I know what it's like to lose a child. I know what it feels like to have your whole world spiral out of control with emotions. I know what it feels like to walk around in a haze. Feeling numb. Thinking there is no way that it is happening. I know what it's like to want just "one more moment" with that child. I have been there. I have lived it. You see, 17 years ago I lost my 2nd daughter, Elizabethe-Ane . I remember feeling so numb. So out of sorts. I can remember hearing a beast like howl, only to realize that howl...was coming from me. Losing a child is without a doubt, the most horrifying and crippling emotion for a parent. We feel like we are standing in a circular room just watching it spin around us. Reaching out to grasp some modicum of understanding. It sends us reeling head over heels with no brakes to stop us. Or it is the opposite and we are suddenly at a screeching halt with everything moving in slow motion. Moments in time just frozen as we look around and walk through it as if in a dream state. I am going to confidently say that anyone who has lost a child, will be the first ones to say "Yes, it's a surreal moment", one that seems like it is never ending. I found myself "stuck" in my own surreal moment when Elizabethe-Ane died. I had no idea how to handle it, no clue where to even begin. I felt like crawling into a dark corner and staying there. I didn't have a true support system, let alone one that knew to bring me out of the darkness that I had began to sink into. The first two years following Elizabethe-Ane's death were filled with depression and darkness for me. That in itself was not good. I had 2 children to care for at that point. My daughter Chey and my son Dakota, who was Elizabethe-Ane's twin brother. I wasn't grieving. Instead I put on a face and threw up a wall. No, that's not true. I threw up a thousand walls. I became withdrawn and started closing myself off from everyone but my babies. There are many reasons as to why my grieving process was never "complete". It didn't even come close being "complete" until October 2009. Prior to that, I had very little in the way of support as I said, and I couldn't even speak her name without breaking down into a total heap of emotions and tears. By the time 2009 rolled around it had been 15 years since Elizabethe-Ane's death. Yes you read that right, 15 years. I spent 15 years not grieving completely. The biggest cause for my broken grieving process was my ex husband. When Elizabethe-Ane died he refused to come to the hospital. He refused to acknowledge her period. Every time I would try to talk about her, I was shut down and told I wasn't allowed to mention her. Don't tell me that's how some men handle the loss of a child. Because that was NOT it. My ex didn't acknowledge my daughter by choice. I was denied my grief. Plain and simple. For the first 2 years I was told "It happened for a reason", "It was meant to be", or "Get over it, "it" was just a fetus". Seriously? Really? She was 24 weeks gestation! Well within the viability range. But even so, I firmly believe a child is a child at the moment of conception. Don't tell me I should feel lucky that she died early on. That's just plain cruel to say to a mother who has lost her child. There are just some things that you shouldn't ever say to a mother or father that has lost a child. And that is just one of the many things you just don't say. There is nothing more painful than having to say goodbye to your child, knowing that you will never see them again. At least not in any earthly form. When the 15th anniversary of Elizabethe-Ane's death came in 2009, I did what I had been doing for years by then. I wrote a letter to her. I shared that letter on my private blog that year. The responses were overwhelming, with the exception of one. My ex husband had commented on the blog entry. I was stunned. I was angry. So very angry. A man who refused to acknowledge my child, suddenly wants to say he misses her. I admit I lashed out and it wasn't nice or pretty. All the anger I had kept locked up for years, came pouring out. The wall that had contained it didn't just crack slowly. It shattered and fast. He was in my eyes, trying to horn in on MY memories of my daughter. My grief. My sorrow. My loss. I say "my" because prior to that he had NO interest in even claiming her as his child. That year was also the year that Daniel spent hours consoling me. Until the wee hours of the morning as the sun crept up over the horizon. I cried until I could cry no more. I cried and screamed until i had no voice. After 15 years I was finally allowed to start my grieving process. Daniel made that possible. He wanted to know everything he could about Elizabethe-Ane. What color her eyes were. Her hair. Her fingers and toes. How sweet she smelled. How beautiful I found her to be. Her whispers of sweet baby breath. He wanted to feel my emotions when I held her for the last time in her short life. He wanted to know this child that never had a chance in this world. Daniel comforted me, held me and let me talk about her. Here was this man (who is now my husband, we married less than 30 days after the anniversary) who had no ties to Elizabethe-Ane and he viewed her as HIS child. His daughter. He grieved with me. Daniel has become a advocate, a voice, for other parents who have lost a child. He has made Elizabethe-Ane his. His loss. His sorrow. His joy. When my ex saw this he came to me and said (in front of about 8 people) that NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE was allowed to comfort me (in regards to my daughter's death) except him. I went off the deep end. I spun around on him and got nose to nose, toe to toe and told h im he doesn't have that right anymore. He doesn't have the right to tell me how I can grieve and who can comfort me. I was furious. I was angrier than I had ever been. It was that night that I told him he lost the right to have any say on Elizabethe-Ane. Yes I was cruel. I told him as her biological father, that he has no rights to her in death or in life. I was the one who carried her. I was the one who held her as she took her last breath. I was the one who looked into her eyes and whispered "It's okay to let go, Mama understands and I will always have you in my heart". It was me who was by her side every moment of her short life. It was me who went numb when she developed a Grade 4 brain bleed. It was me who had to put her name on a death certificate. It was me who was given the decision of either letting her stay on life support and suffer the rest of her life (her quality of life would have been very bad) or let them stop life support and let her go. It was me who made the decision to let her go as she had suffered too much already. As far as I was concerned, he gave up any right to her the moment he decided that she was not worthy of being his child. Since that night in 2009, I have come a long long way in terms of grieving her death. And it is because of Daniel and my living children that I have been able to start accepting that it wasn't anything I did that led to her premature birth, or her short life. 2011 marked 17 years since her death and last year I wrote another letter to her. Same letter every year with a new lesson learned added to it. Every year that passes, every day, every moment, I learn something new. I learn a lesson that losing my daughter has taught me. The biggest lesson I learned was that no matter what we do, we are not the ones in control of fate. We never will be. We have to learn to forgive in order to be forgiven. We have to forgive ourselves before we can expect anyone else to forgive us. I blamed myself for Elizabethe-Ane's early birth and then her death. I blamed myself for not trying harder to save her. I blamed my body for failing her during the pregnancy. Not once have I ever blamed her twin brother. It has always been blaming myself. I know I did everything I could. I know I did everything right. But that doesn't change survivors guilt. No parent should outlive their child. Ever. Losing a child is a pain that is unimaginable by those who have never been thru it. They try to understand but the reality is that unless they have been thru it, they might not be able to fully grasp it. My daughter's death became the driving force behind my photography. It has driven me to give other parents what I was never given. Memories of their child. Memories they can look back on in the form of photographs and see that their child is not forgotten.
The best thing you can do for someone who has lost a child, is be there for them.
- Don't tell them it happened for a reason.
-Don't try to change the subject when they start talking about the child. Let them talk.
-Don't tell them things will get better and back to normal. They will never be the same, ever again. Nothing will ever be "normal" again.
-Do ask them to share memories with you. Ask them to share their grief with you. Let them cry as you hold them.
-Dry those tears and show them that if you could, you would take their pain. Those little things, aren't so little to a grieving parent. Those little things, are the important things to a grieving parent.
Losing Elizabethe-Ane is why I am who I am today. She taught me so much in her short life. She taught me how to love unconditionally. How to forgive. She taught me to live life and reach for my dreams. She will always be my little whisper of dreams. My angel's wings. She is...my daughter. (www.insideaninsanemind.com)