I watched Ieuan carefully examining his birthday present.
“What does the tag say?” I asked him.
He squinted down at my handwriting as he began to sound out the words.
“To Ieuan, love . . . . . . EVALYN!”
He quickly unwrapped the paper and pulled the little brown teddy from the packaging. I watched the little smile spread across his face and then beyond him to Nick and the tears that ran down his cheeks This wasn’t how it was meant to be. But this was all we could do for him. . . .
I hadn’t planned on spending Ieuan’s birthday weekend an emotional mess but I’ve learnt on more than one occasion that you can’t choose when you want to board the ‘grief train’. It just comes hurtling towards you at full speed and you have to clamber on and ride it out and hope that the journey isn’t as long as the last one.
Although I made every effort for Ieuan to see me smiling and having fun and for him to do the same, on the inside, Ieuan’s birthday was a constant reminder of Evalyn. I watched him unwrapping his presents and thought about how on Evalyn’s first birthday, she won’t be here. I thought about how much that is going to hurt. I thought about when Ieuan told me that we could still have a little party for her and that he could help her to blow out the candle on her birthday cake.
“She’ll like that, won’t she mum?” he had said enthusiastically, “And maybe we could buy her a little present and I can open it for her?”
On the morning of Ieuan’s birthday party, my mum led me into her kitchen and showed me all of the wonderful cupcakes she had made. I started crying thinking that she’ll never get to do that for Evalyn. In the afternoon, I watched Ieuan running around with his friends at his party and tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I will never get to see Evalyn having fun at her party. When that September comes around in four years time and all of her would-be friends start school, she won’t be there. I will never get to write out birthday invitations on her behalf. . . .
This past week, grief has very much come back into my life. He’d disappeared for a little while to, I’d pressumed, go and bother somebody else. But then he remembered he’d left me for too long. And now he’s back.
Grief came back on Ieuan’s birthday to remind me that Evalyn will never have a one.
Grief came back seven days later on my own birthday to remind me that Evalyn wasn’t here to celebrate with me as I’d imagined she would be eight months ago.
And then grief came back the day after my birthday to remind me that on that day last year, we had Evalyn’s 20 week scan. We’d been told that our baby looked well and healthy. We’d left the hospital so excited and full of hope for the future. . . .
It’s so easy to believe that with the passing of time, life somehow gets easier after loss. Maybe, in a way, it does. But it is never the same. There will always be a little piece of our lives left empty by Evalyn’s passing and it will never be completely healed.
But I don’t want it to be.
Sometimes you have to break down to build yourself back up. As much as I sometimes feel that the pain is too much to bear, I want to feel it as it is the only emotion that still links me and Evalyn together. I remember when I gave birth to her. I remember feeling so numb to my body and surroundings. I remember being offered the choice of any pain relief i wanted as the doctors began to induce me but I didn’t want any. I wanted to feel the pain. I had felt Evalyn growing in my tummy. I had felt her kicking daily until that last moment. And I told myself that if this was the last physical part of Evalyn being a part of my body that I would ever feel, then I wanted to feel it. I wanted to feel it all. . . .
My grief for Evalyn is the same. In the weeks after losing her, my doctor informed me a couple of times that she could prescribe me something to “take the edge off and help me through.” She seemed confused when I told her that I wanted to feel the pain of my grief. I didn’t want to numb it. I told her that the only way I felt I could get through this was to feel everything, to let every inch of grief consume me. She looked at me like I was already half way to losing control of my mind, but she let me walk away prescription free.
I’ve broken down many times since. But I’ve also built myself up. Like a child’s building blocks, sometimes I am able to build myself up high, sometimes I try and come crashing down again on the same go. Sometimes I build myself up but I didn’t put the bricks in place properly and that time, I’m slightly off balance and fall down quicker than before. Sometimes the bricks fall down completely and I have to start building right from the bottom. Sometimes, I’m left with a few blocks and a better structure to start from.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I build my blocks so high and just right that I get to stay there for a while. And for that time, life is clearer. I know that eventually I won’t come crashing down as much. I know that that time will come but I also know that I have to keep building to get there. . . .
There are so many grieving hearts in the world. And grieving hearts are heavy hearts and heavy hearts will fall . . . .
Just don’t be afraid to.
Let yourself fall.
Let yourself hurt.
Let yourself learn.
Let yourself breathe.
It is the hardest thing in the world to let pain in but sometimes it is the only way to try and find a new way of living.
A cut cannot heal until it has bled . . . .
And a heart cannot heal until it has grieved.