If you could change one thing about your grief, what would it be?
Last month I attended my first grief support group. I was incredibly nervous. It wasn’t specific to baby loss and I wasn’t sure if I’d feel comfortable airing out my feelings. I was in tears before even walking inside. That day, I had received a voicemail from my insurance company: someone asking if I’d found coverage for my newborn baby. It triggered some very intense emotions and I struggled to get myself together. My mom had attended the group before. She urged me to come inside, tears and all; but this wasn’t a safe place to me yet, so I found a bathroom to clean up and calm myself down a bit.
Upon walking in, my husband and I were offered a heart-shaped name tag to decorate in ways that express who we are. There was a key with stickers color coordinated to show our type of loss. Ours was blue with a white inner circle to represent child loss. We were greeted by other members who introduced themselves and welcomed us. We mingled a little bit before it was time to begin. The small talk was less uncomfortable, everyone there knowing we’d lost someone.
We began by sharing who we lost and something about them. I said his name, “Lincoln Everett.” I told them how effortlessly we had come up with his name; how still, to this day, his name feels like the perfect fit for him. They said things would be different this week. Rather than a sharing circle, we’d do something more like what the kids there usually do.
The activity we were presented with felt like it was made for us. In the baby loss community, a baby born after loss is called a Rainbow Baby. The leader of this group didn’t know our story. He didn’t know that we would be trying to have another baby sometime in the near future. He didn’t know how very close to home this activity would hit.
We were given some colored licorice candy and 2 paper plates. One was black and one was white. We were going to transfer these colored pieces from the darkness over to the light, forming a rainbow. For each piece we moved, we could share what it meant to us. We were asked to choose a piece for people who have been there for us through our grief; a piece for some words that describe who we lost; a piece for someone who is in the thick of the grief with us. I quietly thought of my responses to these. I spoke about a couple pieces. It was meaningful to me, but it wasn’t moving me to tears.
But then, the final piece: “If you could change one thing about your grief, moving forward, what would it be?” He clarified, “Of course, the first thought will be, you’d have them back. But we can’t change that. What can we change about the aftermath?”
I spoke. I cried. I couldn’t finish. What would I change? Fear. What I managed to get out is that I would change the fear of having another baby. The most obvious part of that fear is that something will go wrong again. There’s fear of losing another baby, and fear of my broken body being unable to handle a pregnancy. But there’s much more to my fears than just that. I fear that Lincoln will be forgotten. I fear that people won’t ask about him. I fear that he’ll be excluded from our family. I fear the misconception that another baby will mean that we’ve healed: that we’ve moved on without him.
I wish that I didn’t have to have these fears. Of course, we will never forget our baby boy. We will never be healed from this. I will always miss him. Another baby will not replace him, but will simply make day-to-day life a little less painful. When we do have another baby, that child will get another piece of my heart, but Lincoln will always have a piece as well. As I share about him, I hope to help people understand that he’ll always be a huge part of my life. When we lose a baby, we lose a future and a piece of ourselves. We lose hopes and dreams, and we will never be “over it.”