Thank you, Belle, for your Spiritual/Virtual Walk to Remember idea! Recently Belle attended a real-life walk to honor the memory of precious Pip and of other babies lost in pregnancy, birth, and beyond. After a less-than-validating experience, she proposed the idea of a “virtual walk to remember” in which all bloggers could take their own personal walk in the environment of their choosing to remember and honor those who were lost.
It just so happens that I attended my own virtual walk Saturday and an in-person one today, Sunday. I woke up Saturday in a pretty crappy mood since I had spent the previous night at a high-school football game. Not that the game itself bothered me (to say my home team lost would be an understatement). Nor did the super-chilly, piercing weather put me in a bad mood for the next day. It was seeing all those people from high school who had babies and babies galore. Ok, it was only one person who had two babies, but the image of watching her chase after and show off her children all night was the first memory that greeted me Saturday morning.
That morning I had planned to go down to the park and photograph something that would speak to me–something that would remind me of my baby. For some reason, I semi-strongly felt this image would be a butterfly, particularly an orange one (maybe this is called a monarch butterfly?) However, I decided to just stroll around my backyard with the animals instead. I knew I didn’t have a great deal to photograph back there but I chose to sit in the corner of my yard and just enjoy the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I wondered which of my blogger friends might be doing the same in another city thinking of their little ones as well. I cleared my head and tried to appreciate my previous happiness, but told myself that I could never really see myself moving forward. As much as I tried, mountains of negativity continued to invade my thoughts.
Then I looked across the yard at my garden at the mini-rose bush that was planted two years ago. Ironically, it was a Mother’s Day gift from the dogs. I stood, strolled over to it, and was drawn to one rose. One that had recently opened and seemed to grow more vibrant and stronger by the minute. I instantly knew it was hers.
I caressed the delicate petals of the rose and inhaled. The fragrance of the rose carried just a hint of sweetness. It was at this moment that I finally found the calm I was searching for. I felt a closeness to my baby that I cannot explain with words. I was able to tell her just how much she was loved and will continue to be. The moments of peace I felt afterward seemed to erase the sadness I had felt earlier.
Today was the in-person walk and I had misgivings about attending. Part of me didn’t want to invalidate what I had experienced the day before and the other part of me felt like my grief was just too fresh to be around others in that setting. We went anyway. At first, it was hard. Just standing around with others and knowing why I was there brought a river of tears to my eyes. I felt like we didn’t belong because no one else seemed to be upset and most of the other couples seemed to have children in attendance with them. I think the thing that upset me the most was filling out the registration sheet where you list the child’s name and birth date. We never officially named her and I wasn’t about to come up with a name on the spot. I wasn’t calm enough to realize that I didn’t even have to fill out the form nor did I have to even come up with a name.
After we got situated, it got better. There was a tree-watering ceremony and we all walked to the river to hear the speaker. On the way there, I couldn’t help but notice what was basking in the bushes:
If you look closely, you will see two orange butterflies. Actually, the bush contained a slew of butterflies, just as if they had been planted there for me to see. Seeing those butterflies, I knew my baby was with me. A feeling of strength overcame me and I knew that I would be able to finish the day.
Listening to the guest speaker helped me a great deal. She shared her own journey of infertility which included the loss of her son due to complications from preeclampsia. She said many things that helped me, but these things stand out:
1. Grief is not linear. Being an extremely linear person, I have had issues here. I tend to see a beginning, middle, and end, but who doesn’t?
2. Mourning and grief are different. Mourning lasts a specific time period, while grief is permanent. Losing a baby, whether through pregnancy or afterwards, changes you forever. Mourning is a different process for everyone. You, nor anyone else, can put a time limit on it.
3. You want your child to be proud of you.
I think the third one resonates most with me, too, and have felt this way for a few weeks. I have had some very tough times at work lately and the thing that has kept me going forward has been the memory of what I had. She is the reason I am able to get out of bed each day. She is the reason I can move forward. Even when I feel like I am dying on the inside, it is her strength that makes me live.
It’s amazing how hearing another’s story can bring us healing. That is why I am so thankful for this community of people who not only have the courage to share their own stories but have the compassion to put themselves in someone else’s position. Some can identify because they have walked the same road while others have the gift of genuine empathy. Those are the people who truly deserve to be called remarkable.