A Pain-filled Journey
About a year ago I heard the words “I am so sorry; your son has passed”. I entered my 20-week scan to see my son’s measurements and growth.
Upon looking at the ultrasound, I quickly knew that he had left this life. Grief-stricken, torn apart, and broken; I sat on the exam table and wept.
I knew the road ahead of me would be arduous and earth-shattering. I had to break the news to my husband, who was traveling for work, my entire family, and group of friends. I felt the weight of the world pressing down on my chest.
After a failed surgical procedure, I was induced to deliver my son. Hearing silence after 13 hours of labor will always sit with me. My husband and I are eternally grateful for the support that was provided to us and for the wonderful bedside care of our nurses and doctors.
I left the hospital, empty handed, wondering what my life would look like after this loss. I knew I had endured several traumatic experiences and my body and mind would feel the trauma in their own way. I had to momentarily put on my therapist cap to tell myself, “This will take time and that is ok”. As we all know, easier said than done.
A Long Road
Having a three-year-old son at home kept us busy, and we had the ultimate support from our families and friends. I struggled deeply with post traumatic stress symptoms, flashbacks, panic attacks, cold sweats, dizzy spells, migraines, you name it.
I had to find a way of living that allowed my body and mind to grieve, but also still be a mother and wife. I decided to increase my weekly therapy to twice a week, I began writing journals/poetry, and I took a break from conducting therapy.
I needed space to heal myself before I could help others heal. I also had to pause my doctoral work as I was working toward a terminal degree. These were boundaries I had to set for myself in order to give my brain room to accept what has happened to me.
Finding My Next Steps
Eventually, I was ready to start work again but very part time, I found great healing in teaching college courses. As I slowly picked myself off the floor, I started to feel less broken inside.
To this day, I have moments where I think “what if he were here, what would my life be like?” after these thoughts I typically cry and lay in bed in a depressed state void of movement.
When I find myself in this state, I usually ask myself “do you want to move right now?”, if the answer is “no”, I allow myself to lay in my sadness for a set amount of time (I usually set a timer). If the answer is “yes I need to”, I begin breathing exercises, such as four-square breathing, to get into a mental space where I can sit up. Then, I write my thoughts and give myself a task to complete.
Learning to Forgive Myself
Forgiveness of self is the biggest hurdle I had to overcome. I blamed myself for the loss, for the lack of housework, for the lack of play with my son, for the nights I lost sleep because I let my anxiety win.
As mothers, we tend to blame ourselves. Its as if we have an automatic personal blame switch. I decided the blame was too unbearable to harbor, so I had to let it go. I wrote down a list of things that I had control over since most of the things on my blame list were out of my control.
As every good therapist advises, we can only control ourselves. That was the biggest common denominator on my list. I decided to make small changes to help dissipate the blame.
I planned fun outings with my son during the week, just in case I did have struggle day, I still was able have undivided time with just he and I. If I encountered a flashback, I would tell myself to do my breathing techniques and replace the visual with a happy memory. I increased my positive self-talk exponentially.
Be Kind to Yourself
Positive self-talk is and always will be a life saver. I re-created my coping skills tool box to work with my trauma that allowed me to live. It is a life long journey to heal. I am so deeply proud that my body and mind continue to do their best best to keep me safe.
Even through our darkest moments in life we can still allow ourselves to live. It will continually be hard work, but we have to be ok with that. We will have days that feel like we were set back many years, that is ok. We need these days; they teach us a new lesson about ourselves. They tell us our brain is still processing and working through all that we experienced. Breathe and forgive. Your progress is not lost, everything you do from here on out is progress.
The GoodTherapy registry might be helpful to you to find a therapist if you have experienced traumatic loss. There are thousands of therapists listed who would love to walk with you on your journey. Find the support you need today.
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