The Aftermath

Shortly after Leah’s death, I began regularly conversing with a fellow loss mama. After sharing with her how mystified I felt by my grieving process, she sent me this image:

grief stages

Image source via Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation

I think that pretty much sums it up.

When I first returned home from the hospital, I was indeed too shocked to fully process all that had happened. For the first two weeks there were many moments where it felt like I was still waiting to go into labour and bring my daughter home. I also experienced a healthy dose of denial, where my mind blatantly refused to accept the magnitude of my loss. I would place my hand on my soft postpartum belly and shake my head, wondering how the tiny girl who had been kicking fiercely against my ribs for so long was suddenly nowhere to be found. I was no longer pregnant, yet I had no baby. I had a c-section scar, newly widened mama hips, and engorged breasts overflowing with milk that was meant to nourish and sustain Leah’s life. I was a mother without a child, and it made no sense.

At the same time, there were many other moments where I felt like I would be crushed under the weight of this devastating new reality. Each morning I woke up thinking how I should be taking care of Leah, yet she was not here. I had tied up all my ongoing academic projects weeks ago so that I could spend the entire summer exclusively being a mother to my daughter. I physically yearned to hold her in my arms again and feel her soft newborn skin against mine. I spent hours alone in my room, rocking back and forth and sobbing from the sheer agony of missing her. Suddenly all the light and purpose was gone from my life. The world seemed full of joy and promise before Leah came into being, but as soon as I saw that positive pregnancy test I began carving out space in my life that was specifically for her. And now that she was gone, no other person, thing, or experience could fill that void. This gaping hole will remain for the rest of my life; it is the price I have to pay for loving and losing my darling girl.

In the seemingly endless moments since those initial weeks of mourning, I have grieved for all the pain and struggle that Leah experienced in the hospital. I have grieved for the life she will never get to live. And I have grieved for all the moments I will never get to share with her. I will never watch her take her first steps, or board the bus for her first day of school. I will never sing to her as she blows out the candles on a birthday cake, or snuggle up with her to read a bedtime story.

Most of all, however, I have grieved for the love I will never get to share with her. From the moment I knew she existed, I began cultivating a love that was and will always be just for her. By the end of my pregnancy I was simply bursting at the seams, ecstatic to finally shower this love upon her outside the womb. Now I must carry this love with me until my dying day. It is often said that grief is love with no outlet, and I am now acutely aware of what this means.

More than anything, I grieve because Leah will never know that, of everyone who has ever lived, loved, and lost, for the brief moment in time that she was here I loved her and still love her with every fiber of my being. And I grieve because I will never feel her wrap her little arms around me and hear her say “I know you love me, Mommy. I love you too.