Sunday, May 27, 2012

Right Where I Am: 13 years, 9 months, 21 days

Angie at Still Life With Circles came up with a brilliant idea last year: ask bereaved parents to write a post describing where they are now in their grief, whether it's been a matter of days, weeks, months, years, or even (gulp) decades since their loss.  An amazing 179 parents took part and shared their stories and their thoughts, me included

"Right Where I Am" is back for a second year. I have to admit, when I contemplated whether I should take part again, I wondered what I would have to say that would be different from what I wrote last year. In the early years, it seemed like the differences in how we felt from year to year were fairly noticeable (whenever we paused to take stock of such things). But how different could grief be at 13 (almost 14) years versus 12?

Of course, once I started writing, the words began to flow. A word here & there at first, then phrases & then complete thoughts began to tumble out of my head, through my fingers and onto the computer screen. I've been trying to block out how I might have felt last year, or two years or 12 years ago, and focus on what grief feels like for me, right now -- what things are standing out for me today as I write (if not yesterday or two weeks ago, etc.).

At one time, earlier in my grief, I felt like I was leading a double life, a secret life. There was the brave face I showed each day to the world -- and then there was my true, hidden, after-hours, behind-closed-doors life as Katie's mommy, an ever-grieving parent. I felt the difference keenly -- the sharp divide between my life before my pregnancy and life afterwards.

I still don't talk about Katie or my short-lived pregnancy or my infertility struggles much to anyone, at least, outside of my "real-life" & Internet friends who have also lost babies. The sense of "otherness" is still there (sometimes more acutely than others). I have come to realize that it probably always will be.

But overall, the pain is nowhere near as sharp. The lines have blurred. My grief, my daughter, my infertility -- these have all become a part of me, of who am -- the completeness of me.

I feel her absence differently than I once did. In those early days & years, I mourned my baby. When I thought of Katie, of missing Katie, it was a baby (my baby) that I mourned. For a long time, I found it hard to picture Katie beyond babyhood, long after she would have grown into a toddler, a pre-schooler and beyond. I still have problems seeing babies & pregnant women from time to time -- particularly on those days (and there have been a few of them lately...!) when it seems like Every. Other. Friggin'. Woman. I walk by has a pregnant belly. :p 

But these days, it's not pregnancy &/or babies that dominate my thoughts. These days, I find it easier to picture Katie as the 13-year-old she would have been (teenaged drama, tantrums & all)(dh continues to insist that HIS daughter would never behave in such a fashion...!). It was a shock, as I wrote earlier this year, to realize that she would have been graduating from junior high this year and heading into high school this fall, and that I would have been shopping for prom dresses and making manicure/pedicure appointments right about now. Right now, my Facebook feed seems to be full of pictures and photos of other Grade 8 & 9 students' graduations & proms (which have become almost as elaborate as their senior high school counterparts, it seems). 

Another babylost mom recently noted in a private online forum that she is having a difficult time as the mothers around her celebrate -- and mourn -- the end of their children's school year -- sad that their babies are growing up, "graduating from pre-school, kindergarten and so on. "I want SO badly to tell them that the saddest thing is never getting to see them grow at all," she says. Amen, sister.

I'm also catching glimmers of the young adult my daughter might have become. Most of my peers (friends, cousins, etc.), even if they got married around the same time as dh & me, began having their children long before dh & I ever began ttc. Today, many of those children are graduating from high school or university, getting married and having children of their own -- making my friends (big gulp) grandparents. My friends, once the mothers I wanted to be like, are now becoming the mothers of brides and grooms, and the grandmothers I will never be.

Our cultural expectation is that grief is like the flu -- something you "get over," fairly quickly. Those of us who mourn a loved one get a pass for a short time -- a few weeks or perhaps months -- but then we're expected to get back to "normal" (whatever that is).  I think about the American Psychiatric Association, which recently proposed amending its definition of clinical depression -- an abnormal psychiatric condition -- to include those mourning a loss that happened just TWO WEEKS AGO.  (See my post here, and follow the link to Dr. Joanne Cacciatore's blog -- she explains it all much better than I can...!) 

The lesson of "Right Where I Am," I think, is that the vast majority of us never "get over" our grief.  It is something we carry with us throughout our life. It becomes a part of us, who we are. And while that grief may not manifest itself in the same way or at the same level of intensity as the years go by -- it is real. And it is NORMAL. 

And we can survive and go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives -- even when they're not the lives we thought we would be leading -- even when there will always be someone missing from the picture.

And that, sad and difficult as the road has been at times, we wouldn't trade this journey. As Mrs. Spit said in her own "Right Where I Am" post for this year, "Still... I am glad he came."

Thank you, Angie, for encouraging us to explore this topic, again, and bringing us together on your blog.

You can read Angie's story and others -- and add your own -- here.


  1. Loribeth, this is so beautiful. I didn't want it to end. You are an amazing writer.

    It is really interesting to see someone in their grief, so much farther out than I am (I am a little over two years out). To realize that it's normal and perfectly okay to continue grieving and loving my daughter forever. I will never be "over it" and I don't care if people expect me to be.

    That must be so tough to see all those picture updates from your friends and to realize your daughter would be a teenager. Such a big milestone I wish she could be here for...

    Oh, it just breaks my heart that you have no children here on earth to love. I am so sorry. I am sorry you will never have grandchildren to hold in your arms. I am sorry you have to watch as all your friends experience these different chapters in life.

    It's interesting to know that it's sometimes hard for you to see pregnant women and babies still. It is hard for me too. Even though my daughter would be a toddler now, to me she will always be my newborn babe. Though, it's tough too to see a child the age she would be.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey and your beautiful love for Katie.

    Much love and hugs,
    Hannah Rose

  2. So glad you took part, as I have always loved your insights as there aren't many out there who are still writing at almost fourteen years out.
    You honour your Katie so beautifully when you come here and share her with us.

  3. this is my first visit to your blog and I am so glad to have found it. I've been married almost 9 years, struggled with infertility, finally got pregnant last January only to lose my baby girl in August. I feel beaten down and don't know where we will go from here. i just wanted you to know your words have helped me. thank you for sharing your journey.

  4. I am always so grateful for your words and insight. I find it comforting to read about the ways you grieve, and live and love. I don't know what it is, exactly, maybe because your reflections are so honest and grounded. So, thank you. I have told this story a few times, but in the summer after Lucia died, a woman came to my yard sale. My neighbor was pregnant, and she asked her if she was pregnant. Yes, she said, and she said, "I had five children, but two were stillborn. I loved those babies like they lived." She told me she was 86. I never mentioned Lucia. It was her reflection and moment. I remember writing that on a blog, perhaps mine, and someone said, "YOU MEAN I AM GOING TO FEEL LIKE THIS FOR SIXTY YEARS?!?!" And I hadn't thought of that. She wasn't crying, or inconsolable, like I was in those days (five months out), but she seemed to honor, integrate her children. They were her babies, even at 86. To me, she was a kind of goal of integration, not a horror story. I don't know I just felt that way reading your post. It was beautiful. So, thank you, as always, for your support and love and wise words.

  5. I appreciate your thoughts, and your sharing where you are. I think you give those of us who aren't so far out a chance to see that survival is possible, that remembering isn't crazy, and that it's not just a virus to "get over". Thank you.

  6. What a beautiful post. Your strength through the years is an inspiration.

  7. This is such a lovely post Loribeth. So warm and honest.

    I certainly do have the sense of "otherness" that you mention, I find it quite hard to talk to others in real life about anything related to pregnancy or childbirth because my experiences are so different from theirs.

    I often imagine my daughter as that age, in her early teens, although in reality she would be able to turn four. I don't know why, there is something about that age that seems so special to me and I find it easy to imagine her as a 13 or 14 year old. With all the dramas and tantrums!

    I quite often have to bit back a similar response to your friend's, that the saddest thing is never seeing them grow up at all. A friend of mine wrote to me about 'mourning' her son when he got married and it was all I could do to stop myself firing off a rather vitriolic response.

    Our culture has a very strange relationship with grief, I have accepted that it is something that I will live with for the rest of my life. I don't know why we are so uncomfortable with, and other seem to want to hurry us through, something so integral to being a human being. We all grieve in the end don't we? And it's good and reassuring to know that I am not abnormal or broken or ill because I still carry grief around with me.

    And we survive and are happy and fulfilled. Even if it isn't quite as we imagined or wished. And yes, I'm glad they came. If those five and a bit months inside and three days outside are all I'm ever going to get, I'll take that and be glad.

    Thank you Loribeth. Remembering your beautiful Katie.

  8. This was lovely, Loribeth.

    I have occasionally said to others that in time, we find we can remember our lost ones (mine were never born) with love, and not pain. The pain still comes back at times - and I think it always will. But for the most part it's not there. And I think of what I've learned and received from my losses, and can only think of them with love.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing where you are. It's interesting that the sense of "otherness" which we all carry doesn't fade entirely. To lose a baby is to always feel outside of normal life a bit.

    Your love for Katie shines through your words. I appreciate your thoughts and wisdom.

  10. Gorgeous, Lori. You know how you thought you wouldn't have something new to say? Well, I found something new to hear. I know you've said it in the past, but it really hit home; that idea of not becoming a grandmother with Katie gone. Thank you for writing this.

  11. @Mel: Even after telling our stories over & over again in our support group, so much so that we could practically recite each others' stories, there would always be some new angle or little detail that would pop up & surprise people out of the blue. And even if it's the same stuff, I think it bears repeating. ; )

  12. I'm so glad you participated again, Loribeth. This is beautiful. And it helps to see how you remember and miss Katie at almost 14 years out. What you write about grief being something to live with rather than get over, that living with it instead of getting over it is normal - that is so important, and you put it so very well.

  13. This is such a beautiful post.. It makes me realise the permanancy of my my son's death - that in one year, five years, ten, thirteen...the rest of my life, I will be without him, but I will not forget. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you have no children on earth to give all your love to. Your strength amazes me. Thinking of you and your Katie.

  14. You have made me think to be mindful that one day Freddie will not be 14. That bears preparing for I think. Thank you.

    This is my first visit but I hope it will be okay to come back. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your daughter and for being still standing.


  15. Such a beautiful post. I am so heartbroken for you that you have no children with you on earth. I agree that grief is always with us and society thinks we should get over it...which is insane. Thank you for sharing... <3

  16. "And we can survive and go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives -- even when they're not the lives we thought we would be leading -- even when there will always be someone missing from the picture."

    This is very much where I am this year, though I have trouble understanding how it can be that way.

    And yes, the saddest thing is if they don't grow up (I've wanted to shout this myself a few times).

    And yes, while it changes how it shows, grief is still there and normal. Yes, yes, yes.

    I'm glad you decided to participate despite your initial reservations.

  17. Back when I first started blogging, you were one of the first people to offer me a direction to look for local help.

    Given that we are from the same "area" you knew where I should go, and who I could turn to help in my early days of grieving.

    I have always popped in here to have a look at how you are doing, and I just want to say thanks.... officially:) Your insights are sometimes just what I need to read and your advice invaluable.

  18. I love your phrase "the completeness of me". Such a complex, positive, nuanced phrase.

    I used the word complete in a different context in my post with the same sense of how appropriate the word could be even in the midst of the incompleteness that comes from not having our daughters with us.

  19. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

    Reading this (beautifully written post).... has given me .... a sort of peaceful sensation inside.

    I don't know how to explain it. Reading you .... 13 years on..... thinking about where I may be 13 years on.

    big hugs


  20. Hey Loribeth - I'm going to feature a snippet of this incredible post today in the LIFE section on BlogHer. It will then link back to this original post for people to read in its entirety. Please contact me by email ( if you'd like some bling for your blog. You are a gifted writer and I thank you for sharing your insight with the wider world.

  21. "And we can survive and go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives -- even when they're not the lives we thought we would be leading -- even when there will
    always be someone missing from the picture." Such encouraging words, and something I can very much relate to. Thinking of you and your beautiful Katie. I'm so sorry for all those years with her that are forever lost. Much love to you.