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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

for one and all > One of the loneliest feelings

One of the loneliest feelings is when you look around and realize so many of your family and friends are happy; truly happy, even blissfully so. Their lives are working out as they'd planned, dreamed, hoped, worked so hard for and then there's us and our broken life, unfolding as a nightmare, in tatters, despite everything. Our long-awaited child is dead and she's never coming back. There is no fixing this, only learning to live with it and somehow moving forward -- in time, and with a lot of hard work, patience, and love. It is then that I wonder, as I wistfully examine their photographs shared to social media, their broad smiles showing both top and bottom rows of teeth, if my smile will ever again reach my eyes.
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
And I just want to add, that I know social media is fraught with people sharing their best selves, the "highlight" reel so to speak. And yes, I know it's best if I stay off of there but it's complicated. And it's not just on social media. It's the happiness I hear in other people's voices, the excitement over this, that or the other. The smiles that radiate, that don't hide pain or devastation. Their growing families, their plans, their dreams unfolding as time continues to pass -- and though time doesn't stop for anyone, I feel like my life is at a standstill. I'm envious and frightened because I don't know if or when that spark will return, that joy, that enjoyment.
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Hi Melissa,

I know exactly how you feel. It's so isolating and frustrating to look around and see all the genuinely happy people around us. Whenever I'm around anyone--family, friends, coworkers, strangers--I can catch the glint of joy or excitement in their eyes, and I long to have that again. I yearn to feel that happiness again. I want to heal so badly, I catch myself wishing this never happened and my baby was here with me as he was meant to be. I feel like the me before my son died is so different than the me after his death. But I do know people who have suffered the loss of their babies, one mother a year out and a coworker two years out. They both seem to be happier--not exactly the same as before, because it won't ever be the same, but they have reached some level of happiness. They both had their rainbows, so I can't say if that's part of it, or if it's more-so the fact that they came to terms with their losses over time and reached a level of peace. I wish I was still innocent, I wish I was still ignorant to baby loss. But I don't have any choice to but to put one foot forward in front of the other and keep going. Sometimes I try to "fake it 'til I make it," being happy and excited about things or keeping up that appearance in front of others. Sometimes, it works! I have started to feel joy or excitement about little things: vacations, watching new shows, interesting new activities and spending time with my husband. I'm trying to fill up my days and do new things at work, projects I still wanted to work on even if I had Riyad here with me.

I think if we still *want* joy, although we don't have it now, and we are so deep in our sadness and grief, we will eventually find it. In one way or another, in one form or another, we will have it again. It's not going to be the same as everyone else, it's always going to be happiness with a "shadow"--the shadow of our lost little ones--but it will return, in time. We won't be whole, but we will be okay.
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNada
Melissa,

I want that joy and spark back desperately too. It really characterized who I was as a person, a friend, a partner before That part of me is lost, at least for now. Over the past few weeks, I feel like there have been times where I've been trying to push it, to conjure up that joy from somewhere but the harder I try for it or pretend to have found it, the more false and fake it feels. I struggle too with the outward appearances of seemingly everyone in my life having these perfect families and lives. It really feels like everyone has "made it" and we just fell off the cliff edge. I know it is only part of the story, but this very hard tragedy that we are reeling from seems to dwarf anything everyone else is going through. Not everyone experiences this degree of loss in their lives. It sucks that we do. How will we find that joyful part of ourselves again? I worry that it is so tied to having a living child now, but then that's just putting pressure on something that I can't be sure will happen anymore and am not at all in control of. What was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives became the hardest in many ways.

I am still waiting with you for that joy to find us again.
March 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteph
Nada - I know you're right. That in time, pieces of me will return and so too will the joy in life, little by little. Right after I posted this, my husband was offered a fantastic job which in many ways is another dream come true for him and for me as I'm so proud of his accomplishments, and for the first time since Evelyn's death in August, I/we felt happy. It was strange at first but then I just leaned in to it and it felt so nice. Of course, it didn't replace or negate the pain and sadness of Evelyn's death -- that is forever just as the love we have for her is forever. But it just sat alongside it. And there was room for both emotions and for that, I am grateful. It showed me that these emotions can indeed co-exist and it was a very welcome lesson to learn. And, it feels so nice to have something good happen after such a tragedy, something we can hold on to and build upon. Something we can be thankful for, amidst our pain and sorrow. Hugs to you, Nada.

Steph -- I too have really been struggling lately with feeling lost. I look in the mirror and I know it's me but the eyes are all wrong. There is an emptiness there, a hollowness. It's a haunting, the shadow of what we've been through and what we carry with us each day. I feel a pervasive "otherness." A few friends have distanced themselves from me and I don't quite know why, but I know it has to do with what we've endured. It's just too hard for some people, I guess, but it just makes me all the more grateful for the friends and family who have shown us such compassion and love and support without judgement or expectation. Overall, I feel as though I don't fit in anywhere -- not with friends or family, as by now after 9 long years of battling infertility, most everyone in our lives is building their families (many are done building, with 2+ children), and even in communities such as these, I feel like an anomaly, due to the back history of our long journey to parenthood. For us, the hope of future biological children is very, very slim...we've decided to cease treatments because 8 years is enough and plan to, when the time is right for us and when we've saved up some funds, move forward with adoption but that in and of itself is another long and winding road. So for now, we feel like we're floundering. And I too fear that my overall happiness is very much entwined with having a living child and to not know if that will ever happen or in what way Evelyn's sibling will find us...it's overwhelming. Sending hugs your way, Steph, thank you for your response.
March 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
hi Melissa,
after my son died, I simply could not be around one of my sisters- she had a son the same time I did, her son lived, mine died, and I just couldn't tolerate it. my large family was somewhat understanding to my feelings, but I also could tell they were bummed out that this "issue" was going to prevent us all from being together on vacations, gatherings, etc... I mean, oh well people! anyway, over some time, my family had a lot of time together that I was not in attendance for. tropical vacations, big parties, blah blah. I mean, wtf-ever... I never cared about not being there- the fact is that I was completely annihilated with grief and consumed with the major effort that it was taking to try to have a living kid to parent. I would not have been "fit" to be around anyone, let alone celebrating and carefree joyful life that even my own family seemed to be able to enjoy. I saw some pictures from those times- I mean, even a few months after my son died... Christmas in the Caribbean and they are all laughing and smiling and holding up beers and playing with the small baby in the ocean and I am telling you, such a darkness took over my soul after I saw those pictures... it made me hate my family. seriously hate them. how could they have celebrated like that when one of their own family had fucking died just a few months ago, and also just me- sad and suffering alone, broken hearted, I mean, it made me feel so belittled and not important enough to have a fucking pause on the fun fun fun for a while.

in any case, I just wanted to share that with you- I was not on any social media specifically because I couldn't tolerate seeing smiles. normal life, happy times, stupid jokes, casual fun that can only come when nothing's going seriously wrong in life. I couldn't take the normalcy when my life was so not-normal. I know your situation is similar too what I was going thru- not the same exact, but similar- infertility, stillbirth. etc. to see the world go on as if nothing ever matters, it is difficult. you are brave to be on social media- and I know that you have said that you are a social person so you have to take the beneficial part along with the total shitty part of it. I do understand that, because it is so lonely to go thru loss and also infertility.

as far as the joy. those big teeth-filled true smiles. I totally know what you are referring to. my daughter died 12 years ago, and my son 8 years ago. and, to be fully truthful, I have gone on to parent 2 living kids. I have 'resolved' my infertility and am far passed the initial acute grieving from the deaths of my 1st and 2nd kids. I don't really know if that full-on JOY has ever returned to me, but I also don't know if it really could or should or if it matters... meaning, I have been happy since c& a died. I have had big laughing fits and good times and I've held up beers to pictures and felt the warm sun on my skin and I've had days go by that I don't think much at all about those tragedies in my life. for that, I am thankful. but that honest to goodness not-a-care-in-the-world joyful smiling? nope. my grief won't allow for it. but I don't think that is bad or sad- I mean, if you get a huge cut on your arm and you need 187 stitches to heal it up, that scar is going to be there forever- your skin on your arm is never going to look pristine and "normal" again.

I do know what you are saying though- will you ever feel less horrible, like, just be able to have a day when you hum along to pop music or get excited about what is for dinner or whatever... social media sucks. you see that topical BS and never the whole person or picture. people are not made that way- everyone has stress, sorrow, loss, dirty secrets, shame, hidden lies, etc. etc... we are all imperfect. if people go thru a period of time when everything is so fucking great, well, they are just lucky. because life isn't life that, humans are not like that. the shit always comes to hit your fan, and you cannot escape it. those happy smiling people, I mean, good for them I guess, because there will absolutely come a time when things are not so shiny and perfect... and I don't mean to sound like a bitch, like, wanting bad things to happen to these happy perfect people, but its just the way it is. life is hard. no one gets a free pass. sometimes we ourselves are the laughing ones while others are suffering quietly.

if you did not feel isolated and lonely and deeply grieving the loss of your daughter, there would be something seriously odd about that- you would be shoving your feelings down (doesn't work!!) or lying to yourself, or hiding and conning everyone around you. I have actually witnessed some loss parents over the years, who refused to get "too" sad about what happened. they either saw it as a flaw or a fault, or thought that it would be an act of blasphemy to challenge some higher religious power by not trusting the Big Picture. they thought that if they got too sad, it would affect their ability to have another baby, or to keep their marriage together, or to lose their friends or family, or their ticket to heaven. I mean, its not healthy or normal to deny the tragedy and to hide from the grief. it is A Big Fucking Deal to lose a child. the bottom of the barrel. an experience to be avoided, like torture, or rape, or terminal illness, I mean, its right up there at the top of the list of things that suck so bad that it takes frigging years to learn how to cope with that as a part of your history. I sometimes worry that saying those things to newly bereaved parents is wrong or rude or out of line. but I think honesty is always best. and its not like it is black or white. things change and there are shades of grey and time passes and thankfully as humans, we are resilient and healable and we learn and grow and it is not always going to be horrible like it is in those first few months, even years. but really? the big nasty scar does not go away. my heart is always going to be destroyed because our daughter died, our son also died, and we went thru years of insane infertility. and- I mean- I have had a subsequent child, and then had another via gestational carrier, and its not like these "rainbows" (sorry, I hate that terminology) had any effect on the grief I have for my daughter and son. the living babies do not somehow make the dead babies "get better" or "go away". no doubt, it is a gift to parent if you want to parent, and to have infertility resolved finally is also a relief like nothing else- a deliverance. Melissa, I have told other IF and loss parents this- the IF was, hello, just as bad for me, in terms of emotional turmoil and life-altering changes, and to not be actively TTC (or foster, or adopt...) with IF any longer is a gift to all IF women, no matter how the resolution comes to be- aging out, opting out, running out of money, or the holy grail of parenting, etc. IF is a truly horrible way of living life, doubled with loss and grief- very very hard to cope. I honestly have felt your pain, Melissa.

so what am I saying? in my experience, grief and loss has affected my ability to "go back" to the happy joyful person I may have been before the tragedy happened. but that is not a bad thing. sure, there are times that I get jealous or wistful or downright angry that I am robbed of that ability to just take a nap free from any demonic memories about losing a baby. to be a person who somehow missed tragedy. but here I am. despite my sadness, I laugh. I have big smiles, censored only by my own experiences. I hum along with silly pop songs. i dream. i have opinions about things again... things i used to give a flying fuck about because my baby had died, eventually life got back to a sense of normalcy in that regard. but you never can go back to Before-Evelyn, and for you, even Before-IF. but those losses do not "ruin" you. they are just a part of you now. is that depressing? maybe from where i am in terms of time passed since a& c died... maybe it makes sense to me, from my perspective, and maybe it does not to where you are now... and if that is how it is coming across, i am truly sorry. i just think that surviving a tragedy comes a lot easier when we are allowed to be honest with our feelings, and none of them are wrong (within reason...).

so, just some thoughts for you. i feel very much for what you are going thru, and my thoughts are with you.
March 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterss
ss -- I know we've commented back and forth several times over the past 7 months and I am truly grateful for the time you put in to your replies and for the wisdom you have shared with me that time can bring. Infertility changed me. Even before Evelyn's death, I was not the same person I was when we started trying to build our family in 2008. I felt such shame and guilt that my body could not do what I so wished it to, what it was supposedly biologically wired for, and what everyone else's seemed to do without issue. As of last month, it's been 9 years. And it is a nightmare, all on its own. So yes, Evelyn's death, after all we'd been through, after all we'd done to get her, after all the funds we'd drained, feels especially cruel. I'd already lost friends through the years of battling IF -- friends who could not deal with what we were going through, with my emotions, and/or who just felt we were too different now to continue being friends. BS, in my opinion, but good riddance, I guess. So now, to lose more friends after suffering such an immense tragedy feels like such a huge slap in the face. Aren't friends supposed to be there for you no matter what, most especially in times of hardship? The loss of so many things has been endured throughout the years -- loss of faith, of hope, of self-worth, self-confidence, a positive body image, loss of friendships, of dreams and of actual CHILDREN. So it's painful to feel like our lives have gotten to be too much for some to handle and for them, it's just easier to make a clean break and slink back into the shadows. But I'm learning to not care, I'm learning to realize that it says more about them than it does about me, and I'm learning to value my feelings and needs as a bereaved mother over caring how others may view me or how I'm choosing to grieve.

I don't think I'm an especially social person -- actually, the last 5 years of IF and now Evelyn's death has really turned me into more of an introvert socially -- so much as someone who is geographically alienated from the vast majority of my support system. Because of that, social media is one of the only ways I have of keeping in touch with people. I talk on the phone with a select few but locally, I only have one friend who I see face to face, otherwise it's all texts or email (rarely anymore) or social media. For me, it's the fear of being out of sight, out of mind. If I'm not 'present' on social media, people are going to forget because they won't be seeing me anytime soon in person. So that's the challenge for me -- I'm already feeling extremely isolated as a result of our situation that adding further isolation from our support is not something I want to do 100%. I have taken breaks. I've been off of FB for a month now and have not missed it at all. I've felt emotionally more stable and have made a conscious effort to make sure what I'm putting my energy towards is worth it. But as anticipated, I've hardly heard from anyone. Just my local friend and two others in a month's time. It's very sad and I try not to care but I do because I feel forgotten and that hurts. It really hurts. Because at one time, I WAS very social. But that was before life got hard...and then harder still. And it's sad to think that our immense sorrow is just too much for some to handle...and my husband says it best: I'm so sorry our tragedy has made life more difficult for you. Love him.

I just have to say, I cannot believe your family reacted that way following the death of your son. I don't know if I could ever forgive them. The lack of compassion and care, from people who are supposed to love you the most, that's just unforgivable. I'm so sorry.

I know that in time, the intensity of the emotions I feel will soften. It's just a matter of being patient for that time to come. I wish I knew how this was all going to unfold, this post-Evelyn life of ours, but then again, maybe it's best not to know because if I had known THIS was going to happen, what is someone to do with that information? Best to just keep trudging forward, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Thanks again for responding, as ever.
March 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Melissa,

Huge amen to everything you wrote. The day when I saw your original post on this thread, this very topic was so heavy on my heart and mind. Thanks for starting this conversation.

It is VERY hard to watch others be happy in general, but especially when it involves them living out your anticipated reality that was robbed from you. It's just an endless slap in the face, and I still don't know how to really handle it without being a lonely, sad mess all the time. I isolate myself from a lot of people because I cannot relate to their joyful parenthood, but then that leaves me... well, isolated... and still without my child. How am I really to connect with these people, though?

Social media is a bitch. I never was an enormous fan of it, but I've had to cut WAY back, to nearly nothing, since my daughter died. Still, I sneak on from time to time and can see the happiness everywhere. Yes, I know these are curated posts. I know the pictures are the highlights. We all get that and see through it and realize that it's largely a plea for attention and adoration and affirmation. Regardless, the mere fact that there's something interesting or happy or beautiful or wonderful or whatever enough to broadcast it to the word... that alone is hard for us to imagine for ourselves. Add to it the fact that often these posts are about pregnancies and babies, and woof... it's just too much. Some more slaps in the face to accompany the feeling of being punched in the gut.

For me social media is hard, cold proof that others' lives can and do move on. I know this to be true anyway; I know that I am the one mourning my daughter 24x7, while others are not. But when I see all the moments and memories others are making with their growing families, I am CRUSHINGLY aware of it. I can feel insulted to even see sweet photos that my friends post, even though I know they're entitled to do so. It just feels weird and like a betrayal to me that they can and do continue bragging about the very aspects of their lives that I'm mourning in mine. I even question friendships over this, but mostly I just realize the sad truth that this is my tragedy alone. As much as someone can feel for me, the actual amount of sympathy is very, very, incredibly limited. This all further depresses me, since I think others like to assume that there's plenty of support happening on its own. There ARE plenty of people who care or who wish me the best, but I still don't know how to convert that into "support."

I really like how Nada expressed "happiness with a shadow." How very accurate to describe even the most pleasant days we're having without our children here. I was encouraged in one of your later posts in this thread to read that you had some recent moments where joy and sorrow intertwined, which at least is way better than only sorrow and at this point might be best-case scenario within your unwanted new normal. Even that combination is hard to strike, so I'm happy you were able to feel that way even a bit.

I'm so sorry that you know this pain, Melissa. Keep posting any time. xo
March 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNM