In the baby loss community, you’ll often hear the phrase “My heart is fuller than my arms.” This is certainly true for me. Don’t get me wrong – one toddler keeps me very busy, but I’m definitely not as busy as I would be if Ginny were also here. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t take my time though. In fact, I spend way more time grieving Ginny three and half years out than I thought I would. She is still in my thoughts all throughout the day everyday, and I still devote hours a week to mourning her. What I’ve learned is that this is healthy and normal life after loss.
Grief does not resolve on its own. Time itself does not heal. It takes work and devotion and Jesus to heal – and that does also take time. I think of it as tending a garden. If left ignored, the garden of grief will become overgrown with weeds and pests. Nothing fruitful will grow. For me when I ignore my grief, I feel very heavy with tension in my shoulders. I get irritable and irrational; I may lash out at those I love. I am not able to have as much fun or laugh as I normally would. In some others, neglected grief manifests itself in far worse ways such as addiction or violence. To prevent this, I must spend time “mothering Ginny” by mourning her. I tend to my grief garden by journalling, talking to those who care, praying, looking in her memory box, thinking of heaven, walking, reading passage of lament, listening to music or relevant podcasts, and crying. These activities are like pulling weeds, planting seeds, fertilizing, pruning, and watering. It is hard work but the result is peace, hope, and compassion for others. My heart is light and I can be my best for Chet, Daniel, and my community.
A loss mama does not stop mothering her child once her child dies. So now I’m left trying to figure out how to balance parenting one living child and one child in heaven. As with all of parenting, it takes prioritization and intentionality. I do what I can to parent both kids at once. I tell Chet about Ginny, and we look through the special photo album from her pregnancy together. We thank God for Sister Ginny in our prayers. I think of her on our walks or in the car. I try to devote more time during Chet’s naps, after he is asleep for the night, and on the weekends with Daniel’s help. It’s hard to prioritize time to mourn over doing chores or errands that need to get done. It feels selfish to take this time. So occasionally I will put it on the back burner and focus on other things. Then slowly I feel the weight growing; I become weary and easily frustrated. Daniel sometimes reminds me that I need to take the time alone to mourn. I remember that this isn’t optional. This is a mandatory part of my life. I’m not sure it will require this much time forever, but it does now. It’s not selfish – it’s mothering my sweet Ginny and it is essential to be the mom I want to be for Chet. This is parenting after loss.