Losing a baby is devastating, and I will never try to tell you otherwise. It’s unfair, it’s heart breaking, and it’s completely life changing, and there are no word to truly describe how that feels. And in those early days when others try to rally around and support you, when they comfort you with kind words and gentle hugs, when they tell you that it will get easier in time, it’s impossible to ever imagine a time when it will.
Because I was just like you in those early days, when you’re simply existing from one moment to the next, when you’re head is spinning and your heart is aching, and your arms are longing for a little one to hold. I found it hard to even begin to imagine a time when it might not hurt to breathe, when I might wake in the morning without reeling from the shock at all we had lost, to get through a day without buckling from the weight of the burden of loss on my shoulders.
And so when others told me it would get easier, I didn’t believe them either, not even for one minute.
But it did, in time.
Slowly but surely, without even realising it at first, you find that you can get out of bed in the morning, go about your day, make conversations and perform simple tasks, just holding it together, putting one foot in front of the other, surviving from one moment to the next.
And I guess that’s the thing about grief, that, sooner or later, even during the darkest times of our lives, our survival instinct will kick in and keep us afloat. Because in those moments, when your whole world has been turned upside down, it’s all about getting through the day by whatever means possible, even if that means shutting off our emotions, putting on our blinkers, and focusing purely on the goal.
And the goal is quite simply to survive.
Weeks, months, or even years later, when you’re finally beginning to piece together the fragments in the aftermath of your loss, when you’re clawing back your life with every ounce of strength you can muster, when you feel as though you have finally mastered the art of survival, that’s when life will feel a little easier.
And perhaps, for a while, that will be enough. Perhaps you will find moments of peace amongst your sadness, days when you can laugh and smile and enjoy fleeting glimpses of hope amongst a sea of waves; perhaps you will tell yourself that this is as close to happiness as you’ll ever get, that treading water is still always preferable to drowning. But sooner or later, all in your own time, you will realise that there is more to life than surviving and the time has come to start living again.
And that’s when it’s going to get even harder.
Because learning to live again means allowing yourself to open up to the outside world, to feel all of the emotions which you shut yourself off from, to embrace the possibility of heartbreak, the potential of losing someone you love, the risk of toppling the foundations you have worked so hard to rebuild. And it takes real strength to put down your shield and face that fact, that regardless of how much you fight it, and regardless of how much you wish it could be different, like it or not, this is your life now and there is nothing at all you can do to change it.
And honestly? Learning to live again, in a world you no longer recognise, without the child you had planned a future for, is the hardest challenge any of us will ever face, I’m certain. Learning to break out from behind your walls of self preservation is incredibly tough, learning to leave the house without that metaphorical blindfold is inexplicably hard, learning to be around friends, around family, around pregnant ladies and newborn babies, is always going to be agonisingly painful.
But as much as learning to live again is tough, it’s your only real hope of happiness. Because it is only when you are truly living your life that you will find you can finally breathe again, that the ache in your heart dulls, even if just a little, that you start to look forwards instead of back.
And I guess the hardest part of a life after loss is that there will always be days when it hurts far more than the last and it can leave you questioning if you will ever know true happiness again? There will always be moments when you focus on that pain more intensely, or when you allow your mind to wonder to the whys and the what ifs; there will always be moments when you would give everything just to go back in time and change the outcome, when you long for the child who should be right there by your side. But there will also be moments when you think of your child and your heart feels full, when you look back on those memories you made together and smile, when you feel an overwhelming sense of love and pride and complete and utter gratitude that they were yours, and you were theirs.
And sat here now, almost 13 years down the line, I want to tell you that although living without my child is the hardest challenge I have ever faced, and although my answer will change on any given day, right now, today, I can assure you that it does get easier. There are days when Joseph is no longer the first thought in my head each morning, nor the last thought I have each night. There are days when his loss no longer consumes my every waking moment, when the sound of his name no longer takes my breath away, when I can see the smiling faces of his peers without feeling crippled by anger and pain at all that we lost.
And that’s okay for me to admit.
Because the truth is, when you are truly living your life, you live it right there in the moment. You wake up every single morning with your eyes, with your mind, and with your heart wide open. You see light instead of darkness, joy instead of sadness, and you see a future instead of the past. You live every moment to the fullest, take every opportunity with both hands, you love with your whole heart, and you accept that letting go doesn’t mean giving up, it just means accepting there are things that cannot be.
And I want to tell you that it’s okay for life to get easier. It’s okay to feel happy, to feel fulfilled, to feel complete. Learning to live your life again does not mean that you miss your baby any less or that they are forgotten, nor does it mean that you have left them behind. It simply means that you are doing everything in your power to carry them forward in everything you do, to find true happiness again as you deserve, and to live a wonderful life for the both of you.
And you will.