October is winding down. For those of us in the babyloss world observing Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, that means it will be another year until the spotlight is on us and the children we are missing.
But it doesn’t mean we forget or get over it, just that we go back to working our grief out in our daily, private life. What that grief looks like varies depending on how long it has been since your loss, and a ton of other factors that make this journey intensely personal.
But what never ceases to help is to hear another loss mom say, “That’s normal … YOU are normal … you’re not going crazy.”
In that note, I want to share what I have found to be normal for me and dozens of other women I have gotten to know over the last seven years of our loss journey, especially in the part of the journey that is parenting after loss, whether you are parenting the children you had before loss hit your world, or the children from subsequent pregnancies, a.k.a. “rainbow babies.”
I have one of each, my Sunshine Girl and my Rainbow Boy, with their Heaven-bound siblings filling the four years between them and the four years since my son’s birth. This is what I have learned about what is normal when you are parenting after loss:
It’s normal to cry, even ugly-cry.
It’s normal to be deliriously happy.
It’s normal to struggle to figure out how to experience grief and joy at the same time.
It’s normal to have hours and even days go by when you are not focused on your loss.
It’s normal to have a moment of panic when someone asks how many children you have.
It’s normal for your children to grow up knowing that sometimes babies die.
It’s normal for your children to include their siblings in Heaven in their drawings of your family.
It’s normal for your children not to include their siblings in Heaven in their drawings of your family.
It’s normal to worry about your living children and to check to make sure they are still breathing at night.
It’s normal to not be able to wrap your brain around that one.
It’s normal to question God.
It’s normal to be mad that everyone seems to have forgotten the baby you lost because your rainbow is here.
It’s normal to still want to go to support group meetings even though your loss was years ago.
It’s normal to still feel a pang when somebody announces a pregnancy, even if you have living children.
It is normal to think of your child in heaven as still a baby even decades later.
It is normal for your living children to place flowers in the church in memory of a sister they never knew.
It’s normal to feel heartache when your youngest living child advances to a new stage, especially when your loss is of a child that would have been younger.
It’s normal to feel like loss was a chapter in your life that you are moving past.
It’s normal to be sad that you are moving further and further away in time from the child you miss.
It’s normal to keep having birthday parties for your child in Heaven.
It’s normal to be particularly nostalgic at special milestones for your living children, even into adulthood.
It’s normal to never ever forget.
I want you to hear this: all of these are normal. Not morbid, not crazy, not stuck in the past. Normal reactions to figuring out how to live with a loss of monumental proportions and how to weave it into the fabric of your everyday life. (If you are feeling like your emotions are not evening out over time, or they are interfering with your daily activities, or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others? By all means, seek professional help. There is no shame in that! That takes strength, too.)
But if some of these resonate with you – rest assured that you are feeling and experiencing what a lot of other parents-after-loss have gone through.
You are not alone.