"My life is over"
These are words I said and believed for years following the stillbirth loss of my twin baby girls. Check out my story and how I help others HERE. Once the initial numbness wore off and what I assumed was my "new normal" started settling in I just accepted that this is as good as it gets.
Don't get me wrong...I was happy that I became pregnant again 4 months after my loss. I was happy that I had two adorable little boys who forced me out of bed to distract me from my own thoughts and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I had with them. I was happily married and we were navigating our grief as well as each other's and fought hard to keep it together despite the odds.
But dream about a delightful goal-filled future? No thanks. My future was gone.
Unfortunately, one of the first things that a baby-loss parent (particularly the mother) feels is guilt. No matter how far along you were, or the details around the loss there is so much guilt that it can be debilitating. There is guilt about what you could have done differently, the guilt of what you ate or drank before you even knew you were pregnant that you imagine might have been the cause of this, and even guilt that you are causing other people to be in pain.
The guilt gives way to a feeling of selfishness if you find yourself laughing or experiencing anything besides grief. It's almost as if you are being disloyal to your baby because there is a sense of moving on with your life when they didn't even get to start theirs. These feelings are all very common and normal but extremely hard to process for the grieving parent and it's easy for them to slip into a state of existing but not really living.
The world looks very different to a mother who has just lost her child.
People who she once was close to no longer seem to understand or maybe have said something they shouldn't. Close friends are there to help but are expecting her to be who she once was and she knows that person died with her baby. Her husband doesn't seem to be on the same wavelength and she is wondering if he even experienced the same loss she did. Complete strangers come up to her and offer well-meaning words of compassion but considering they have never buried their baby, their words feel like salt in the wound. It can be a very lonely, hopeless place.
I stayed in this state for a while (actually, too long). Making the best of what was, pasting a smile on my face and telling myself I was okay, and getting through each day the best I could. Sometimes I even convinced myself. My self-confidence took a dive as I was frustrated with my body's lack of ability to keep my babies alive. The people-pleaser in me wanted to make sure everyone else felt fine and didn't want them to have to worry about me. But I still had an underlying feeling that I would never (and didn't deserve to) feel true joy again. I was going through the motions and waiting for the day I can reunite with my babies again. It was as if I was somehow punishing myself by not living the life I was meant to live.
When you are in the messy middle you come to a fork in the road. You can choose to punish yourself and survive or you can choose to live differently.
Until...I was introduced to personal development. It was something I never spent much time thinking about outside of watching the Oprah Show for an hour a day as the kids were napping. I thought it seemed nice but it was for other people. Then I met a life coach at a business training and was so inspired by the transformation that was happening in me that I decided to give it a good try. She gave me a glimpse into the life I was missing out on.
Through the next several months in coaching, I was able to give myself permission to dream again. That I didn't have to hold my breath anymore and could choose to create anything I wanted in my future. It was so eye-opening and I could feel actual healing begin to happen. I saw the gifts that my babies brought to my life and how I had evolved as a better person, businesswoman, wife, and mother because of it. All gifts that would have stayed hidden if I didn't make a choice to have a better life. It was so energizing and I couldn't believe that I almost settled for a s0-so life believing that I didn't deserve better.
It felt good to talk out all my beliefs and figure out where they all came from. I started to set goals that were something I never had done and made sure they were very small at first to lessen the disappointment if I didn't reach them. I had learned to live with the motto of "we'll see" because when you experience the loss of your child you never assume again that life will go as planned. I gradually kept dreaming bigger and bigger until my life as I once knew it became unrecognizable.
The future doesn't have to be bleak.
There is a time for grieving and you should absolutely take all the time you need, but then there is a time to re-create. Re-invent. Take the gifts that your baby and that experience brought you and find someone (whether it's Oprah or your best friend) who can cheerlead you to a different outcome. Talk it out. Figure out why you feel the exact things you feel and what could be different for you. Your life will never be the same and you will never be the same, but what if you could become better for it? What if you could hold compassion for others who are struggling through a hard season? What if that was the ultimate way of honoring your baby is to live life fully and with purpose and passion? You deserve to live a full and beautiful life and start by dreaming again.
You get to choose.
*If you would like to find out more about me and how I support women and families who are struggling after the loss of their baby to heal and move forward so that they can live a life full of possibilities again download my free video series with tips and tools to help you cope with the loss of your baby.