Originally, I wasn’t sure how to face, deal with, or even begin to process my grief. It was a confusing, spiraling, and terrifying concept that I avoided. Instead, I spent those first six months after losing Lila hyper focused on protecting my wife from anything potentially triggering. I wanted to keep all pregnant women and new families carting strollers out of sight from the moment we opened our front door. I couldn’t. This went on for more than six months – in fact, it was double that. But I’m vividly brought back to the first six months because we weren’t, during that time, focused on “trying again.” Lila was delivered via c-section; thus, my wife and I were advised by medical professionals not to attempt another pregnancy until 6 months had passed. “Trying again” brought other, new hurdles that I’ll write about at a later date.
Viewing the world through the lens of protecting my wife was one way that I ignored my own triggers and trauma. My natural reaction was to protect my wife. I didn’t ask myself what upset me, I just asked whether it would upset her. That’s how I shielded myself. Attempting to anticipate, and minimize, her grief and pain became my perspective. I needed to protect her in the wake of losing our baby. My wife carried our daughter and now I wanted to carry her. And, focusing on her emotional state distracted me from the excruciating reality that our daughter was gone. Avoiding mental flashbacks of the delivery room, the silence upon her entry into the world, and the way she felt in my arms was easier than working through the pain in my heart (whole body, really). I knew I missed her. In those subsequent months following Lila’s death, I wasn’t ready, or willing, to face my deep, complex wounds. I wasn’t ready to start the work to begin my healing. I was in pain, but I wanted my wife to be in less pain.
Those first six months were brutal. Lila was our first born. Home became a painful reminder that she was gone. Her absence loomed and erased all hope. Without Lila in that space with us, the familiar became unrecognizable. The joyous change we anticipated, and felt so real, for 37.5 weeks had vanished. It was replaced with sleeplessness, heartache, and deep sorrow. She was contextually woven into that home because every corner of that house was waiting to welcome her. We prepared her room, her blankets, her clothes, her toys. Some nights I’d wake up to a sound, and my wife wasn’t next to me. She was in another room crying. It was a cry unlike one I had, and have, ever heard. If pain were a sound, that was it. There are still moments, four years later, where I think I hear that cry (it’s not there). Days during those months were a bit easier to navigate, but the nights were endlessly dark and difficult.
On the other side, I realized that my wife and I shared a lot of the same triggers and pain. But during that time, I wasn’t directly acknowledging how much they also hurt me. I’ve been working on embracing, and accepting, their presence in my life. New triggers have emerged for me. And I’m sure even more will. The reality of accepting that I’ll always be moving through my grief is starting to settle. “Moving through” doesn’t mean that it suddenly ends, because I’ll always miss Lila. You don’t stop missing someone you don’t stop loving.