Since losing Asher, I have heard this word quite frequently. For example, I was having a conversation with a coworker who works in another department the other day. I don’t see her often and this was one of the few times I was able to speak to her since being back at work. The conversation went something like this.
Me: I don’t think I ever thanked you for reaching out after we lost Asher. Thank you.
Coworker: Of course, I cried when I heard of your loss. I can’t imagine how painful it is for you and your husband. How are you both doing?
Me: We are doing as best we can, we have good days and bad days.
Coworker: Well, you are very strong.
Me: I am only strong because I have to be.
Coworker: You are stronger than I could ever be.
But, can I tell you a secret? I don’t feel strong at all. I feel broken and tired. Like I told her, I’m only “strong” because I have to be. What else can I do? The only other option is to give up on life and I can’t do that. Instead, I am forced to move forward without my son, with an ache in my heart that can immobilize me at times. But there is nothing else to do.
In June we went to visit my brother and went to lunch at a restaurant. After sitting there awhile, a young family was seated directly in my eye line. The mother sat down at the table and pulled out her infant son from the stroller. I saw this and tears immediately sprang to my eyes. A sense of panic filled me, I couldn’t sit there and see that without losing it. Immediately, I got up and had to switch sides at the table so my back was to this family. Their happiness was a reminder of my intense sadness and heartache. I was not strong enough to sit there and see their happiness and retain my composure.
Just this past weekend a friend had a party at her house for a fireworks display that was being put on at a nearby carnival. Prior to attending, I asked how many pregnant women and babies would be there under 6 months of age. I knew of two and those two were coming. I had massive anxiety about it but since I knew in advance, I thought “ok, you got this. You won’t be caught off guard. You can handle it.” I was most definitely wrong. It started with the arrival of the first baby. He was born 10 days after Asher was due. He was a reminder that if nothing went wrong, my son would’ve been around the same age. I’ve known his mother since high school and this was the first time I was seeing her after losing Asher and the birth of her son. I wanted to go over to hug her and thank her for all her support but I saw the stroller and I lost it. I literally turned around and ran away, upstairs into my friends bathroom and I crumbled. I went into full blown hysterics. Hubby came in after me and calmed me down. We walked over to the carnival so I could gather myself. On our way there, we saw a rainbow, it was like Asher was telling me that he was with us.
When I felt better, we walked back to my friend’s house and we saw baby #2 arriving . This baby was born a week before Asher was and was a reminder that if Asher had just been born early but alive, he would’ve been about the same age. I came back, thought I was ok, and saw the mother kiss her daughter. I lost it again, grabbed my purse and told my friend I had to leave through the tears.
After we started walking to the car, my friend with the baby boy came running after us with tears in her eyes and asked if it would be better if she left with her son, since we drove farther to come to the party. I told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t just her son. It was absolutely horrible. I felt awful for not saying goodbye to my friends, but I had to leave immediately or I was going to ruin the night for everyone else. I felt awful that she felt she needed to leave because I am so broken and can’t keep it in check for a night. I thought for sure I would be strong enough to make it through the party but the reminders of the fact that I should have a baby that would’ve been the same age as theirs (under different circumstances) was way more than I could handle.
One of the lyrics to the song “I Will Carry you (Audrey’s Song)” by Selah, says “People say that I am brave by I’m not. Truth is I’m barely hanging on.” That’s what comes to mind when people tell me I am strong and brave. People have said that I am strong and brave to be so open with our story. I don’t feel that way at all. I have moments where I feel like grief is consuming me and I am hanging on to my sanity by a thread. Honestly, I am sharing my story for mostly selfish reasons. I want my son to be known to everyone. It is my job, as his mother, to make his life mean something and to make something good come from it. So, I share my story to share him because he deserves that. I share my story because it helps ME feel better. I share my story because writing has become cathartic to me. I share my story to educate people on what it is like to deal with infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. I share my story so that others know how I feel and how to handle me in my grief. I share my story so that others learn what it’s like and don’t say insensitive comments like “it’s time to move on” or “you can have another” (none of these things have been said to me, thank god! But I know others have heard these comments after their losses). The only unselfish reason that I have this blog is to share my story to help others. I know many people have gone through the losses that I have in complete silence. Some don’t want to be so vocal about their struggles and if my blog could help someone suffering in silence, then that is a wonderful thing.
Strong is a word that has been used a lot to describe loss parents. I honestly don’t think you could find a stronger group of people. Everyone I have met who has lost a child are some of the strongest people I know. The loss of a child is soul crushing and to be able to rebuild and still function in society does take incredible strength. I have marveled at the strength of those I have met along this journey. So, I guess by that definition, the word strong could be applied to me. But I don’t feel that way about myself. I feel I am the opposite of strong on most days. However, my purpose now is to live for my son. I HAVE to move forward to honor him and his memory. I want him to be looking down on us and telling everyone in Heaven how proud he is of his Mommy and Daddy. ❤️