How do I feel?

Gosh, where do I start?! Depends on the day, the hour–maybe “minute” would be more accurate. I feel like I have a rubber band ball bouncing around inside of me. I know that probably sounds silly, but it’s true. Rubber band balls begin with a core… for me, that’s made up of our experience… the second we lost Rylan. Then wrapped around that core you have all of these rubber bands that get stretched around it. Some are skinny, some are wide. They are made up of so many different colors. For me, those bands represent the hundreds of feelings that are stirring inside of me. They are all balled up in one big, chaotic bunch. If you’re someone like me than you will agree that anything can bring one of those emotions to the surface. A person, a place, a thing…it’s as quick and as simple as hitting a switch. It can often make you think you’re crazy. But rest assured, mom or dad… you are not crazy. I don’t think that any “normal” human being will ever be prepared for the difficulties that parents have to endure following the loss of their child. And, I’m not talking about the initial difficulties like saying goodbye, leaving the hospital, and arranging funeral services. I’m talking about the days that follow. The months and years that follow. I’m talking about what happens when the services are over, and people–friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, go home. Those people, for the most part, share your loss and sadness initially and even become a part of your experience to an extent. They sympathize and try to help out as best they can but at some point, pretty quickly, they move on with their lives. I mean, I get it, they have to move forward with their lives. Each individual has their own set of responsibilities and priorities to tend to in life. They can’t very well sit beside you holding your hand and being sad forever. Plus, being around sadness and loss sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a complete downer. Most people can’t even handle being involved in the initial experience. But here’s what I’m trying to get at–people like my husband and I can’t step away from the loss of our child. We are living that loss every day. We weren’t given a choice. We can’t outrun it. It will be there whether we’re at home, twenty steps from his empty crib or sunbathing far off on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And, if you’re anything like me, there are daily reminders of our loss all around us. The ironic part is that those reminders are the people, places, and objects that once made our hearts pound with excitement and joy. It’s excruciating. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without being reminded of babies, parents, or families. You watch your siblings with their children and wonder why you can’t have the same thing. That’s super difficult because you would never wish this experience on anyone else, certainly not your family. It’s just that you want what they have so badly. Advertising is the worst. Once you’ve signed up for your baby registry you can bet that your home mailbox (and email) will flood with diaper coupons and formula samples forever. The Babycenter app on your iPhone that once helped you eagerly count down the days to parenthood is now haunting your email inbox with tips for “fun with your new baby” that you’ll never need. You flip on the television and see families splattered across most commercials and almost every sitcom. If you feel that those things are harmful to your health please disconnect the cable for a month before any holiday, especially Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Better yet, just cancel it altogether–there’s always some stupid holiday to celebrate. Then there’s outdoor advertising. I’ll admit that I exceeded the speed limit (significantly) once, just to save my husband from noticing the image of a father holding his baby adhered to a local billboard. I couldn’t believe it when I drove beside a truck on the jersey expressway that featured a group of doctors standing beside a mother holding her newborn. The luck. And music. Music can be enough of a trigger on it’s own. You can flip on Pandora and hear an ad for Babies-R-Us, a local hospital maternity ward, or a new TV show about fathers. Trust me, I’ve heard them all and now pay $3.99 a month to avoid them. Don’t even think about picking up an “US Weekly” for a light-hearted read while you’re sitting under the dryer at the hair salon. Take my word for it–the words “pregnant”, “mom,” and “dad” are on every other page, usually associated with people that are less than role models. It will only raise the perpetual question that you ask yourself every day–”Why me? Why us?” Witnessing people like Snookie or Kim Kardashion wear their children like accessories is angering. But it goes beyond famous people and shameless product promotions. It can be just every day activities. You can look out your window in the neighborhood across the street and see a mom pushing her baby in a stroller or a dad biking beside his son. Going out to a restaurant can spark a range of emotions–you either boil inside at the sight of a parent ignoring their infant child or hold back the tears at the sight of a mom and dad smiling and cooing at their newborn. It’s impossible to avoid these things but you can try to limit the amount of tough experiences you encounter in one day. And, know that it’s okay to do that. Like I said before, outside of your significant other (hopefully), most people in your life have already stepped off of the sad train. They don’t feel the same way or understand your pain the way you do. Just remember that you know what is okay and healthy for you and how much you can handle. It’s okay to test the waters sometimes but don’t rush into situations that will harm your healing. If your family and friends love you they will accept your decisions. They may not understand how you feel, but they will accept it. Believe me, I’m no expert–I’m just here to share my personal feelings and experiences with you. When people ask how we’re doing I always say “hanging in there.” Grief is a gradual process with no right or wrong way, and no determined length of time for feeling better. My husband and I wake up every morning and get out of bed. I think that is a huge accomplishment. If you can do anything beyond that, than give yourself a gold star… you deserve it! I feel like my husband and I are different people than we were before. Some of the things that use to bring us joy or feel familiar feel different now–and I think that’s okay. I say, just keep trying until you find things that make you feel good or happy. If you can do it together, that’s even better. The grief counselor that we found said something I’d like to share–she said something to the effect of, “Grieving is a process that changes often, even daily. What makes you happy or feels right today may not feel the same tomorrow or next week. That’s okay.” I think that is a great insight. She also said that doing activities that use both the left and right side of your brain are good for toning down the sadness or anxiety you may feel. I think she’s right. My husband and I have tried a lot of things (even before she said that) to help us along this bumpy road. Some of the most enjoyable have been: taking an evening walk together (evening is good because less people are out and it can be very peaceful), swimming (great exercise and perfect for these hot summer days), coloring (yes, in a kids coloring book–it’s a no pressure activity, a little funny, and you end up with something nice to place in your baby’s room), seeing a movie (tip: just make sure it’s not a family movie), and mini-golf (again, evenings are great to avoid crowds–and many courses also have batting cages, which are a great way to unload your emotions). Well, that’s all I’ve got for tonight. Please come back soon…

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