Support, Solace, and a See-Saw

Heartstrings mother Rachel shares her experience leading up to the first birthday of her daughter, Georgia.  She talks about the balance and imbalance of the grieving process, and the support of those around you.  We thank her for her openness and honesty.

I read in an article that there are two dates that are important and so very tough for a grieving parent in the years following the loss of their child.  Their birthday, and the day that they died.

My stomach turned over when I read that.  What if those days are one in the same?  Birth was death, and death was birth for my Georgia.  

When all of my experiences with my child have been reduced to a mere few hours that I held her lifeless body in my arms, I am angered that once again, I don’t even have two anniversaries to remember.  Only one.  

When death and birth commingle, the very meaning of life is flipped on its head, I think.  We just can’t believe that death could come hand-in-hand with birth.  A new beginning, simultaneously, is a tragic end.  It doesn’t make sense. It’s just not right. It jumbles our brain and leaves us frantically asking “why?”.

It scares us to our core.

In the months that I’ve been living (i.e. treading the surface of) a life after the birth/death of my daughter, I’ve been riding on this see-saw of support and fear with other people.  Life, undoubtedly, has returned to normal for most of my friends, family, co-workers, and talking about my loss isn’t on the front burner any longer.  And I understand it.  It just can’t be that way. And who would want it to? It wasn’t their loss.  It wasn’t a life turned into a death inside of their very own body.  It hasn’t changed who they are...rewoven the delicate fibers of their being, like it has mine.

There are those people who I ride the see-saw with, and it’s nice. So nice.  Gently, we push off the ground, alternating in a rhythm of understanding.  I can speak of Georgia and they listen.  They want to listen. I float weightlessly up and down.  My legs don’t get tired because they take half the load off of me.  I cry and remember when my daughter’s birth was also her death, and they lower themselves, in order for me to rise up.  I can ride this see-saw with them easily, and for as long as they’ll let me.

Then there are the ones that quickly, after hopping on with them, I find they are not the ones I want to be on it with.  We aren’t in sync.  My weight feels so much heavier, and we are uneven. They are scared, and I quickly realize it was a mistake to ride it with them.  These people search for things to say to make it easier...usually for them...and for the ride to just end quicker.  I don’t get the satisfaction and the solace that I’d hoped for when I take a ride on the see-saw with them. It always falls short.  “It’s going to be ok.”, they say, just before hopping off.  And I go crashing painfully to the ground. The ride is over.  My feelings are hurt. And I’m sitting in the dirt regretting I ever got on it with them.

And then there are the ones who never even get on…

It takes someone strong and balancing to support a grieving mama.  And brave.  I had no choice but to be in this life, riding this ride.  It’s the people who choose to ride it with me, support me, and allow themselves to feel even just an ounce of my weight that I long to surround myself with.  Facing the truth that birth sometimes means death is tough.  Really, really tough.  None of us want to believe it can happen that way.  It goes against everything we know to be true.  Beginning. And then The End. Alpha. And then Omega.  There’s supposed to be a whole lot of stuff in between.  And when there’s not, it scares the shit out of us.

I am still in awe of the moments when I am feeling the weight of Georgia’s loss heavier than I do at other times, and I’m crying, or folded up into myself and don’t have much to say because my mind is set on her, and people who know my story ask “what’s wrong?” or “are you ok?”.  It’s an innocuous inquiry.  And truly, one of care and concern, I know.  But a part of me feels angry.  I just think “what do you think is wrong?!” in the brattiest and most over-sensitive tone.  What else could or would I be crying or thinking about?  People need to know an immediate cause for this effect.  They don’t want to believe that, going on 11 months out from Georgia’s death, that grief still strikes me so harshly. And so publicly. We are taught, that the tears and mourning come quick after death.  And exit the scene just as quickly.  Only those that know the weight of losing a child understand that our grief, our tears, our mourning are like the tides.  Outwardly and visibly, it comes and goes, but more importantly, it never, never stops.  It’s part of an ocean that is bigger than most people can comprehend.  But somehow, we feel it’s depths when we involuntarily sink into it.  

I am finding out about this “time table for grief” that others seems to have, that I’d heard about early on in mine, and that I didn’t want to believe was true.  Being stuck in this place of constant remembrance, striving to honor a little girl gone too soon, when the world and the people that surround you slowly return to their places of normalcy, has been one of the hardest battles yet in this war. Even still, I would never want to move on from it myself.  Our grief is our connection.  And even if a day comes, that I am the only one left carrying it for Georgia, I will choose it.  

I will sit on that see-saw of support and fear, and endure the rough rides, in hopes of the gentler ones. The ones where the person on the other end isn’t afraid of the fact that a birthday can also be a deathday.  That a beginning can become an end, way too soon.  And that the search for solace is the single most important mission for this empty and heartbroken mama.