Grief: Four and a Half Years Out.

Why does it seem like every time I come to write here it feels like forever since the last time that I have? Maybe because it has been.

In the last few weeks, I’ve turned a whole year older, started back college classes, and am working full time. So, technically I haven’t had a lot of time to write, but I’m missing it. My goal for twenty-seven (how old I am) was to blog three times a week. Guys, I already failed! But, you can always start fresh.

The last time I wrote, I shared that I started back with therapy. I’m still going strong with it and it’s been helping in a lot of ways. In others, I still have a lot of work. Rome wasn’t built in a day though. Therapy has given me a lot to think about: past traumas, my grief, and my future. I should say, it’s given me constructive ways to think about all of it. Anxiety forces you to think of all those things, but I’m starting to see how I can still function and think about those things too.

Two weeks ago, I sort of had a full circle moment. My therapist and I are going through my trauma timeline. It sounds a lot more… scary… than it actually is. It’s still a little scary though. On that particular day, we talked about Jensen.

I found out… it’s still really hard to talk about the events of that day and the weeks following.

Duh, right? You don’t just wake up one day and are completely healed when your child dies. It doesn’t work like that. Shouting that to everyone that thinks it does. I’ve told Jensen’s story to so many times: out loud, writing it down, and in my head. Earlier in my grief, I was getting more comfortable with used to talking about his death and all my emotions after to other people. It’s been a little while since I have and I didn’t realize how big of a difference it was.

When my therapist asked if I was alright sharing about Jensen, his death, and how I handled things after, I told her yes with no inkling that I would be… weeping during it all. Yes, weeping.

I told her about my pregnancy and how hard it was emotionally on me. When we got to the day we found out he died, I went into detail about how my stomach just dropped and it felt like I was dead inside. I skipped around on the actual details of the birth because I felt my throat closing up. The post emotions of his birth and funeral and life after were hard to talk about too. It was just so difficult to bring back all those feelings and put myself back in that place again. That talk and just thinking about how traumatic his death was and still is has really.. re-affected me?

So many times parents are told they’re going to be better with time after losing their child. I’m not going to disagree in the fact that everyday life gets easier. It does. Your routine changes and life still goes on. That sounds harsh and I wouldn’t have wanted to hear that in the first few months after, but it’s true (for me). I think when outside people see parents after loss reemerging into their routine or job or whatever, they think it’s all ‘better.’ On the outside, they’re complying with society and not being outwardly upset.

For me, I can see my switch. I have to do what I have to do to work and do school and parent Mila and whatever else may need done. When I’m out in the world, I’m not as quick to snap that my son’s dead to people that say things. I’m more aware that the world isn’t really… sensitive to dead babies or uncomfortable grief. It’s not a settling thing at all, so I get that. I don’t bring Jensen up in every conversation anymore. When someone leaves him out or forgets him, I internalize it. I still feel the hurt, but I try to make others feel.. better.

BUT (!!!) it still hurts. I’m functional, but I still miss Jensen with every ounce of me.

I can tell you certain comments sting and having someone not mention or forget about him feels so awful. Talking about it all with my therapist made me realize what I (and so many people) went through was the worst thing ever.

The silence. The decisions. The hollowness. The tears. The solitude. The grief.

I think I got into the routine of being a mom to Mila and life, that I put those emotions on the back burner. I let the outside, ‘it gets better,’ get to me. Letting everyone else be comfortable in my child dying has put my real emotions, trauma, and heartbreak in an unaccessible place; until it has to come up.

Through the teary session and the last two weeks, I’ve definitely given myself more credit for all I’ve endured through losing Jensen. Our minds try to protect itself from all that pain. I’m thankful for that, truly. I guess I just wanted to say through this whole thing is I miss him and I’m proud of where I am today.

I think it’s also been a productive thing to feel all of these emotions again. Jensen would be starting preschool this year, which I haven’t talked about with anyone. I’ve been suppressing a lot of things lately (thanks exhaustion). Sharing Jensen with someone new and showing my love for him and how I care for him now has helped this stage of healing. I know I’ll always feel this emotional response when talking about him and it’s okay. It’s okay to be sad he’s not here, just like it’s okay to celebrate his life.

There isn’t a rule book about losing a baby or child at any age. If you haven’t been through it, you know nothing about it. That loss and hole in your heart doesn’t get easier, it just gets lighter to carry through time.

Here’s Jensen’s story if you’ve never read it or would like to read it again. I wrote it in 2016 and have been thinking about rewriting it again to see how I remember it almost five years out. If I do, you can bet I’ll share it here.

How Does That Make You Feel? cont.

Yesterday, I shared a post on Newsymom about how I started going to therapy again.

It is DIFFICULT to talk about therapy. I grew thinking it was a hush hush thing and only people that were deranged went. Obviously, that’s far from the case. What’s funny is that this blog originally was about Jensen and documenting stillbirth, grief, and my journey after loss. Like life, it’s taken different directions and I try to write about what makes me smile.

I’ve sort of backed myself in a strange corner. There was a point where I felt like I couldn’t express my grief anymore and the other… ‘troubling’ things in my life weren’t allowed to be expressed either. I talked about what I could and what I felt others were comfortable with. I guess that’s the type of person I am… trying to make others feel comfortable while putting myself on the back burner. Hello HUGE topic I talk about with my therapist. I’ve been thinking about making a schedule for this blog and delving into other things besides the light and happy. Not for anyone else, but for myself and to continue my healing journey.

Anyways, I think it’s a mix of where I’m at in my grief journey, parenting Mila, and what’s being reintroduced in therapy. I felt like I needed to share my new experience with talking to a professional and how it looks different this time around. There are three big factors I can instantly tell that are being more impactful already.

1. The right person.

There was nothing wrong with my therapist beforehand. She helped me in so many ways with the initial year after losing Jensen. I have no idea where my headspace would have been without her helping me along the way. But, it got to a point where I felt like I couldn’t really connect with her anymore and, like some relationships, our time just ended.

This time, I feel extremely connected to my therapist. I’m unsure if it’s the way we talk (I’ll get into this in a second), how she’s helped make deeper connections with me, or if our personalities just click. It feels like she really listens and puts the way I think first. When I’m talking, I don’t feel like I’m boring her and she reacts the way I need her to. I feel like that sounds so basic, but it’s hard when trying to find those things in a therapist,

I think life has a way of bringing us the right people and I’m glad I’ve found her.

2. Being 100% honest.

I’m unsure if I’m the only person that wasn’t completely honest with my therapist. Four years ago, I was not honest with my therapist if it wasn’t directly related to my grief with losing Jensen. That sounds AWFUL, but directly ties in finding the right therapist. I can remember telling half truths or leaving our important information. It impacted how my healing went and was detrimental because I couldn’t even be honest with myself during the time I really needed to be.

This time around, I made myself accountable. I told my therapist I had a hard time of telling the whole truth my first go with therapy. My main reason was not wanting to look bad and not being trusting of another person. I straight up told my therapist that what I’m going to say in the next months of working with her aren’t always going to be… good. In saying that, I told her I wanted to trust her and get myself to a better place.

During my sessions, I’m really working. I’m being honest with myself and her. Sometimes it’s hard to say certain things out loud, but I know it’s best. I don’t always feel my best right after our hour, but I know I’m getting back what I put into this time.

3. A happy space.

Besides the two reasons I stated before, the biggest difference is I’m not actually leaving my house to talk to my therapist. I downloaded an app (BetterHelp) so I can text, call, and video chat with my therapist. Every week, I directly talk to her for an hour and I can message her anytime I need to on other days.

There’s no awkward waiting rooms and I’m not in an unfamiliar place. I can be in the comfort of my home and not feel like i’m doing the walk of shame after I cry for an hour. Being able to communicate on the phone is also more familiar… not saying I don’t talk to others face-to-face, but you get what I mean. On top of that, with COVID, I don’t have to worry about the precautions I’d have to take by going to an appointment. I can also talk to her while Mila watches TV and am not stressing if I can’t find a babysitter on certain nights.

It allows me to have the freedom to talk in my safe and happy space, while getting the help I deserve.

I’ll never say I know everything about therapy or can tell you it most definitely will help your situation. I know that it’s helped me and I’m not ready to stop anytime soon. There’s a deep tugging that is telling me by doing this I’m helping my future and stopping so many traumatic cycles. In my Newsymom article, I wanted others to know that it’s okay to choose to go to therapy. I want to echo that same sentiment here too.

I deserve to be happy and mentally healthy. I can’t change the things that have or will happen, but I get to decide how I handle them. I wish that for everyone.

If you’re thinking about signing up for therapy or want to browse different options, if you’d like to use BetterHelp, use this referral. You get a week free and so do I. I highly recommend BetterHelp and you can find a ton of information on their website.

Healing Therapies.

Breathe in, one, two, three, four.

Breathe out, one, two, three, four.

I remember when deep breathing and counting were going to help heal the supposed worst pain of my life: giving birth. Even during my labor with Jensen, I don’t think I needed anyone counting for me. The contractions didn’t hurt, but I wanted some normalcy while I delivered him so silently. After he came into the world my body started healing, but emotionally, I didn’t even know how to begin healing. I was in pain and my brain instantly went into shock trying to protect the influx of emotions. During that time, I had to focus on healing my body by sleeping and trying to eat. That was the best I could do.

When I had to focus on emotional healing, I was lost. I felt alone and didn’t even know where to start. For the first few weeks, I just sat and stared into the nothingness. Everything felt numb and black. Even now, I can’t recall those moments or it just spirals out of control. The second week I looked in Jensen’s hospital bag. A brochure fell into my lap about online and in-person support groups. From there, I found You’re Not Alone – Love Letters from Loss Mom to Loss Mom, so many blogs journeying through others’ losses, and support near me. I read and read through so many pages, learning about how other’s heal. I realized how much reading through their words had helped me.

Then I decided to write Jensen’s story and share.

It felt so healing to write his name. To let the whole entire world know about him and his impact on my life. I needed to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. There would be a lot of ugly, but love always paved the way for the good. Six months later, it’s one healing therapy that I do every single day.  Usually with hot tea in my mug and candles lit throughout the whole house. Sometimes I want to share with the world and others, I keep it between Jensen and I. I haven’t missed a day of writing since that two-week mark. Getting all my emotions out on paper, or laptop, has let me sort through it everything.

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As much as I wish writing could just heal me and I’d be perfectly back to normal, that’s not how grief works.

Talk therapy has done so much good for me.

One of the hardest things I’ve done post loss was making an appointment to a therapist. I did not want to ‘be weak’ and talk to a counselor. The first time seeing her, I was terrified. Then being able to say his name, talk about how I was feeling out loud, and not feel judged was healing. It encouraged me to go to my first in-person support group, then the second. I spend a lot of time with talk therapy, six times a month to be exact. Sometimes, like this month, I’ve gone to other groups or events where I could talk more about Jensen. It’s been one of the most healing therapies I’ve done in my life after loss. This journey is so lonely and knowing there’s so many people to support me is, well, bittersweet. It breaks my heart knowing these amazing, strong women have felt this way and are able to channel that to help me and so many other moms going through loss. Reaching out and letting others know you need help, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s helped.

There’s no rulebook on what to do after your child dies. That’s what makes finding these healing therapies so individual and hard for people to narrow down. I believe it’s trial and error. What works for me, might not work for the next person and that absolutely fine. I will say, if you are a support person reading this and wondering how to help your loved one, the most healing therapy someone can help with is saying their child’s name. It’ll open the line of communication between you two and might help find what the other person needs to heal.

I’d also like to say one more thing, losing a child takes a lifetime of healing. Please be patient with them or yourself and never feel like they or you need to put your grief on a timeline. Loss moms and dads are trying to figure out their new normal and how to move forward with their life. Be gentle with our hearts, we’re doing our best to find our healing therapies.

Even if it begins with breathing in and out.