As soon as I checked the mail the other day and got this beautiful surprise, I knew I wanted to share it here. Because it's the perfect example of how to show your love, thoughtfulness, and understanding to someone who is grieving a loss like ours.
An Easter card. Fully addressed to our boy. Lovingly sent from his Nanny and Papa. My mom and dad. Just the most wonderful two people on Earth.
Did I cry? Of course. Not because it upset me. But because I thought it was beautiful. I mean, the card alone was perfect. But to have it sent just to him. It's what we always would have wanted if he lived. And because he's so very much alive in our hearts, it always breaks me down a little bit when he isn't included in things.
I realize it might seem unnatural to include him. Not normal to acknowledge him as if he's here when he "isn't." But as I wrote yesterday, what's normal and natural to me doesn't have to be your version of normal and natural. But it's a pretty great expression of your love and understanding when you try to include him and acknowledge him in whatever ways you're comfortable.
That's why this card is so special to us. A special card from his grandparents, acknowledging and celebrating Ryan's first Easter.
My brief absence from writing has reminded me of something so important. That what I do here when I write, is my way of "normalizing" the feelings I have about the loss of Ryan.
There was so much discussion about how we'd "find our new normal" as time passed. Not to worry about how the grief felt right away. Eventually we'd return to "normal."
Well for me, grief is normal. This is what my normal looks like now. And I don't say that to be pitied. Or to have people worry about me. Or to think that I'm NOT normal. I have actually found a lot of peace in the acceptance of my grief. In not wishing it away, fighting it, or tamping it down, trying to extinguish its flame. I work through it. I manage it. I sink into it sometimes. Because this grief will always be a normal part of my life. It will come on in waves, as the cliche says. And it does. Yesterday was a great reminder of that. I'm never "safe" from grief now. And that's okay.
I'm proud and pleased to share it here every day. Those early days, weeks, months of my grief, when I was trying to "cope" with it quietly, those were some of the hardest in this whole journey. Sure, the grief was "more fresh." And I was looking at the world through the darkest of fogs to ever cloud my vision. But it wasn't until I started talking about it -- well, writing about it, really -- that I was able to accept it.
My grief no longer shocks me. I expect to feel sad. I expect to feel anger. Worry. Fear. Anxiety. But I also know to expect to feel happy. Hope. Love.
I plan to continue writing because it's part of my normal now. I write. I cuddle teddy bears. I visit the cemetery on a fairly regular basis. I do have a new normal. And grief is a big part of that. My grief is as intertwined with me as my baby boy. Unfortunately they're connected. But that makes them equally a part of me. And so, as I welcome my Ryan into my heart, I welcome that grief, too. We'll figure it out together.
I've been on a bit of a vacation this March Break -- travelling here and there visiting family. Add some tiredness and illness on top of that and I haven't been able to sit and write. It sometimes takes a lot out of me. But today seems the perfect day to get back to it. To sit in this room alone for a while.
Because he should be here today. He should be here every day, really.
But on these holidays, when my social media feeds are loaded with happy faces of babies and children enjoying their egg hunts, and Easter baskets, and bunny ears, I can't help but think that he should be here too. And my feed should be full of his smiling face. Wearing "My First Easter" bibs. And cute dress-up button down tops.
The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was that I slept too late. That if he was still here I would have likely been up hours earlier. We'd be eating breakfast. And going through the goodies the Easter Bunny brought. Watching and smiling as he played on the floor with his new little gifts.
And instead I went to the cemetery. Stuffed bunny in hand. Because I just had to make sure the Easter Bunny got to my boy today.
It's a beautiful day out there. And I know he's shining down on us today with the Spring sunshine. But I still just miss him so much.
I think lately, my blog has been a bit heavy. Maybe that's a product of the 6 month milestone being so intense for me. Or maybe it's just a product of my own increased anxiety lately, I don't know. But writing about those feel-good moments yesterday felt like a good thing, so I think I'll continue that trend today.
I know I have focused a bit in the past on those things people do that are a bit insensitive or selfish. But I've been very fortunate in that the majority of my experiences with people in this grief have been positive. I have been immensely touched by the compassion and kindness of others constantly throughout the past 6 months.
Something that really moved me very early on (within a month of losing him) was something done by a group of students from my school. My husband and I work in a very unique situation. Both teachers at the same school, a small private school of about 200 students. We work in a very tight knit community of teachers and students. So after Ryan died, our whole staff was quickly brought up to speed by our principals and they delicately "broke the news" to our student body before Rich returned to work. Over the first few weeks we received many emails, well-wishes, cards, and gifts from the staff, students, and parents from our "school family."
But the outreach didn't stop there. Our men's prep lacrosse team played in a tournament in October. They were acknowledging Breast Cancer month with pink tape on their helmets. A few of the students (none of whom I had ever taught before), approached their coach (a friend of mine and my husband's) and asked if on the tape they could write Ryan's initials (R.R). The coach obviously consented and sent us photos of the team honouring our son in such a sweet way.
I was so touched that a group of 16, 17, and 18 year old boys would have such sensitivity and thoughtfulness for our boy. I teach quite a few of them now that I'm back to work and I must say I have a bit of a soft spot for them even when they're pushing my buttons.
I can only hope that I could have raised Ryan to be so thoughtful someday.
We are so lucky to be surrounded by a group of people who know our story and our son and are very supportive and sensitive to my (our) needs. I will always be grateful for them and how much they've helped me heal in these first 6 months without him. I can't imagine what it would have been like to navigate through this time being anywhere else.
Right after losing Ryan I logged online to find some comfort. I was instantly overwhelmed by the volume of information out there. Too many babies died. There was just too much sadness. It was closer to a month later when I went back online. The first thing I found was an article titled "You Will Laugh Again" published on Still Standing Magazine.
It seemed written specifically for me.
"If you’re reading this, and you can’t fathom the day you will laugh again. You will. I promise."
I was online looking for some hope. And I found it. That whole online magazine has ended up being a staple for me. But this article was what I needed. A reminder that in my own time, in my own way, I would find a way to laugh again. To be happy.
And I have. I do! I go for long stretches full of laughter and joking. Hours of silly games with the little people in my life. I would have never imagined it to be possible but I have found joy again. I always feel a bit of guilt admitting it. But it's true. And I know he'd want it this way.
Being on the road for March Break leaves me less time for writing. But no less desire. So I'll still take a few moments where I can, but lots of my sharing may end up being the words of others.
Like today. I found this story a while ago. And although since then, I've learned it's more of a legend than a true story, it's still just as sad.
Legend says that Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in only 6 words and ended up writing what the people called, "The saddest story ever told."
"For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."
And yes. I'd have to agree. Ryan has a whole basket of baby shoes. Some were handed down by his older cousin. But some were new. And it breaks my heart that they hide in that closet unworn.
I used to look for Ryan everywhere. In the early weeks, when I left the house I wasn't focused on much else apart from trying to find signs of him.
On our first road trip back to my hometown only 2 weeks after losing him, I spent the better part of our 7 hour drive staring out the window at the clouds above us, watching the shapes shift, and looking for him. Looking for hearts. Looking for Rs. Looking for baby-shaped clouds. Anything that made me feel like he was there. That he wasn't so far. I remember following one "baby cloud" for a good stretch of highway. Staring at it. Watching the shape of it shift into something else. Willing it to keep its baby-shape.
Some time in the weeks that followed, the sky started to freak me out. And I stopped looking for him there. I couldn't stand the thought of Heaven holding my little boy. I'd read things that say "My baby lives in Heaven." Or "My baby is an angel in Heaven." And those words -- though they bring comfort to so many people -- actually twisted my stomach in knots. I didn't care how great Heaven was, or who was up there with him, no place would be better for him than on earth, in his mama's arms.
I'm a bit more at ease in terms of Heaven now. Though I still don't say those words too often. I'm still in the process of reconciling my feelings with God and that kind of "faith" stuff. But I can look at the sky again and feel some peace. I like to think that Ryan is part of the air I breathe. I look up, because naturally, that's where I'm trained to believe he's gone, and on my most anxious days, I can take a deep breath and fill myself with him. And it does calm me down. For a little while.
Until I need my next breath of him.
I've been having a bit of a hard time lately writing about what's really in my mind and heart. My thoughts have been a bit of a jumble. So today, I figured I take it easy and write about something simple but very prevalent in my life. And that is butterflies.
It all started with a few butterfly cards we received after Ryan died. And the butterfly stickers the nurses used to adorn his memory box. And the certificate of life they gave us. The butterflies in the book at the cemetery when we were designing his "headstone." Butterflies were everywhere.
I really started to hold on to them when I took my first walk alone after he died. My family had just left and I was feeling antsy in the house. I walked down to the park I imagined us spending many afternoons at. I sat in the swing, and in early Fall, a white butterfly fluttered in the grass nearby. That was when I came to see them as little Ryans, popping up to say hello.
6 months later, and there's not a corner of our living room/dining room/kitchen that doesn't have a little butterfly hanging around. Same with our bedroom. It's not like a butterfly museum or anything. But a little touch here and there so my baby fills our home.
Now, with Spring around the corner, butterflies are everywhere once again. Just this past weekend I was grocery shopping, and a brief detour through the Joe Fresh section had me impulse buying the prettiest butterfly pyjamas just screaming to come home with me. I had to resist the 3 other shirts and a super cute dress all with various butterfly prints. (I don't know where I found the strength!)
Basically, butterflies make me think of him. Not that I need much help in that department. They make me smile. Because despite all of the sadness I often share here, his memory does make me smile too.
Despite a lot of right and good in today, grief can make my emotions so out of whack that I can end up feeling not quite myself anyway.
So I don't much feel like writing today. And I feel like anything I do write might not really capture my feelings accurately. Instead I'll leave you with a song. "Gone Too Soon" by Daughtry. And a sample of the lyrics.
"Who would you be?
Well would you look at that? Not even 2 days after I post a rant about Ontario's deplorable views of stillborn babies, I finally receive some information from the Registrar General's office concerning my not-so-recent request for information.
I sent the request for Ryan's (non-existent) birth certificate at the end of September, and today, in the mail, I find my rejection letter. Just about 5 months later.
I requested the birth certificate for legal proof he was here. And the response I received was quite the opposite. "We have been unable to match your application to an existing registration at this time." (Loosely translated: This person does not currently exist).
Although I knew this already, it doesn't hurt any less to have it in writing. Official writing on government letterhead at that.
I suppose, now I can really start considering requesting a copy of his Statement of Stillbirth -- maybe with a personal letter attached explaining the emotional stress this simple paperwork has caused.
If you're a loss-parent, whose baby died and was recognized as a stillbirth, do you have any "legal" documentation of this? Did it "help you?" Is there even a "point" for me to go through the process of this? I know it's different for everyone, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.