Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

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After The Bear Hunt

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.

A memory.

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.

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Reader Comments (7)

That is an incredible post Merry. i am so thankful never to have felt grief like yours personally but for those moments that I read your article you took me with you too to your dark place and beyond. You are a vary talented writer - maybe Freddie has given you this gift - a visceral need to express yourself which has allowed your amazing talent to surface. Thank you so much for sharing
July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
After our son died in 2010 my doctor really urged my husband to make an appointment and perhaps seek medication for his depression and anxiety. He refused because he wanted to feel everything. I agreed with him. It's been three years for us and despite the fact that we managed to irritate and anger almost everyone in our lives with our emotional outbursts and spectrum of feelings I honestly believe that we are doing better today than we could be doing because we gave ourselves permission to feel what we felt. We were depressed, angry, anxious, overprotective, hardened, sensitive...But we dealt with everything as it came to us. We didn't shy away from our feelings and we didn't try to cover them up. Sometimes I feel like I haven't come very far at all but then I take a look at my two healthy, happy living children and I see that we're doing okay.
July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Patrick-Howard
For me, this is one of the most powerful posts I have read here, probably because it mirrors my path and my family's path so closely. The fact that I too have had to navigate my two daughters through their brother's loss, and then a subsequent pregnancy a few months later. We are all so grateful that our beautiful baby boy arrived safely, but the journey is definitely different. I constantly check to make sure he's O.K. (something I never did with my two daughters). I grapple with the irrational fear that something will happen to my family every single day, and carry a lot of guilt that my daughters have the same fear because of what they went through last year. "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." This sentence captures everything I'm feeling so beautifully.

As I'm getting ready to face the 1st year anniversary of my son's death this weekend, I'm sure I will come back to read this. As painful as it is to feel all of this again, there is some comfort in knowing that there are others who are going through this and who understand. Thank you so much for writing this...
July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCaroLilly
Merry, this is an amazing post. Thank you so much. I'm just coming back to blogging now (long story) but this sums up so well the journey. I read the Bear Hunt book to Ali a lot, and I like it because unlike the "dear zoo" or "that's not my [insert repetitive thing here]" books, it is not about rejecting something because it is "too scary" or "too fierce" or it's "claws are too shiny" - instead it is about facing the hard stuff and going through it without judgement. For me, that is the best thing Z ever taught me.
July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Wow. Your writing is beautiful. I'm so glad you are here writing. "Not scarred exactly but somewhat brutally reshaped." This, I think, is a way I can describe it to others who haven't experienced babyloss, and they will understand. It is the essence of it.

I can't help but be jealous of those of you who have living children, who had children at the time of your loss. But at the same time, I wholly do not envy the experience you and others describe, of masking your grief to protect your children. This is such a journey of opposites, of paradoxical feelings.

I have sung/chanted that Bear Hunt bit many times since Joseph died. I hear it in my head the way my storyteller friend used to tell it, when I was a kid. Sing-song, rhythmic. Patting our knees on the march in, slapping our hands faster and faster as we ran away from the bear. But no matter how slow or fast the paces, can't go under it, can't go over it, gotta go through it. Swishswish, swishswish. In the version I knew, it was tall grass we had to go through. Now, I picture it like the sawgrass in the Everglades. Razor-sharp.

Thank you for sharing your journey.
July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBurning Eye
Merry, this is so beautiful.
This line:
"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."
And this:
"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."
Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for writing and speaking my heart.
July 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet
This is beautiful, Merry. Though our paths are different and I didn't bring living children along for the ride with me, I relate to so many of the emotions that you describe. Now that I have a 6-week old subsequent baby in my arms, the image of being "twice the mother and half the mother" couldn't ring more true for me, even if it is for different reasons. So beautifully written.
August 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

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