The last time my staff saw me I was pregnant. A life form developing inside me waiting to join our family and then nothing to hold, nothing to breastfeed, nothing to change diapers and wake up in the middle of the night to rock. I remember my breasts being so sore and painful that my brother binded me with a sheet to reduce the pain. So this is what this feels like. I’ve always nursed my children for months after birth. My first thought was, “who would ever want to go thru this pain.” Breastfeeding would take this pain away but there was nothing to nurse, nothing to burp, nothing to look down at and that made me mad. The many things I didn’t realize at the moment I lost Russell that I would go through the next two weeks of my life. These events would constantly remind me of Russell. Yes, there would be moments I would want to escape from these feelings. But looking back on my experience the afterbirth was there for a reason, to start my grief journey. I thank God for those moments.
Eric went back to work immediately. Even before the burial. Then I was resentful now I understand. Me, it took weeks, months. Bereavement leave was long, depressing, rejuvenating, cold, lonely, and at times overwhelming. There were thoughts that I would never go back until I read a woman’s post on Facebook and she was stuck in her journey. I couldn’t be stuck I had too many people to take care, including myself. How and why was everyone else going back to work, continuing their lives? Now that I had this time to reflect I also found myself avoiding certain places and people. If I hadn’t received a warm welcome from you the first time since Russell had passed well I wasn’t going to put myself through that again. Counseling came and went. Nights became harder to sleep and mornings became harder to wake. I had now entered into my grieving journey.
I counted on my Thursday nights. I would drop everything, kids activities for Sam and Kathryn, invites out with family just to get in my car and travel across the bridge to the Kroger on Bardstown Road. On the second floor of this Kroger a conference room full of bereaved parents hungry to feel the presence of others just like them. I felt welcomed, relieved, anxious, and most of all exhausted. Compassionate Friends saved many things for me. It answered questions, it brought me peace, I began to feel better, and most of all I would sit one Thursday a month amongst people who could relate with my loss. Thank you Compassionate Friends for continuing my journey.
Soon it would be time for me to say goodbye to my bereavement leave and start a painful battle of walking back into my business, where I was once pregnant with Russell, and encounter the questions and stares. How’s your son doing? Can I see a picture of the baby? How old is he now? It wasn’t even the, “So sorry for your loss” statements that would hurt because at least during my busy day it would remind me of Russell. But working with the public meant not everyone was aware of our loss. My staff was aware but patients weren’t. Perhaps the last time they saw me I was pregnant and now I’m not. I could see the confusion on their faces. Maybe their thinking of what to say to me. Maybe they want to ask how I’m doing but the fear overwhelms them. Then came the comments that helped me through my day. The comments from the least expected people with the least to say. For example, a long time patient of my husband, walks into the practice, sees me at the front desk and what comes out of his mouth seems as though Russell had gently placed those words on his tongue for him to say. A man with few words to say, says everything right and at the right time. What he didn’t realize was earlier that morning I had a hard time getting out of bed. The grief had won earlier and now he gave me a reason to fight back. It was as simple as him saying, “I’m sorry about your son,” which in return gave me strength to carry on my day.
People who have lost children typically are able to prioritize their needs from what’s most important to what’s least important. It’s our badge of honor we receive when burying a child. With this badge of honor came the understanding of moving on quickly from things that didn’t matter anymore. From issues at work to issues with the kids to even issues in our marriage. The “life is too short,” statement meant for us to slow down. We seemed to always move at a fast speed before Russell. Never enough time to just “BE.” Russell gave us this time. He gave us the ability to say, “that there isn’t a big deal.” The powers I gained from loosing something so precious made it easier to move forward in my journey by using this tool I call, “Let Go Let God.”
This is what I have learned from loving Russell: Never give up, strive to make things better even if it means standing up for something when others wouldn’t, the word HUMBLE made it to my word bank, believe in something bigger than you, heaven, a higher spirit, anything, love the ones around you who cheer for you, set boundaries for those who don’t, and finally, Russell taught me to be kind to myself, allow myself to cry when I needed to and laugh when it was appropriate and lay in bed when I needed a break from all of the above.
It is Russell that has brought me to my present. Kathryn now 8, Sam now 4, Lizzie now 18 months, and just seven days ago our 5th child being born into this world, Annie Ray. All of our blessings. We celebrate his life everyday in big ways and in small ways. But most of all we celebrate our journey, the events of our life. Russell would be turning 3, December 21. This is the most present we can “be”. One day at a time.
I dedicate this to Abby and Sam, where ever your journey takes you, leads you to peace, happiness, and love.