When I read my friend's post about her sister, last week, who lost her baby to stillbirth, for a VERY brief second I had run through my head, "that's so sad, I'm so thankful nothing like that has happened to us". But wait, it DID happen to us! It's almost like a protective mechanism people develop when they hear tragic news about something. I'm invincible. Nothing bad will happen to me, it always happens to other people. Until you hit reality at some point in your life, it happens to us all, where we do finally realize that we are not invincible. You hear from people, life is fragile, live every day to it's fullest. It's hard to understand how incredibly fragile life is until you've had something so precious, so wanted, so beautiful ripped from your life in a matter of seconds.
The days that followed after Everett died were surrounded by family and friends. We got most of the "final" details taken care of the day I was released from the hospital. We stopped at Costco to purchase an air mattress for people to sleep on, stopped by to grab some donation envelopes for a charity we picked where people could donate to in lieu of flowers, went to the cemetery to take care of those arrangements, went to the funeral home to take care of that stuff, and went to the florist to pick out an arrangement for the table. The funeral home was AMAZING (and, on a side note, our very first sponsor for Run 4 Everett). You expect them to be great, but not everyone we dealt with on this day was, for lack of a better word, nice. The funeral home walked us through the entire process and were so warm, and caring. We decided to have Everett cremated as the thought of looking at a tiny, infant sized casket horrified me. I just couldn't do it.
The next day we spent "writing" the funeral service for Everett with another amazing person, the Chaplin who preformed Everett's service. He did such a beautiful job with everything and listened to me blubber through all my tears.
Then came the day of the funeral. At first, it was just family who was present. I remember sitting in one of the parlor rooms going over some final things with the Chaplin and feeling a major panic attack coming on. I looked over at Dave and told him, I can't do this as tears welled up in my eyes. I can't bury my child, I can't sit through a funeral, I can't breathe, I can't do THIS! You don't bury your children! I took some deep breaths and crying seemed to be a good release for all the emotions. We then went into the funeral room and friends and extended family had started to arrive. Dave and I stood up at the front where people could come to pay their respects. The line got longer and longer, and longer. It was unreal. There were close to 100 people who came to our son's funeral. I immediately felt a surge of strength as people wrapped their arms around us, cried with us and were just there for us. The service started and it was perfect. I didn't want it to be very long, because I didn't think I could handle sitting through it. But all the right readings were read, short sermon was delivered, and our letter to our baby boy was read:
Dear Baby Everett,
Your daddy and I loved you from the very first moment we found out we were expecting you. Over the months you grew inside of me we got to know you, your personality, your sleep and wake cycles, and your strong feet, which would kick me regularly, and we loved every minute of it. We could not wait to finally meet you.
Our hearts were aching and broken beyond belief when we found out that your heart stopped beating. Daddy, Lilli, and I will always treasure the moments after you were born that we got to hold you and spend much needed time with you. You were our perfect, beautiful little boy complete with so much hair!
We take peace and comfort in knowing that you are with the angels and all your great grandparents, who love you so very much, and will take care of you until we see you again some day. We will always, always love you.
Mommy, Daddy, and Lilli
The grief process fully set in after everyone else returned home and "back to normal". I think that's when my anger kicked in to full gear! And so much anger there was over what happened to our little boy. In the beginning of the grief process we were just trying to function and cope minute by minute (literally), then hour by hour. My brain wouldn't shut off, especially when I desperately needed it too (at night). All the events that transpired those last few weeks Everett was alive, then everything that happened at the hospital kept running through my head like the scariest nightmare you've ever had. It's was constant. It just wouldn't stop or go away, no matter how hard I tried. I was determined, at that point, to face everything head on, as "it", the grief, was grabbing hold of me anyways.
I sought out support in my friends. So many wonderful friends who were willing to listen to me ramble over and over again about whatever it was I needed to talk about. I also sought out support in an amazing therapist, who I still see, and of course, my grief group. It's specifically for people who have lost a baby. The other moms, and dads, I've met in there are incredible people. Some are further out in the process than I am, and others have just joined with fresh wounds.
So many people have told me, and us, how strong I am, how strong we are to be walking this journey and doing what we are doing. But what people don't understand, and don't want to understand, is that you really aren't given much of a choice when something like this happens. Especially when you have another alive child to take care of and think about. You do what you have to do to function each and every day and put one foot in front of the other. Literally. Some days that meant letting go of hygiene, food, or talking and that's OK. In the beginning Lilli was still in pre-school part time and I chose those days to let myself fall apart as much as I needed to, whether it meant staying in bed most days, crying or sometimes screaming. It also consisted of (obsessively) compiling research on what happened to Everett, and what could be done to prevent this from happening to another baby, another family. Then on the days Lilli was home with me, I tried to keep some level of "normal" for her.
At the end of December Lilli was home with me full time and I no longer had the luxury of my "fall apart days". She still sees me cry from time to time and now she's used to it. She used to feel like she needed to do something to help me when I was sad, but I explained to her that sometimes people get sad, and just need to be sad for a little while and that's OK. I don't want her to feel like it's her, a three year old, responsibility to make her mommy feel better.
Each day, slowly but surely gets a little bit easier to handle. We still have such an ache in our hearts for our beautiful baby boy, but feel the weight in our chest gets a little bit lighter as time moves forward.