By Suzanne Nordmann
For most people who have lost someone they love, finding a new normal is one of the many challenges of grief. The space that is left by a loved one’s absence is tricky - emotionally and logistically. Life has to go on without them and understanding how you might do that; how routines will happen, how you might function without their presence feels impossible, I imagine.
But when you have lost a baby, one who died before they were born...well, that space is quite a bit different.
My baby died when I was 37 weeks pregnant. She was healthy and growing and normally. She had a car seat and a crib and a family waiting for her.
Then she was dead. Yes, she existed and was part of our lives during pregnancy, in a sense. But only in a very abstract sense. Our routines did not yet include her. She slept and woke, wriggled and twisted in her own private world. We were not yet familiar with her personality, we had no nicknames for her. I never saw her face animated and I don’t know the color of her eyes or how they might have twinkled at the sight of me. No, our reality before she died included mostly the idea of her, of who she would be and how she would change us.
So when she died and was no longer, it felt – feels – so surreal. I can’t quite say it feels like a dream for a lot of reasons. For one, the emotions around her loss are not the soft, ethereal feelings of dreams. They are “sock you in the stomach, fall apart while driving to work, fight tears all the time” feelings. They are wrecking ball feelings. For another, even the most haunting dreams fade and become far off. They lapse into the void, forgotten, before returning as a thin memory. But this thought - that my baby, my girl - that she died, it never leaves me. I am never distracted from it. I am perpetually heartbroken by it.
And yet I sometimes find myself pondering that she was ever here to begin with. My life, at least on the surface, has returned to some semblance of normalcy. My husband and I went back to work. Our older child is happily oblivious to it all. We grocery shop and read bedtime stories and watch TV. Those routines that existed before Lucia have fallen back into place, leaving me to wonder how in the world we are living this life that looks so familiar and feels so different.
I also wonder where there is room for Lucia in this new space and what giving her room looks like. I cannot stomach the idea of going on as if she never was. I am desperate to acknowledge her existence. On the other hand, she was not a tangible part of our life so where does she fit? How can we speak of her without just speaking of what it was to lose her? We are struggling to live without her as we are also seeking to live more with her.
The grief specialists suggest creating ritual and ceremony around lost babies to remember them. We are working on that as a family, trying to find the ritual or ceremony that feels like a right fit for us. We have begun lighting a candle at dinner every night and voicing the many things we’re thankful for, which gives us the opportunity to say Lucia's name. My husband and I are independently figuring out our own process for acknowledging her privately, in whatever way we need to. It helps. And it hurts. But everything hurts right now.
The reality as it stands is that each and every day, I ache for and deeply miss this person - my child - who I didn’t get to know. Whose breathless body I cradled for a few short hours before I said goodbye to her. I struggle to make sense of it while also accepting that it simply is. I honor and respect the process of grief and let it happen as it needs to, in all of its gut wrenching glory, even as I loathe it. I try to maintain connections in my relationships because I need them. I long for a feeling of peace and know that we will get there eventually. Someone further along this journey than me beautifully wrote this of her lost baby:
She is the wind and the chimes and the full moon and the prayers and the stardust and atoms and the fireflies. She is everything. Because of her we are here. And here is beautiful.
And with this thought, I can breathe another breath and make it another day.
Suzanne Nordmann lives with her husband and 2 year old daughter in San Diego, CA. She lost her second daughter, Lucia Jane, on August 2, 2014.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
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