I have lost a few very important and loved people in my life over the years. I have also lost two babies to miscarriage. I think about these loved ones at various moments in my life, but especially at important dates that I shared with them. When you lose someone you think you will never be able to get through life without them. There is a hole in your heart where they once were and you know you will always remember them. When you first lose them you don’t think you will ever be able to move forward with your life, like you will always be stuck in this pit of sadness. I have felt that way, especially when I lost my babies. It was a dark time for me and I felt like life would never be good again. I felt like I couldn’t move forward or ever love anyone again. It’s been 8 years now since my babies went to heaven and it’s different than I thought it would be. 8 years ago on Halloween I lost my first baby. I have memories of being in the hospital being prepared for surgery and all the nurses around me were dressed up in costumes and Halloween decorations were every where. Everyone was talking about what they would do that night to celebrate and I just wanted to crawl into a deep pit and stay there. It was one of the hardest days I have ever experienced. I hated Halloween after that and had a hard time with it every year. I would dress my kids up and do the normal things because they needed it, but inside and just hated it. It was a day of profound loss for me and I didn’t think I would ever see it any differently. This year, 8 years later, I was at the hair stylist on Halloween getting my hair done. A dear friend texted me and said she was thinking of me and praying for me that day. I briefly wondered why and then realized what the date was and why she was texting. She knew of my heartache, because she has been there herself and we try to remember those important dates for each other. But there I sat not even knowing what the date was, and I realized that something had changed. I can’t really call it moving on, I don’t like that phrase because it insinuates that I have left the place of remembering, but I was moving forward I guess. That pain was not as acute as it had been the years before. I immediately felt guilty. How could my friend remember my baby and I had forgotten? Then I realized I had not forgotten, I could never forget, I love that baby as much as I ever did, I just didn’t feel as sad as I had before. The amount of sadness you feel for someone who has passed on does not equal the amount of love you have for them. Just because the pain is not as sharp as it once was does not mean you love them any less.
It’s difficult, in the journey of grief, to understand how to move forward with your life and yet always cherish and honor the memories of those who have gone on. How to I honor those people without forgetting and yet live my life without a shadow of sadness over me all the time? It’s a hard question to answer and I don’t think the answer is the same for everyone. It’s something you have to navigate for yourself. What I have realized though is that my loved ones who have gone on before me don’t want me to walk around in a dark cloud all the time. They loved me as much as I loved them and they want me to smile and be happy, even though they aren’t with me any longer. They are at rest in heaven and want the same for me.
Don’t feel guilty for smiling and laughing after you have lost someone dear to you. There are plenty of moments for sadness in the journey of grief, if you find a moment of joy, feel it as much as you are able. Don’t get stuck in one place unable to move forward for fear. Fear of loss, or fear of guilt. I was terrified when I became pregnant unexpectedly after I had experienced two miscarriages. Would I loose another baby? How could I face that? It was very difficult, but now five years later I have a almost five year old who I love very much and a one year old. I would not have either one if I had let fear keep me from moving forward. Loving someone else does not mean you love that person who passed on any less. Navigating grief is a personal journey and you cannot allow yourself to feel guilty for doing what you need to do to get through it. Don’t judge yourself by anyone else’s journey but keep moving forward in your own path and over time you will find joy and love again.