Unique (adjective): Being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else
The scary thing about being past the one year mark, is that I expect myself to get “better” now. After all, it’s not healthy to dwell, is it? But the truth is, baby loss is a unique ‘journey’ for each individual, just like life is. So some people may be able to revert to type right away, others never will. Most people are probably somewhere in between. All, I expect, are irrevocably changed.
It takes time, to come to terms with what’s happened and to learn to live with it. It’s not moving forward, it’s not something you can leave behind, it’s just something you have to learn to carry. THIS is what my (first) counsellor must have meant when she said I needed to learn to live “side by side” with my grief – I remember that nonsensical soundbite irritating me. Now I can’t help but smile, as I realise that she was right. At the time, I couldn’t see how it could be at all possible, let alone probable.
The sad thing is, there’s no one formula. There is a unique trauma that comes from death. It’s something you have to make sense of, by yourself, by exploring it. Counsellors (I’ve had three) can listen. Friends (I have many) can try to understand. But there is a void that’s created and only you can really identify, then fill it.
When I reread my last blog I wondered:
In exploring all this, did I make Summer too real? Is that why I’ve struggled to get over it, this time?
But then I realised:
She was real, that was the ‘problem’
For me, there was a unique trauma that came with seeing the things I’ve seen: fingers and toes, knees, ears and thighs. Summer dying made it feel realer, than my first two miscarriages ever had. Up until Summer, I had glossed over that fact, convincing myself that it had been a nice dream for a while. With Summer, we were confronted with reality. No one could now tell me that she was just a bunch of cells or non-viable. I saw for myself, those reassuring word-tricks would no longer work. Pregnancies aren’t imagined, the lives are very real.
I realised that I couldn’t bear to have the same silence around Summer, as I had done with my first two miscarriages. I couldn’t just try again, I wouldn’t just brush over what had happened, replace this beautiful little girl with someone else. So instead of silence, I wrapped her in my words.
I made her real for all of you, too.
One year on, I thankfully do feel “better” about a lot of things. I feel relief and confidence about the place that Summer has – note the present tense – in our lives. Relief that so many of you speak about her and continue to speak about her. And confidence that I know we can and will always carry her with us now, facilitated by you. We could not have done this alone.
Mumoirs very much started, because of the waning acknowledgment, three months after she had died, while we were hidden away in a UK lockdown. If I had continued to be silent, a whole solitary year would have passed and Summer would have been forgotten. I know this, because those who knew her name, were afraid to use it. I was afraid to use it. James was afraid to. It felt foreign and odd to us all: this was a dead baby’s name. How much is there to say about a baby that has died? Lots, it seems – so say their names, little and often. We loss parents, will never tire of hearing them.
And it’s not just the writing that has helped. It’s the speaking. Speaking to other people who have been/are going through it. It’s when you think yourself crazy and are reassured by others wondering whether they themselves are: “Don’t worry, you’re not insane! But am I?”. It’s group counselling, solidarity, connection. It’s complete strangers becoming best friends. I’ve found my wonderful, talented, generous, hilarious, honest, thoughtful squad – now stuffed full of both old and new fighters – so maybe I can start slowly reverting to type, perhaps I already have.
PS I’m patting myself on the back for this blog title, not only is it an apt British phrase, but it encapsulates the fact that I feel the need to write a lot less these days
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