This entry was written and submitted by Ginny Limer.
Poets like Thereau, authors like Stephenie Meyers, and artists like Van Gogh once filled my world with inspiration, color, and entertainment, until the death of our child turned that world upside down. I saw no color. Neither heard nor read words that could fill the emptiness in my soul or relieve the heaviness in my heart. When his heart stopped, time stopped. Our life B.C. (before child loss) had ended, and our new life A.D. (after the death of a child) had begun.
Life A.D. is riddled with questions like, “How many children do you have?” As I silently answer, “6,” the comforting words of the poetic Wildfeathers Wellness blogger Franchesca Cox echo in my heart, “A mother is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the love she holds in her heart.” I now hold six in my heart, and five in my hands.
B.C., I quickly answered the same question with a twinkle in my eyes and pride in my posture, “6!” The children, my husband and I lived life obliviously carefree, yet aware of other people’s pains, other’s tragedies, other’s losses. Like my grandmother. B.C. (before child loss) she would share stories about her 20 year old daughter who died suddenly in an accident, and I would listen, stretching my heart and head to understand that which cannot be understood until experienced, the death of your child. It wasn’t until A.D. (after the death of my child) that my grandma shared that she, too, was actually a mom of 6, but “only shares about 5 because #6 was a stillborn. They put that baby in a box, took it away, and we went home” without ever knowing if her child was a sixth girl, or the prince they had waited for. She neatly tucked “what might have been” away in her heart, and moved on with her life A.D.
“Moving on” with life after the death of your child takes more than strength and determination. It takes all of you—emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and socially. Yet, ironically there seems to be nothing which once resembled you remaining, and it is during these troubling times that the words of author Nathalie Himmelrich speak to my soul: “The journey of grieving parent isn’t so much about what you go through on a daily basis but who you become in the process of continuing your life without your child.”
A once carefree life is now overshadowed by fear, uncertainty and the ever-present possibility that your world can change so suddenly and without warning. Your parenting, life and coping strategies change as a result. After the death of their brother, our once docile children have been stricken with emotional scars, the occasional outburst, and they engage in risky behaviors in order to dare, or test, life. As a result, the laid-back, hands-on-when-needed approach used to parent B.C. (before child loss) has morphed into a hovering, overbearing, hands-on, smothering style. A.D. there is a greater need to over mother, over compensate, and over protect the other children, without completely going overboard. B.C. we lived.
A.D. we live to repair the despair. A.D. we live to “Turn the Hell into Heal”, finding glimmers of hope with in the dark trenches of grief. Before the death of my child, an optimistic way of thinking came as naturally as breathing, yet A.D. my thoughts must deliberately be changed from negative to positive. Reality, and grief seem to slap you in the face like a wet towel when you least expect it. When the pain is unbearable, my children and I focus on our passions. We “Turn the Pain into Passion”. We play harder, love deeper, feel stronger. We choose to live a happily ever after, even after the death of our baby boy.
As healing guru and artist Carly Marie Dudley says, “Your grief is your own. This is your story, you are the author of your own journey. You decide how the story goes.” My story, like countless others’, is one of integration, blending “what should have been” with “what is.” Our son should be blowing out three candles next month, but Cullin passed away from SIDS, and we will celebrate his 6 months of life, love, and light, without him. And as I smile, cry, laugh, and have a bawl that day, poetic words and inspiration, thoughts from artists, authors, bloggers, and voices of the “loss community,” the “empty arms club,” those of us living a “new normal,” will lift my heavy heart.