Written by Sarah Pridham, mum of Jasper, for Still Aware.
Continuing from my previous blog about the life lessons that I have learnt since the loss of our son, here is Life Lesson #4.
“It’s not what we have in our life, it is who we have in our life that matters”. This is life lesson #4. What do I mean by this statement? Well, this is something that has taken me a while to realise and think about following our loss – but just over a year later it is a topic that I feel passionate about and one that I can continue to look back on, reflect on and discuss quite confidently. This lesson is quite a harsh one, but in saying that, it is also an important one as well.
It is not the people that are there on the day of the loss, at the time of the loss, at the start of your journey of baby loss that matter – it is the people that are there months (and hopefully) years later that matter. What most people that haven’t been through this don’t understand is that the hardest time for a bereaved parent isn’t the initial time after the loss itself, but the future, when everything and everyone around them has gone back to ‘normal’ when their life has gone back to the ‘normal’ routine. This is the hardest time.
Unfortunately, most people think that they need to be there for you right at the start, when in fact you need them much later on. It seems to be their instinct to be there to support you straight away – to cook or clean or visit. In our case, it seemed to be that most people wanted to be there for us until after the funeral and then it seemed that they thought everything must then be ok, and that we must not have needed as much support. Obviously, I can’t read people’s minds (I wish I could), but from much observation through my journey this is just what I noticed – it seemed like because we had said our final goodbye that meant that we were ‘ok’ and that when we said our final farewell to our son, we were suddenly farewelling all of the grief and pain as well (I wish it was that easy but this certainly was not the case at all).
It is like they thought because we had gone back to work, because we were continuing to fall back into the ‘normal’ routine of life that it meant that we were ok, that we somehow didn’t need the continued support or assistance that most of them first offered. In fact, for me it was (and still is) the opposite.
When I did return to work and when life started falling back into routine is when I started to struggle the most and most people don’t seem to understand why – yet to me it seemed so clear and simple. I shouldn’t have been going back to work, I should have been staying home (on maternity leave) looking after our baby boy. Life shouldn’t be going back into the routine that we had before I went into labour, instead we should be creating a new routine which included our son. This is the time when we needed the most support.
Again, a lot of people wouldn’t realise that immediately after the loss of a baby you are dealing with such intense grief and dealing with the stages of grief as well as planning a funeral and wake (well, that was our situation anyway) that you are just in overdrive and just working through everything on adrenalin – it is when that stage is over and you sit back and suddenly are hit with the realisation of just how different life suddenly is to what it was meant to be – that is that hardest part of the initial grief journey.
When you experience baby loss you really do have to find what I call a ‘new normal’. What do I mean by this? Well, when you find out that you are pregnant and throughout your pregnancy you start to create this different kind of outlook on life – you start to plan what you will do as a family, family holidays and outings, start to think about how different life will be and that suddenly every decision that you have to make has to be based around a precious baby, and they are the focus and centre of everything in your life now. I had 38 weeks of thinking this way. Of imagining and planning my new world and life – so when the opposite suddenly happens, your world is literally turned upside down and the 38 weeks of planning your new normal suddenly and drastically changes and before you know it you must find another ‘new normal’.
The ‘new normal’ following loss is pretty much life before you were pregnant – however, it now must include the memory and legacy of your lost baby as well. You must learn to live carrying around the biggest weight on your shoulders, must learn to live one day at a time, one moment at a time and you must make sure that you put yourself first.
I’m still not sure that you can ever feel like your life is ‘normal’ again, although I also do not want my life to feel like it used to (and it shouldn’t), because I have a son. I am still a mother and because my life is now so different to how it previously was, it now means I have a ‘new normal’ and I am sure that I will continue to spend my days trying to get used to my new life – nearly a year and a half after our loss, I still take one day at a time, one sunrise at a time and one sunset at a time.
This is now my ‘new normal’ – learning to work through everyday and every moment with the most important part of me missing. Life after loss is not the same for anyone but when it is your child, it is completely different again because a parent should never have to bury their child, it is supposed to be the other way around.
When you bury your child, you also bury the best parts of yourself as well, life certainly does go on but it is never the same – never as good as it could be or should be.