At the same time, "normal" in the first weeks and months after loss looks different than normal later on. So, although most of that first list is still applicable to me even five years after we said good-bye to Naomi, our first baby in Heaven, I want to give another glimpse of "normal" especially for those who are still in those early, raw days of grief, and also for those who never received the support they needed, possibly many years ago. This is not to say what you should be doing or feeling right now. It is to give you a peek at what normal can, and hopefully will, be for you, eventually.
1. Smile. Laugh. Have a good day. At first, it feels forced and foreign, but as time goes on, it feels more natural, and more acceptable.
3. Make lifelong friends. Some of my closest friends now are people I have never met in person, but we are fellow moms on the road of loss. Others in real life whose paths would never have crossed mine have become close confidants. I have reconnected with old friends when we discovered that we both had this in common. The bond between parents who have suffered similarly is incredibly strong.
5. Find new strength. Babyloss parents are some of the strongest people I know. You don't think you are right now, but there is a strength within you that will rise up when you need it.
6. Discover new ability to empathize. Not only with other parents who have lost a baby, but with anyone who is suddenly dealing with a life situation that has turned their world upside down. You may not be able to relate to their exact circumstances, but that rug-ripped-out-from-under-you feeling? Yeah, you get that.
8. Find purpose in their baby's life. Not the reason for your baby's death, but a purpose for your baby's life (there is a difference). Each parent's path to this is unique, and no one can do this for you, but you will find it.
9. Dream again. To willingly plan any kind of future without our child seems like a deep betrayal at the beginning. But we do come to the point where we can, first in little steps, and then bigger ones. We discover that tomorrow is worth living and that we don't need to fear it.
10. Renew - or begin - one's relationship with God. Maybe you don't struggle with this, but there is no shame if you do. I did. How exactly God restores your ability to trust him varies with each person, but the steps to take are similar:
- Figure out what your struggle is, whether anger with God or fear or an inability to trust Him.
- Be honest with Him about it in prayer.
- Go to the Scriptures to find out what He has to say about that.
- Hang out with people of faith who will let you be real about your struggles and who are real about theirs (Hannah's Prayer is a great place for this, or if you are in South Carolina, contact me at Naomi's Circle).
- Do what people of faith do - pray, read, worship. Even if it feels fake, even if it feels like you've hit a wall, press on. You will get through it.
- Don't settle for less than God's best for your relationship with Him.
That's what I hope I am doing here. Holding out a candle in the darkness, a hand in the middle of the night, a reassuring voice to tell you that it won't always be this hard. Your exact path to that point will be different from mine, but you can find it.
God's promise for you is hope, not despair. I know those words can sound hollow, but they aren't. There is truth in them. Keep pressing on, keep following, keep believing, and He will take you there. I promise.
Are you far enough down the road of loss to turn around and encourage another parent? How did God carry you in your darkest moments?