit me randomly and without warning. I remember walking with my family in an outdoor antique show and seeing a set of beautiful angel wings. I lost it. I remember walking by a mama with a baby boy and choking down tears. I remember sitting in the room waiting for an ultrasound and being completely hysterical. I remember a song and a movie and something that was said and I remember it all. Random crumblings as I attempted to find happiness but was yet reminded of my loss. Half and half. But there was hope.
Stage 7: The New Me
This is the stage I am currently in. Over time my 50/50 became 80/20. And now I’d say I’m at 90/10. My grief is still as unpredictable as always but I can feel it coming on. And the waves are gentler here. And I’m stronger. And now that I know I can endure them I have more strength to face them.
But there is something else here. When I think of him now I find myself smiling. I’ll go sit by his shelf and his urn on days that I need him. I can look at pictures and feel love instead of despair. I see signs and know he is with me. Here in this stage there is a peace and a joy. There is pride. I am proud to be his mother. I am so honored to be his mother. Here in this stage there is a gentle sweetness. I love this sweet precious boy and I am thankful for our journey together. For what he taught me. How he changed me.
In this stage I’m determined to honor him by living life to the fullest and by giving back. I’m working on a non profit in his name. I want to spread hope to others who are walking through the darkness.
I also have found my faith renewed. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you that my faith was shaken. For the first time in my life I really doubted. I doubted how a God who loved me could take my son away. But he hasn’t been taken away! He is home. And although he is there before me, I know we will be together again. I know He is who He says He is. And I trust His promises. He too lost His son. He walks beside me and has never left me.
So here I am. Where I go from here I’m not sure yet. But I’m so hopeful. And I know He will walk me through whatever else this life brings.
Trials do indeed create endurance.
It may have taken me two years to find myself again. To find out what this new me looks like. To find out what living life after heartbreaking loss is all about. To rebuild a faith stronger than before. To be refined by fire. It may have taken me two years, but here I am.
If you are in the depths of grief, hear me sweet friend. There is healing. There is happiness again. There is joy and laughter and dancing and there is hope. There is, I promise. I can’t tell you when or what it will look like for you but I can promise the suffocating grip of grief does soften. And your heart will be strengthened. The sun does shine again. I want you to know I am praying for you and lifting you up as I walk beside you in grief. Keep going 💛.