So, what happens next?
It’s a question that’s been whirling around my head for the past 6 weeks or so, I know we are still early in our grief journey but I look back on how far we’ve come in the past (nearly) 8 months and I truly feel a lot of the big ‘firsts’ are behind us now (apart from Clay’s first birthday obviously…even though I can now see the date hanging on the big calendar at work which feels surreal). But with a lot of his firsts now behind us, what was a shitty list of things to keep focusing on I find we are left with one looming question that keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind…What happens next?
Since Clay’s death, life has continued; we’ve had 2 more lockdown’s, the changing of seasons, dark nights, enduring the death of another baby, countless pregnancy and birth announcements, a New Year…the list goes on. Yet life as we knew it changed in its entirety on 14th July 2020, I’m forever in a place of ‘before Clay’ and ‘after Clay’. The me before Clay was organised, driven, enthusiastic, active, blissfully naïve, the kind of person that said ‘everything happens for a reason’ (excuse me for a moment whilst I go throw up in a corner over that one). But the me after Clay lacks in a lot of those qualities, I don’t enjoy organising anything, in fact I actually hate having to message people to organise something, I just want somebody to say “do you want to do X on X date at X time” and I will just come along for the ride (Friends…take note, I’m just not the planning/organised person I use to be!). I think the trait that has surprised me the most about the new, after Clay me is just how little I care about a lot of stuff now. I use to let myself get annoyed at little things but a lot of the time now I’ll find myself listening to somebody speaking (about work or some drama going off for example) and I will have a little dialogue in my head that goes along the lines of “my baby died, I really couldn’t give a shit”. It’s probably one of the things that gets to me the most to be honest, my lack of not giving a shit. In some ways I’ve forgotten how to be the me before Clay, whenever I try I feel a sense of imposter syndrome, I feel like the me after Clay needs to re-learn some of those traits that once came so naturally, but I’ve learnt when a tragedy shatters your entire world, you gain new traits as well. I think, eventually, the me after Clay will be a blend of the old and the new, forever changed but accepting it’s a process of learning and healing. Who knows, one day I might become invested in the mundane of life again and maybe that fictitious work issue that seems to be winding everybody else up might just start bothering me again too.
I look around and see everybody’s lives continuing. I know with the pandemic all our lives have been affected and whilst we are all in the same storm we are not all in the same boat. How I wish I was in lockdown at home with Clay instead of my own thoughts which amplifies all the time that has been snatched from our grasp. It’s probably why that ‘I will remember’ Instagram post that keeps getting shared grinds my gears so much. I know what ‘I will remember’ from this ballbag of a year; nothing but my own thoughts, the sound of silence when I wake up in the morning, the look Dan and I give one another when we pass each other going into Clay’s room each evening to kiss his urn. But I do try to remember that everything is relative, and if Clay had survived I would probably be one of those frustrated with what we’ve missed out on. I’m sure being a first time mum (or a second or third time mum) during this pandemic has been incredibly tough, I am not, even for one minute, taking away from that but I know for a fact being a mum without your baby here during this pandemic has been 1000x harder so hug your babies that little bit tighter, don’t worry if all you’ve achieved today is moving from the bedroom to the lounge and know that when all this is over at least you will still have your babies to take out and show off to the world.
The above would make you think that I think social media is all bad, but social media is great in many ways. It has connected me to many people who walk a similar path to us and without them the past 8 months would have undeniably been a lot tougher, there’s comfort in knowing you aren’t alone which is all you feel in those first moments you are told your baby has died. I will be forever grateful for the friends I have made on this unwanted journey. So to each and every one of you who I have met, albeit mostly virtually, thank you, from one loss mum to another. I have to add in here a special thank you to Han & Hannah, we have shared (and overshared), laughed, cried and everything in between since I met both of these amazing mama’s about 3 months after Clay died and they have helped me so much on my journey with grief so whenever I ask myself the question of ‘what happens next?’, I know one thing for sure, Han & Hannah are part of my life forever now, our 3 beautiful babies helped create an unbreakable friendship. If you are reading this in the very early days of your grief, trust me, you will find and connect with other loss mums and they will undeniably be a godsend on this journey, never be afraid to reach out for a chat, I promise you finding those special people (or person) will make those heaviest days the tiniest bit lighter.
One thing that I have found incredibly hard in the whole ‘what happens next’ saga that plagues my thoughts is the ability to do what I want, when I want (which at the moment is a walk or going to the food shop…Thanks Rona!). But honestly, I find myself getting so frustrated with how easily I can say yes to a walk, or can nip to the shop if I’ve forgotten something, not having to think about anybody but myself, not having anybody rely on me. I hate the fact I can think about booking a summer holiday without even a thought about how many nappies we will need, or what we may need to pack for Clay. The luxury of time to yourself isn’t a luxury at all when your baby has died. I honestly can’t wait for the day I can turn around to Dan and have to plan our lives around our living children, or finding myself unable to go on that night out because we can’t get a baby sitter. I crave having a tiny baby rely on me and a world where I’m not able to just ‘nip out’ or plan something last minute (when the world returns to normal anyway).
February in a some ways was a good month for me. Even using that word ‘good’ has been an effort for me in a lot of ways, I went over 7 months before one day during February I sat and thought ‘I feel good today’ and then somebody asked me how I was and I replied saying ‘I’m good thank you’ which was the first time I’ve said I’m ‘good’ since Clay died. Over the past 7 months there’s definitely been moments, hours, or maybe even a fleeting day where I have felt good but I’ve never allowed myself to say it out loud or respond to a question of ‘how are you’ beyond the answer of ‘I’m ok’. As if somehow saying I was good was dishonouring Clay, or if I said I was good too many times people will think I’ve forgotten. But it’s felt good to say I’m good, to finally let myself be in the moment with all my emotions and not just the bad ones.
Who knows hopefully in the future I will have full weeks of feeling good before the next wave of grief hits, but as always I know that no emotion is permanent so embracing those good emotions and not attaching guilt or sadness to them feels like a big step. Maybe that’s what happens next, maybe the good days will creep back in more often. Maybe what happens next is that I find ways of carrying Clay during those good days, the days in the summer breeze with a drink in hand, music playing, surrounded by family and friends and laughter fills my lungs - with Clay, as always, in my heart.