Earlier this month, I talked about Reliving the Moment and how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common in moms who have experienced pregnancy/baby loss. In that post, I shared the four major symptoms of PTSD and my experience with the first one. Although right now my mind is blocking when I found out Jensen’s heart had stopped through the day he was born. Moments come flooding in my brain and I can only analyze those small bursts of time. Even though there’s no way to know when I’ll remember more about those two days, I find myself clinging on to the second symptom. For the ease of this conversation, here’s the list once more:
- Reliving the event.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
- Feeling ‘keyed’ up or being on the lookout for danger.
When I first decided to talk about PTSD with you all, I didn’t even realize how much the holidays would go right along with the discussion. With Thanksgiving being my first, BIG holiday without Jensen, I didn’t know how I would handle the day or my emotions. Every day has been a test for me, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are really big days. They’re days where I’m supposed to be showing him off to the whole family and they let me know how big he’s getting. It’s the missing out on what his favorite holiday food would be, what his face would look like seeing the shiny ornaments on the tree, and so many countless things that these days bring with children…
As a loss mom, I have to weigh my emotions for family-get-togethers and other type of situations.
For the sake of not going on and on, I’m going to specifically talk about avoiding situations during this Thanksgiving. Maybe in the future I can touch on situations that directly remind me of the day Jensen was born. There’s so many ways this second symptom could go, but I think this is more relevant and timely for right now.
Going to Thanksgiving this year was hard. My family actually had two different ones, one that had all the kids and the other with just adults. Honestly, it was bittersweet to have. It’s nothing against my family, at all, but it sucks that Jensen wasn’t here. That he couldn’t be experiencing his first Thanksgiving with his whole family. I felt horrible, obviously I didn’t go to the first one. I avoided it, completely. There was no strength in me to go or even think about it. The whole night I would’ve pictured Jensen there and there and there. But like everyday since he’s been born, he isn’t physically here. There’s no silly smiles or trying to take all the food off the table. My brain puts it there, but it only makes his absence even more noticeable. I thought the second one would be better.
In the morning, I laid out my outfit and did everything I needed to around the house. As the clock kept getting closer to four, my anxiety kept getting stronger. Again, I felt myself wanting to avoid the situation and all the visions I thought I was going to have. Then when I told myself it was okay to have those thoughts, I was terrified to have everything come back to me. I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole and that’s a really big possibility. My brain has been actively trying to remember those two days. I feel like if I give it a little room to explore my deep thoughts, it’ll play it all out. That scares me, especially because I don’t know if I’m ready for that. So, logically what does a person do when they’re not ready to face something? They avoid it.
That’s what I did, for a few hours at least. Four came and went, and I still didn’t feel like leaving my bed. Jensen’s urn candle was on and I just kept watching it flicker, wondering what he would want me to do. I was still seeing him eating mashed potatoes and how he would look like at thirty-three weeks. Even sitting here in my room, I could see him dressed, ready to go, and watching me frantically get ready. I saw him in a denim shirt and khaki pants, with his white tennis shoes. Those images came so vividly even with me not at the dinner table. I avoided what I was afraid of for as long as I could. This type of situation of reliving the event, never goes away. I relive the days I was pregnant with Jensen, certain moments of his birth, and each day that he should be here.
When I got to my uncle’s house, I took a deep breath before I walked in. I kept playing with my Jensen bracelet as everyone greeted me. My arms felt empty, I kept thinking how I should be carrying him in his car seat. I’m not going to lie to you guys, it hurt. It felt like my chest was being crushed. This feeling overwhelms me and is usually present in my day-to-day life. Yet, I still made it to Thanksgiving dinner. A plate was given to me and I filled it up to eat. I sat, ate, and talked. There were moments I wanted to cry and there were moments I laughed. I kept wondering why I had avoided going over for those few hours and I wondered about my lifetime of avoiding these situations.
Losing a child brings a lifetime of hurting, dreaming, and avoiding. But with every step and day we continue on, we heal just a little bit at a time. I know how stressful the holidays are and how the PTSD can really hit. Even though I went to Thanksgiving dinner and have certain plans for December, it’s perfectly okay to avoid these days. Grieving is a learning process that we have to figure out each day. If one day you’re ready to face these challenges head on, do it. If the very next day, you just want to stay in bed and avoid everything, you have every right to do so.
You are not alone. These feelings are not strange or weird. Be gentle on your heart. I know how hard this is, just like I know you’re doing your very best.
A little side note to this post…
I’d like to let everyone know that Poe made it home on Sunday. He’s lost a few pounds, but he’s safe and has no injuries. I am so thankful for my community, the positive thoughts that were coming my way, and that Jensen lead Poe back to his home.