In May, I was participating in the Great Diaper Hunt contest. (It's fun, and hey, I won a diaper bag, a diaper, and some other stuff in November). When I came across an entry from one of the sponsors mentioning that she just found out her son was stillborn. I went to her blog and began reading.
I was immediately struck by so many things. While the basics of our story are different, I feel like our responses are pretty much the same.
For those of you who don't know, our daughter Hannah died when she was five months old. The short version is that she was born with an annular pancreas, which means her pancreas was wrapped around the exit to her stomach. Because of this, her intestines never developed properly. In order to make sure that she received adequate nutrition, she was given TPN, an intravenous nutrition. The downside to TPN is that it can wreck your liver, which it did in Hannah's case, and she died of liver failure. (Side note: Become an organ donor. No excuses).
Shortly after her death, while we were in the heaviest part of grieving*, I began to read books on loss in order to see if I could find something to help me make sense of it all. I couldn't find anything. As a Christian, I was angry and frustrated and sad and everything else, but I didn't blame God. I knew God shared my sadness and in the new earth I wouldn't have to deal with this. (One of the cards I treasure was from a friend who wrote that God was weeping with us, and if you are ever looking for words to send to a grieving Christian parent, those are helpful. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell them that their child is better off because now they are with God. That is NOT helpful). All the books I ended up reading had nothing to do with how I felt. In fact, I have never really come across anyone who has grieved in a similar manner to me, until I began reading Heather's blog.
Here is a Christian woman who has lost a child. She is angry and sad but she knows hope too. In fact, this post was what made me finally write about her. (I should clarify. I have never contacted Heather nor do I know her in person. I just admire how she writes about her grief and loss, but I will be sending her a link to this post). I remember so many of her emotions, and I've heard so many of her comments. Her responses have been almost exactly what I've thought or said.
So, to Heather I want to say, it does get easier, but sometimes that makes it harder. Your memories are so few that you desperately want to hold onto them. It's scary when they fade a little. The unexpected holidays are the hardest. I was surprised at how hard New Years was. Hannah's whole life was lived in 2005, so how could it be 2006, a year in which she never existed. You are right to accept joy. If the future holds more children for you, they will never replace Sawyer (as you know), but their laugh provides healing that nothing else can.
On another side note, I struggled with prayer for a long time after Hannah's death. While she was in the hospital, I prayed like I never prayed before. (During our time there, I felt like we got several messages straight from God. I was in the washroom on the ICU floor and carved in to the toilet roll holder was the word "prayer"). But after she died, I stopped praying because how could such honest and open prayer be denied. This year I attended a Bible study at my church, and we spent several months on prayer. It was during Holy week** that I read this post, and I had a major revelation about prayer. God lost his son, and Jesus prayed that it wouldn't happen. How awful it must have been to know that you had to deny such a request. A request that I'm sure was not easy to deny. I've been able to see my loss in a new light.
*Shortly after Hannah died, Henry and I went on a trip to learn how to breathe again. While hiking in Maine, we had a discussion about the difference between grieving and mourning. I think that grieving is an immediate act with a timeline, and it does come to an end. Mourning is neverending. We will forever miss Hannah.
**As yet another side note, when I was pregnant with Hannah, I really related to Christmas - the joyful expectation of birth. With Moses, it was Easter - the joy that comes after loss.