This one is going to be a hard post to write because I'm still in the process of grieving. Days after Olivia passed away I was googleing (not a word?) grief and moving on and loss of a child, but I couldn't find any of the answers I was looking for. I wanted to know how long it was going to hurt, when I would move on, if I would ever want another baby, and what I should do with her things. The truth is that nobody knows the answers to these questions and the grieving process really is different for everyone. Here are a few of the things I went through:
Questioning my beliefs. Losing a child is a different kind of grief. There are so many things you will want answers to that you never cared about with other deaths. The biggest thing I found myself questioning was my religion, and everything I had grown up believing or I guess I should say questioning. I had never really believed 100% in my religion. I grew up with a million questions and I was really skeptical of some of the things that were taught. I loved the values and the morals and the community but that was really it. While I was pregnant with Olivia, I was so worried for her because I didn't know what I believed, but I felt that she just HAD to be brought up in some sort of church, so I started going back to church with her. I quickly realized that it still wasn't quite for me. When Olivia passed away everyone told me that she was in a better place, she was too perfect to be on Earth, and God needed her back. None of that helped me, it just made me more upset. I was angry at a God that would take my Baby girl, how could she be in a better place if it wasn't with her Mother? How could a God who loved me take the most precious thing away from me? I didn't care if she was in a better place, if that place even existed... I wanted her here with me. I also starting thinking that if there is a God, and this is a part of his plan, do I really believe in a God that would take my baby girl away and only let me see her again if we were sealed? I've always believed that as long as I did the best I could and was a good person who helped others and had Christ in my life, that it would be enough, and I would see my family again. I still believe that. I've finally realized that there's no evidence, no knowing for sure where Olivia is and that me worrying about it is only holding me back. It will end for me eventually and then I will know the truth.
Material Items. A couple of weeks before Olivia passed away, Mike and I had talked about moving in together and saving for a house. I was SO excited to start this new phase with him and Olivia; we would be a family. When it was obvious that I couldn't go back to my apartment where everything reminded me of Olivia, Mike's Mom took over my lease and Mike and I found a condo to rent. It was really hard for me. Here I was 4 months pregnant, engaged, and moving in with my fiance. I should have been the happiest girl in the world, but it was different for me. While I was so excited to start a new life and a new family, I couldn't help but be disappointed that Olivia was missing. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I never packed Olivia's things. My parents did before I could do anything; instead I came home to her room in boxes. At the time I was upset about it, but now I'm glad that I got to go through it when I was ready. I had put her toy box in Jet's room for him to use and everything else went in the garage. It was hard to see her things in his room but I thought that it would get easier as time went on. It wasn't. Finally, after talking to my counselor I decided to pull the boxes out of the garage and go through every item. It was the most healing thing I had done. Mike and I cried a lot, but they were happy tears. Everything we pulled out reminded us of a good time, and those are the things we need to celebrate when a loved one passes. I realized then that I am thankful for the fun times we had with her, for knowing her and her sweet spirit, and for everything she taught me. I went through the toys that were in Jet's room, put the ones that Livvy played with the most in the boxes for the garage and left the rest. Now when I look at her things, it doesn't hurt.
Grief is a process. As I mentioned previously, I was so determined to get over the grief and to move on as fast as I could. Everyone had given me pamphlets with information on SIDS grief groups but after looking at the letters and testimonials online it seemed more like a group of people who wanted to keep grieving and didn't want to move on. All the books you can read on grief talk about life after death, but who really knows for sure what life is like after death? I found myself thinking about Olivia I would switch thoughts. When I heard an ambulance go down the street I would turn up the radio, and if a sad song came on, I would find a pop station. I thought I was dealing with it, but I was really ignoring it. I just wanted to be better, for my heart to heal, and to be able to be excited about life and I could only do that if I moved on. But then if I moved on, was I forgetting her? One of my biggest fears is forgetting her. Again, my counselor was the best at helping me deal with the grief. She told me to cry, to be mad, to talk about it and not to worry about other people or what they think. Other people? It's true, I had worried so much about what other people thought. Everyone had been telling me how strong I was and if I cried, I wouldn't be strong. If I cried, people would worry about me and think I was depressed. I didn't want people to think I was depressed. She was SO right! She explained that grief is like a pump inside of you. After someone passes away it fills up really fast and overflows really fast, but after a while it fills up slowly and you don't realize it. Then one day you'll see something that reminds you of that person and it will overflow and it's okay. It's okay to take that moment to cry and remember the great moments you had with that person. She was right. I used to never go a day without thinking of Olivia and I don't know if I go a day without thinking of her now, but I do know that when I do it's not sad. I don't cry as much as I used to and if I do they're happy tears.
Holidays. People who know me know that I'm a happy person. I don't like to be around people who bring me down and I don't waste time on drama. Holidays without Olivia are no exception. I want them to be happy times where we can remember without making it a sad day. Mike and I met with my counselor and discussed ways that we can celebrate Olivia during the holidays. This is what we came up with.
Olivia month - the date between her death day and birthday (exactly one month) - We are going to have fresh flowers in the house. I love this idea even more now than I did when we decided on it. I was talking to Mike's Grandma a couple of weeks ago and she told me something that someone had told her when she had lost a baby. Some people are like flowers- they are sent to us to make us happy and to embrace us with their beauty for a short time.
Olivia's Birthday - Last year we had a party at my house and then met at her grave to release balloons with letters. It was really fun! I would like to do something like that again, but this year I am also wanting to participate in 'Spring for SIDS' which will raise money for SIDS research in Olivia's name.
Christmas - I have always liked the tradition of each child receiving an ornament every year that symbolizes something they did or achieved. We are still going to include Olivia in this tradition. We also have a little tree that we can decorate and place at her grave, and we would like to adopt an Angel from the Angel tree every year and spend what we would have spent on Livvy on a child who is in need.
Of course we always think of Olivia on every Holiday and I usually decorate her grave with each one, but these are just a few of the ways we are planning on celebrating the big ones.
There is SO much more that goes into this process... I could go on for days. A few of them I will break into smaller posts at another time. I just really wanted to let people know that there isn't a way to just get over it and that grief takes time. There's no right way or wrong way to grieve and it's important to do it however you feel comfortable. If you know someone who is grieving, the best thing you can do is listen. Don't tell them to get over it or that it's time to move on. Share memories and let them know that they're not alone in their thoughts. If they are mad, let them be mad. The number one thing that got me through this was the support of my family and friends. The people who supported me when I would post things to Facebook on sad days, and who would listen when I told them stories about Olivia and laugh with me instead of being sad. What's done is done, I can't change what happened no matter how many times I go back and change it in my head. All I can do is cherish the memories that I had, and keep living for the people who are still here. It's what Olivia would want.