Grief VS Mourning

A few weeks after Sterling died, I read a psychologist’s explanation of the difference between grief and mourning. I’ll do my best to explain it. It goes something like this:

Grief is the way you feel about losing your child. It’s the earth shattering, heart-wrenching, spirit crushing pain that you are now tasked to live with for the rest of your life. The kind of unimaginable pain that no words are ever strong enough to describe and that no parent is sure they’ll be able to survive.

Mourning is the outward expression of grief. The way your tears are the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. The way you stay cooped up inside your house, unable to move because even the effort it takes to breathe is too overwhelming.

I used to use the words interchangeably. But this text completely changed my view and soothed me immensely. Before, I thought it would be this bad forever and that was a horrible thought. Will I really spend the rest of my life in this much agony? Will I really go to bed every night shocked and grateful that we survived another day? Only to wake up every morning distressed and dreading that I would have to do it all over again?

Then again, I truly didn’t want this to get easier. The thought of that was even worse. It wouldn’t be right. Sterling deserves to be grieved intensely. Like every other child gone too soon, he’s too precious, important, and too loved for me to be anything other than completely destroyed by his loss.

But when I learned to separate grief and mourning, it brought me peace and hope.

Grief is unending and unchanging. The pain of this loss will never get any easier. I will carry it with me, wherever I go, every second of every day, until the day that I die and am reunited with my son. But the mourning process? THAT is what changes. Of course, I will mourn him every single day, but the way I mourn won’t always be this bleak. It will one day become a little lighter to carry, at least on some days. I haven’t quite made it to that point, but I know there are brighter days ahead. And the best part is- every day that passes is another day closer to heaven.

Marshmallow Fluff

I wrote a post on grief and mourning and then decided not to share those words today after all.

Then I picked a portion of something I wrote in my journal and decided not to share that either.

Then I chose a quote by Mary Shelley. Did you know she lost her one year old and her 3 year old? No wonder she wrote about monsters.

Anyway, I decided against every well thought out caption for this photo, because when I look at it, all I can think about are the comments that will flood in about how adorable and chubby he is.

Yes, he is adorable and chubby. But not this chubby. This wasn’t just precious baby chub, earned by a good latch, a suckling babe, and impressive milk supply.

This was water weight that he carried because his body wasn’t functioning well enough to flush it out. The day before this, he weighed 7lbs. In this moment, he weighed 9lbs.

He eventually was able to clear out the water weight, but I look at this photo and can’t help but feel jealous. Jealous and sad.

Jealous of these tubes that nourished my son, when it should’ve been me. I should’ve been able to take the credit for his chubbiness- for real, chunky rolls that would eventually appear instead of this artificial marshmallow fluff that appeared overnight and would vanish the next day.

And sad, that he couldn’t fully heal so I could bring him home to continue our breastfeeding relationship, to help him grow with nothing but my own body.

So, here we are. No pretty, edited words to express where I’m at today. Just the incoherent ramblings of a grieving mother. Or to put it more eloquently, word vomit.

Naptime

Dear Sterling,

It’s naptime now. Ever is sleeping in her crib. Oliver is having trouble falling asleep. I lay beside him in his bed, stroking his dark hair, amazed at how much he resembles you.

Oliver rolls his Lego Spiderman between his hands. I wonder if you would’ve liked Spiderman and Lego too.

Oliver points out the light that makes its way past blackout curtains and illuminates an empty spot on the floor. A void where your crib would’ve gone. The crib isn’t here and neither are you. My heart breaks a little more.

Oliver sees through my strong exterior and places his hand on my face, sensing the shift in my mood. He runs his fingers through my hair and tells me it’s beautiful.

“I like purple,” he says. I wonder if you would’ve liked it too and what kinds of things you would’ve said to melt me the same way Ollie does.

I tell Oliver to close his eyes and think of the best day and maybe he will go there in his dreams. He closes his eyes.

“The beach,” he says, eyes still closed with a smile on his face.

I wonder if I’m the only one who spends every second thinking of you. The thought makes me sad.

“The beach,” he says again, his smile widening, “…and we could pick up Sterling from heaven and take him with us.”

We are always thinking of you, darling baby.

Grace

I recieved this question from another loss mama: how do you manage the bad days with kids?

As I heated store bought soup for dinner, I realized the answer to that question.

Grace.

Grace to the people around you, but especially, give grace to yourself. Shower yourself with grace. Bathe in it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Grace for me yesterday was serving pre-made, store bought soup for dinner. It was accepting help when it was offered. It was neglecting the laundry to soak up snuggles and using paper plates so I didn’t have to worry about dishes. It was wearing pajamas all day and watching way too much TV with my living kids.

Then, it was throwing every ounce of guilt out the window, because this is grief. This is survival. I’m not the mom I used to be and for now, that’s okay. We’ll find a little more normalcy with each day that passes.

And don’t worry- your children will give you all the grace you need from them too.

hi, it’s me.

If you’re new here, you’ll quickly learn that I’m not one for selfies. I tend to feel more comfortable on the other side of the camera, unless I’m in a photo with my kids.

My husband took this photo of me yesterday and I felt that I should show my face today, so you can get a better picture of the mama behind the words.

Every day, I write to my boy, about my boy and all about my thoughts and feelings as I openly mourn. You’ll hear a lot about my jouney through grief, while I navigate the loss of one who I cannot bear to live without.

If you’re another grieving mama, I hope you’ll feel safe here with me. I started sharing as an outlet for my grief, as well as a way to connect with other grieving moms and their families. And at some point, I turned into a bit of an advocate mama, once I realized how much Sterling’s life (and our experiences) could help others in the long run. If I had only met another UCD mama before Sterling was born…

I appreciate you for being here. I am honored that you’re along for the ride and quite frankly, blown away that anyone wants to stick around and hear what I have to say.

For now, all I have to say is thank you!

Vitamin Sea

Darling boy,

You were near today.

Perhaps there’s something about the ocean that makes everyone feel a little closer to heaven.

You were there in the sound of the other children’s laughter, as it danced through the salty air.

I saw you in Oliver, as he stretched out his arms like wings and ran across the sea kissed sand. I had a vision of you doing the same on streets of gold.

You were with us today. These places where your presence is so undeniably strong, these are the places I never want to leave.

02.15.2020

Your First Bath

Not exactly how I always pictured it would be, but I’ll take it.

You were so swollen because your poor, little kidneys weren’t doing well. And then somehow, something in you started healing because you started peeing. You peed all over your nurse. It was so funny.

This is one of the most bittersweet photos I have in my camera roll. Some days, I see this and it cracks me up. Other days, it kills me.

I remember how much hope we had in this moment and how it all came crashing down a few hours later when we learned you were in a coma. It just depends on how I see the world that day.

Today, its a good day or at least, this moment is a good moment. I wish you were here so I could give you a proper bath, but I’m happy I had the chance to bathe you at all.

I love you, darling Sterling.

Mommy Minus One

I felt ready to come back to our mommy group today. Honestly, if I didn’t, I would have honored that and stayed home.

It’s important that we, as grieving parents, honor every emotion and every feeling as it comes up. This is a healthy way to mourn, by showing ourselves grace and giving ourselves the space to mourn when we want, the way we want. (Don’t worry. I have plenty of unhealthy grieving habits too.)

I was excited to see my mama friends today. But when I pulled into the parking lot, the weight of our reality hit me so hard.

Wait a minute. I’m supposed to be unloading 5 kids right now. I’m supposed to be wrapping a 2 month old baby Sterling up to my body before heading in.

I wept into a napkin from the glove compartment, as my 3 oldest kids unbuckled their seatbelts and crowded around me.

“I’m sorry, guys” was all that would come out in a whisper. They all laid their hands on me and my oldest and very wise 6 year old, Cadence, rested her head on my shoulder.

“It’s okay to cry about Sterling,” she assured. We sat here for almost 20 minutes, before I pulled myself together and dropped the kids off to their classes.

Then I got to my table and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing as I hugged the other mamas.

I’m supposed to be introducing him to my friends today. And instead, I arrive empty handed.

I did end up having a great time. I enjoyed being around friendly, familiar faces.

But loss just hovers over every little thing we do. Life will never be the same for any of us. And as sad as this is, I still wouldn’t change it. I would willingly choose every second of pain, every moment of heartache, every tear that is shed to have Sterling for the 6 days he lived.

Time Doesn’t Heal – 2 months down

“Time heals,” they say. Well, they’re wrong.

I keep waiting to feel a tiny bit better, for time to make it a bit easier. But the further away we get from December, the more it hurts.

62 days since I held you, since I last kissed your face.

Right now, it feels impossible to survive, like I will literally die from a broken heart.

Sometimes, I can wrap these words up in hope. Wrap this grief up in a neat little package and tie it with a bow, with the promise of heaven. I know we’re one day closer to heaven. I get it. And I’m grateful for it.

But there are moments when the darkness swallows me whole and the best I can do is just to feel. To give myself a break from searching for silver linings and just allow myself to hurt. So, I’ll sit here in this grief until I’m ready. And when I am, I will muster up every bit of strength I have and crawl back into the light.

2 months since I kissed you goodbye and I am hurting more than ever.

I love you, sweet boy.

Questions.

Today has been a rough one.

Sometimes, I just want to pour out all my feelings, but it’s hard and scary. I don’t know, at this point, what’s too much too share. I don’t want to make anyone sad or come across like I’m fishing for pity. That’s just not my heart, not my intent.

However, I would be doing the baby loss community a disservice if I only shared the beautiful, without the horrible, grief stricken moments. I think of the other baby loss families who have found our story. It wouldn’t be fair if I only shared encouraging words and left out all the heart wrenching, painful moments. That would be isolating.

So here’s where I’m at today- I’m angry. I’m confused. How is this my life? Why did Sterling have a spontaneous mutation that caused his disorder?

Just the shittiest luck. A total freak situation. But why? Why do people have deadly random mutations at all? Why couldn’t the doctors figure it out in time to save him?

I have so many questions that won’t be answered this side of heaven and I’m learning how to be okay with that. But for now, I’m not okay. 

💔