Editor’s note: This post deals with sensitive content that may be triggering for some readers. If you too have lost a child to stillbirth, and are looking for support, please visit this website.
I used to think grief was just sadness. I now know it’s not. It’s all the other feelings too. All…at…the same…time.
Grief is the harsh, cruel pain of holding your stillborn son in your arms, whilst feeling utter pride and unbearable love for this perfect, yet breathless little life.
It’s your mind playing tricks on you; saying your baby is just sleeping. Then the overwhelming reality when you realise he’s not waking up.
It’s smiling down at your baby as you take in all his features that come from you and the only other person you love just as much – your husband and father of this child. At the same time, it’s wiping away tears of horror that you will not get to take your baby home and your family is forever changed.
Ann-Marie and her husband. Image supplied.
It’s the relief of walking away from the hospital where your worst fears were realised, whilst your legs are buckling beneath you from the weight of your empty arms.
And that’s just the beginning. You then have go on living. You have to step out into the world with a blended up mess of emotions, and not a clue where to begin.
So you take your first steps.
You still have to eat, so you drag yourself to the grocery store. But this once simple task, feels almost unachievable. There are pregnant women; and dad’s pushing prams; and children screaming in the lolly section. Your heart aches because you are part of this ‘parent club’ too but your baby is gone. And once again your legs buckle beneath you from the weight of your empty arms.
Yet you continue on. Down the cereal aisle, up to get milk. Over to the frozen pizza section because that’s all you can fathom ‘cooking’ right now. Your grief feels palpable. It’s like a strong energy force surrounding you. And a little paranoia creeps in as you imagine that people can see it by just glancing at you. I remember feeling like everyone in the shopping centre knew…like a had a neon sign above me saying “bereaved mum walking”.
You finally make it to the check-out and a queue of two people feels like the longest line you’ve ever had to endure. My husband once put a handful of groceries on the ground; stated “I can’t do this” and promptly walked out. Luckily his brother was there to pick up the pieces (literally and the rest).
If you do make it through the queue you are then greeted by the polite, cheery assistant who asks “How are you today?” You’re gobsmacked…hasn’t she seen the neon sign? Doesn’t she know? How dare she ask such an insensitive question! But you manage to mutter out a “Fine thanks”, and make your escape to the safety of your car, where you hunch yourself over the steering wheel to cry for five minutes before driving yourself home (via the bottle shop).