The New Me

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The baby loss community is an especially beautiful and supportive one.  When a new member joins this terrible little club, they are extended love and understanding.  When I joined this group that no-one would ever want to be a part of,  that support was invaluable.

In the wake of Xavier’s death, I found comfort online but I needed to see someone who had lost their child and was still living and breathing.  I met with a gorgeous lady who had lost her baby son many years ago.    At the time,  I was in a strange robotic stage of grief.  Not entirely sure what I should be doing or feeling but fearing the future.  I was acting from a script I had to re-write myself from day to day.  In so many ways feeling liking a passive observer – watching myself from a distance and fascinated that this was the way I was handling things.   I felt like I was edging along the huge abyss of time that separated me from Xavier and any mis-step would see me fall right in.  Was this my life from now on?  Was it even possible to sustain?  How would my life look in the months and years to come?  So, I looked to this lovely stranger who shared my devastation and she told me how her son had changed her – how her grief had reshaped her into a very different person. A better person.

I didn’t want to hear it.  I didn’t want Xavier’s loss to make me into a better person. I was entirely fine with the person I was before he left.  I needed no extreme makeover administered by the hand of fate.    And this empty vessel, clinging to life, battered on the shores of grief?  I didn’t want to be her.   I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t recognise myself.  I had become a stranger.    This was not some better version of myself.  This was a shadow, an echo.  A leaf on the wind, without substance or purpose.   I didn’t want to get out of bed and be strong each day.  I didn’t want to be looked at with pitying admiration.   I had no interest in being an inspirational story.   All I ached for was my son.  I would think “this grief thing has been interesting, I have learned a lot but I will have my son back now please”.   Hoping against hope that someone would come to the door, Xavier in their arms, and apologise for a dreadful mix up.

In that early time, I  was convinced that Xavier had been taken from me to teach me a lesson.  To show me that life couldn’t be perfect.  Until that point, my life had remained untouched by tragedy and was rich with blessings.   I thought I had been spared fate’s cruelty.   And then it was as though fate noticed me, said “Ah yes, she’s had it easy for far too long, now, what’s the worst thing I could do to her?”  And this conspiracy by fate to teach me a lesson – I wanted no part in it.  I would not be taught – I would not allow a reason for Xavier’s death.   If grief had gifts to give, I didn’t want them.  Accepting them felt too close to accepting Xavier’s death.

Could I not simply go back to who I was after a period of grieving?  Did I have to lose who I was as well as my son?  Where did the losses end?

But grief becomes a gentler companion with time and it was inevitable I would change.   Perspectives alter when your world shifts.  What is important becomes crystal clear and you begin to see that it is possible to gain in the midst of loss.  I began to realise that the person I was becoming was a way of honouring Xavier’s life rather than giving some sort of credence to his death.   Began to appreciate that treasuring every moment was a gift he had given me.    In the early months after Xavier died I struggled with the idea that the happiest moments of my life were behind me.  That no beautiful moment could ever be perfect.  Whereas I may have had plenty of those perfect moments prior to Xavier’s death – did I realise them? Did I treasure them?  Did I truly realise the full precious weight of those moments?  And so now, even though the moments are dulled by sadness, I appreciate them in way I never could before.  There is more beauty in my life because I pause to notice it.  I invest more in friendships because I know how valuable they are.  I love more because I have seen just how much I am loved.  I take each moment as a gift.   Each of those moments, strung together and stitched into time.  Those moments that rather than separate me further from Xavier,  will eventually bring me back to my son.  And that is something to treasure.

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Holes in our hearts … but we carry on

I don’t often cry over Xavier.  Even in  the early months, I didn’t sob as often as I would have expected.  During support groups, I would be amongst the few whose cheeks remained dry.  For a little while this worried me – was there something wrong with me? Was this unhealthy grieving? Would the dam burst one day and floods of un-shed tears finally overtake me? Was I in denial? I began to realise that my way of grieving was simply more cerebral.  I analyse rather than cry, think rather than sob, write rather than weep.    And that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean I miss or love my son any less.

However, there is one thing that unleashes the tears.  Music unlocks something in my heart and the tears flow in sweet release.   When I was teenager, music played an important part in my life.  I would see my own feelings reflected in song lyrics all the time.   It has been a long time since I have sought solace in the same way.  Nowadays my life means that I tend to listen to music in the car, when a random song on the radio can unexpectedly send me reeling.

There are certain songs I simply cannot hear – Beautiful Boy by John Lennon,  Small Bump by Ed Sheeran, Last Kiss by Pearl Jam.    Then there are snatches of lyrics that never meant anything to me before that suddenly carry a profound weight.  Songs about loves lost and the inability to live without them. The song “Holes” by passenger hits home at the moment.

Well sometimes you can’t change and you can’t choose And sometimes it seems you gain less than you lose Now we’ve got holes in our hearts, yeah we’ve got holes in our lives Where we’ve got holes, we’ve got holes but we carry on

I have gained so much since Xavier died.  Learned more than I could have conceived.  But I would give it all up in less than a heartbeat if I could hold him again.   You gain less than you lose .   The gifts of grief can be hard accept – you never want to regard their origin with anything approximating gratitude.  Yet they are there – they exist.  And yes, they never amount to the same weight as the life of a child, but they are what you are left with.  We  carry on – life carries us on her relentless tide.  

We’ve got holes but we carry on.