The discussion boards for Glow in the Woods are truly that warm, welcoming campfire to so many of those who find us in the darkest of journeys. Throughout Glow's five years, the boards have grown tremendously. We are so grateful to how graciously our community continues to abide, listen, and support one another. Through our growth and feedback from our community, we felt it was time to expand and add another board--Parenting after Loss. Whether you were parenting children before your loss, or parenting a child born subsequently, Glow felt it was time to create a space to talk about the specific issues around parenting and grief. We hope this space will be welcoming to those in all stages of grief and parenting. As always, if you have any suggestions or feedback on the community section of Glow in the Woods (the general board or the ttc/pregnancy/birth after loss board or our new board parenting after loss), please contact us here. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Today, we are thrilled to introduce Merry of Patches of Puddles as our new Board Moderator and a regular contributor. Merry's support and love permeates all the nooks and crannies of this community. Merry's fifth child Freddie lived for eleven days in SCBU before dying of pneumonia. She is parenting Freddie's little brother and four older sisters in the UK. We are so lucky to have her keen eye, compassionate heart, and eloquent voice among ours. --Angie
“You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it…Oh no, you have to go through it.”
So say the words of a rhyme my children sing; lines that have played in my head since I stepped upon this grief path. The Bear Hunt; the long, difficult, fearsome journey.
I tried to find a way to scramble over grief, glide upon its surface and slither down over the other side of a glass dome that reached skyward, holding my baby and my pain inside it. I pledged to write him out of my mind and memory, believing I could escape the trite truisms of the steps of grief. With no intention of reaching acceptance, I relished denial. Busy, stretched beyond measure by the damaged children surviving Freddie alongside me, I pushed my tears to the quietest moments, the dead of night, the bathroom, lonely car journeys of the parent taxi trail. In the daylight, fear and pain on the faces of his sisters when I cried was too awful to behold. Keep it together, put on a brave smile, hold them when they cried. Just keep swimming. Just keep gliding.
Just keep scrabbling desperately to hold on to the life that had been ours, when we could count our children without confusion. When we could hold them all in our arms. When there was no space on the sofa, no space in our hearts, no empty spot between us all.
And then came despair. Choking, horrifying, utterly consuming and black as night and twice as bitter, despair. And I tried to go under it. I told the world and all her wives of my lost son, just to see the shock, see the horror, see the recoil from all the checkout women and frightened postmen who wished the crazy lady away. Begone, with your foul, mud soaked, horrifying grief. Get over it. Move on. Be on your way with your inappropriate love for a boy made of ashes. His loss rose up between us all, the husband and girls who went on and relearned a smile and the mother, woman, wife and now barren and broken part-human who tunnelled through days and wondered how to make another life. Month after month, I sunk beneath blood and anger and disbelief as a never birthday loomed and a life mourning a baby stretched impossibly - broken - in front of me.
You can’t go over it.
You can’t go under it.
Oh, no… you have to go through it.
Through the mud. Through the tears. Through the river that takes the feet from under you. Through the grass that sways above your head, disorientating, blocking the view, all you can see. And all the time dragging my broken children along with me, committed to the path I had chosen - the hunt I had wanted - which was punishing them so utterly.
The work and effort of grief, a journey, a slog, all to find a big black cave and a big black bear and turn tail and run for home, retracing steps, trying to find the place where once you were, trying to keep my other children safe as they bumped and scurried alongside.
And then… and then… lying on the bed, chest heaving from the chase, bones exhausted, tears all cried out and heart hammering. A memory of horror and fear and the jawed yaw of utter destruction, of unimaginable pain, right there, in your mind’s eye.
Slipping… sliding away.
He was here. One of us. I do remember him. We did love him. I do love him. He was a person and he is – always - my boy. He was also a journey, one that broke me on every step and which brought me home, but not to the same place.
And, having gone through it, I tell you a truth now. Life goes on. Not the same life. Not the same person. Not scarred exactly but somewhat brutally reshaped.
The journey, now part of me, has the air of a badge of honour to it. I would not be without it. Here, in the unasked for afterglow of grief, I find myself, us, a family, with every decision we make infinitesimally altered by the knowledge that one of us can die.
The lens is different. Everything I do is tinted by the grief lens. My girls go out and I hope to see them safely back. The telephone rings and I hope to not hear of death. A baby is born and my head reels that people ask for weight and gender, not first breath safely taken. My child, admitted to hospital, makes it safely home. I am stunned by survival. The car breaks down, expensively. Nobody died. Our livelihood is precarious. Nobody died. The toddler ballpoint pens the expensive sofa. It’s just a thing. Nobody died.
This is my story, 3 years on. Mine is a journey complicated by my travelling companions; the living children I brought with me, guilt that they know grief, regret that they see fear in my face when illness strikes, sadness that they fumble answers to simple questions about brothers and sisters. Nothing has been the same for them since Freddie died. They do not have the same mother, or father, or family. Everything is a fight to weigh the knowledge of loss against the right to independence. They trod the terror of the subsequent baby path with us and their life is changed because of that. And his life, the precious princeling who came after, is a kaleidoscope of the fragments of loss, love, longing and fear and joy and wonder that he has as yet no knowledge of and cannot change.
I am not the mother I was. I am twice the mother and half the mother, a patchwork of unwanted experience. I am surviving the hunt and the fear, but I will never be home, not quite.
Where are you on your grief journey? Have you tried to move under it? Over it? Tell us what it is like to move through it.