The loss of my soul mate and partner altered life’s trajectory. That his death was sudden, that it was too soon, that it was newsworthy and public added to my confusion. And because it was paired with the death of our child it brought a complexity to my grief that is hard to comprehend. So as the tributes and accolades poured in, it was heartwarming to know how much he was loved. It was validating that those around him recognized all the qualities that brought me pride in standing beside him. That many with me would be mourning that he is not here anymore. An army grieving in solidarity with me.
Yet there was a wounded part deep inside that wanted to cry out, “I lost my baby too!”
She may have been hidden in her father’s large shadow and never impacted the lives he touched, but she is my flesh and blood. This little person grew inside me and entered into my life with no shortage of pain and suffering. She shared my laugh and scrunchy face and her daddy’s gentle spirit and long legs. She had not yet been given the time to journey far or stun the world with her captivating smile and compassionate heart. This child had not had the opportunity to explore the fullness of who she was, let alone learn of the potential inside. This human being stole a part of my heart the moment she was created and has taken it with her to the grave. Because as much as I decided to love my husband, over and over, with her it was never a choice. And the celebrated greatness of the man I chose to marry does not detract from the under appreciated worth of my child.
I ache for everyone to know that even though she did not enjoy the ‘celebrity’ of her father her loss is no less devastating. In fact, the opposite is true. There is not a single life which I value more than hers, including my own. Though the impact of her death to the masses will be negligible it still demands acknowledgment. All grief leaves different scars, but the layers of child loss is deep and unfathomable.
I hear you mama. Your plea rings clear above the chaos. My heart breaks with you as you experience unfathomable overwhelm. I am so sorry that you lost your husband and there are no words to express the pain of losing your daughter. But Know you are heard. I mourn with you even if the world doesn’t stop and listen. I will say it for you and with you. I lost my baby too.
You are regretting the choice in your Friday night movie as you get ready for bed. Every creak and groan of your old house puts you on edge. Each shadow sparks your imagination to picture the hideous creature casting the image. Securely wrapped in your bedspread you suspiciously eye the closet door and worry what will happen to any appendage that might accidentally escape the safety of the blankets.
In a couple of days you will be able to laugh with your spouse about hitting them as they came up behind you to put a hand on your shoulder; or joke with your friends about how you screamed as the cat rubbed against your ankles. Looking back you shake your head at the absurdity of your responses in a harmless environment. But this is a valuable example of the mind’s power.
The brain and the body are intertwined; connected in ways that we never acknowledge. We input data with every experience and activity that we are exposed to and it is processed, stored, and applied to ensure life’s continuance and prosperity. We were designed with the innate ability to prioritize in times of danger. The combination of nurture and nature sets us up to respond with lightning speed and though it may appear that our bodies bypass our brain in reality it is the entrenched neurological pathways of our minds that save us. When time is of the essence we function at a level every AI developer dreams of reproducing.
Then trauma comes and it changes everything.
We are exposed to something beyond our abilities to process or comprehend. Survival is still at the forefront and the body and brain prioritize what is emergent and what is lethal. This strategy is aimed at giving us more time and extending life. Though it also alters those neuro connections that have been the framework of our decisions. All this in the name of claiming one more breath, one more day, one more milestone. Yet when the danger fades and we move further away from the catalyst our physical and emotional behaviours do not always follow suit. They can become cemented. As if the shock of the traumatic event carved deeper and stronger pathways in the brain. Ones that potentially abrogate every other foundational conclusion that existed. The overreaction that saved us now renders us immobile. Functioning on high alert and reacting as though danger is always present.
The only option is to reset.
So when the body tells us there is a crisis or discomfort we have to override our natural response and build new connections. Using all the tools we have to suppress the panic and engage our brains in something different. Un-master the fight or flight responses. The only other time we learned at this level we were expected to nap throughout the day. Things we have always enjoyed will require maximum effort. Conversation and crowds can cause even more exhaustion then before. The ability to store and process new knowledge is diminished and even involuntary tasks now demand the engagement of the brain. Some activities will require that we remind ourselves to just inhale and exhale. Senses are heightened and the cerebrum will be bombarded with information. Everything that is automatic must now be dissected; each response challenged. It is relentless and solitary, but necessary.
There is no reset button.