Fourteen years ago I was searching for the first of many online support groups I would join over the years to come. I typed “infant loss” into my search bar and looked for anyone who shared anything close to what I was feeling. I knew no one who suffered the loss of an infant. I needed someone to tell me I was going to survive.
I found groups of women who had recently lost an infant like myself and among the threads in those groups, were women whose losses weren’t so new anymore. That had lost their babies two, three, ten years ago and were there to grieve as much as they were there to support new loss mums along their journey.
With fourteen years between today and the day I said goodbye to my daughter, I’m now one of those veteran mums. I can tell you what they told me, even when I wasn’t ready to believe it yet.
When the years begin to lengthen between the last time you saw your baby, life will get easier. You will feel guilty about this for a long time. Smiling will feel awkward. Laughing will catch you off guard. You’ll be clumsy at anything you once considered fun. You’ll feel alone, even surrounded by friends or family.
But…your mind will get clearer. You won’t cry every single day. Getting out of bed will not require self-talk. Piles of laundry and dishes will cause you to start cleaning rather than just turning a blind eye to the mess.
For a while the “what ifs” will consume you and you’ll obsess over all the ways things could have gone differently. The thought of anyone forgetting your child once existed will panic you. You will wave all the pink and blue memorial ribbons and social media graphics and make sure your loss mum status is known– your baby was here.
All of the pain the grief causes slowly dulls though. It will come as sharp, sharp pains at anniversary dates and catch you off guard at times when you least want to cry. But it does dull, making room for you to live a life not fully engulfed by it.
If you have suffered the loss of an infant in recent months and years, I promise you life will get better. If you’re like I was in those early days, you aren’t even ready to hear this yet. You need to stay in your grief and wallow for a while. Wallow if you need to. Cry if you need to. Be furious if that’s what it takes for you to keep going.
But keep going.
You will carry your baby with you through the rest of this life. You will get to a point where I am, fourteen years later, functioning mostly human-like. Carrying your child’s memory with you will be an honor– that inexplicable bond of a mother and child just as sacred when your child is no longer living.
The way you walk through life will be forever changed. Doing good deeds in their memory, smiling to yourself when you see certain signs out in the world. Saying a private hello when you feel them in the quiet.
The loss you’ve experienced will always be painful and unfair and the opposite of how you thought motherhood would be. But that baby is your story now, as real as any child you have before or after. You will carry him or her and move on in their memory– making them proud of the amazing mumma they never should have had to leave behind.
How have you managed to find strength through infant loss?