Today is my twin boys’ 6th birthday. For most parents, this is a joyous occasion, filled with presents, birthday cake, smiles and laughter.
But for me, Today is filled with all of that and more. Today will also be filled with grief, longing, and sadness over missing the son that should be here celebrating with us.
For anyone reading that is not familiar with our story, one of my twin boys passed away a short 90 minutes after he was born due to having multiple birth defects that made life outside the comfort of my body impossible. You can read about it here.
For the last 6 years, I have struggled with so many emotions along my journey of healing. Some days I feel like I have found my path and purpose in life, and that my pain has subsided. Then other days the smallest thing will trigger me into a depression that I cannot explain. I learned a lesson the other day when talking to another parent who has lost a child.
No amount of time will ever ease the grief over losing a child. No amount of therapy, antidepressants, support groups, self care, or helping others will erase the pain we feel from having our children torn from our arms. Although the passing of time can smooth the edges of the pain, the love we have for them never fades, and thus our grief will always remain. We will never forget them. Their names are always on our lips, their love forever held in our hearts.
The other lesson I learned is that we all learn to grieve differently. What worked for me may not work for you, and someone else may find a completely different alternative that helped them. Although we can all try to help each other the best way we know how, there is no playbook to follow. There is no step by step plan to navigate grieving a loss.
From my personal experience I feel like I could write a how-to book on “What Not to do in The First Year After Losing a Child”. Step one would be ignoring your pain. I can promise you, this is never a good idea. We first need to embrace the pain and grief we feel, and acknowledge our loss. We will never be able to move forward toward healing without this step. That much I know. I delayed this part of the process for far too long, and it cost me so much.
In learning these lessons though, I also know that I haven’t lost hope. Just because we will always grieve, does not mean we cannot also always heal. It just means that our continuous love for the children who have gone before us can continue to impact our lives and those around us in more profound ways as time goes on. Their purpose, and thus our purpose as their parent, does not end because our love for them will never go away. We are given a duty to carry on their legacy and continue to bring meaning to their shortened lives.
So today, on his 6th birthday, I am making the choice to give myself time to grieve. I will write, celebrate his life with my family, and spend time with him. But I will also keep his memory alive. I will donate blood to help save other lives. I will do what I can to help other loss parents through their journey. I celebrate my survivor, and smile with him.
I will eat the cake.