Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Survive the Death of a Child

I may have gone off the deep end. I'm not sure yet, because I've been just treading water for quite some time now, so I haven't yet figured out how far beneath me the floor is. These days, I don't even know how I am getting through the day. I eat because I have to, not because I love it like I used to. I survive, but I'm not quite sure I live. I'm simply going through the motions.

I've recently deduced that Ben is ready to put Gabriel's memories away. Or maybe I have only decided that Ben never memorialized Gabriel the way that I did, and so it was best for our marriage if we just stop talking about him, or being reminded of him. I put most of his pictures away. I removed his picture from the wallpaper on my phone, so I wouldn't see him every time I picked it up. I took his ultrasound images off the refrigerator. I've informed Ben that I would like to move out of the house that we brought Gabriel home to, the place where he died, as soon as possible. I would also like a puppy, immediately, so I have something else to fuss over.

But I just couldn't leave Gabriel's memory alone. Since the day we received Gabriel's death certificate, I have been niggled by the fact that it does not include Gabriel's middle names. The "no" box has also been checked under the questions "Is the decedent Hispanic or of Latin descent?" The certificate also fails to include mine and Ben's middle names. As a student of history I am bothered by the fact that Gabriel's birth and death certificates are inconsistent. These records should be scrupulously preserved! My child's memory, his history, should be accurate. As his mother I would see to the proper recording of his memory. So, I went to the city's hall of records and requested a copy of Gabriel's birth certificate to put in our family Bible. I also asked what the procedure was for curing the defects in his death certificate. I was given a form and told to submit the corrections to the state office for vital records.

This still wasn't sufficient to me. I headed to the church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, under whose jurisdiction Memorial Hospital, where Gabriel was born and baptized, falls. I wanted an official copy of Gabriel's baptism certificate. When I learned that Gabriel's baptism hadn't been recorded at the church, I asked what I needed to do to correct that. There wasn't much more to be done today, so exhausted, I went home to write this blog and do the one thing that pacifies me anymore: tend to my virtual cafe in Facebook's Cafe World.

What has me so frazzled lately? I suppose the obvious answer is the loss of my son, a fact that I still haven't been able to grip completely. Maybe it's the fact that without a baby in my life, and without much of a professional career, I feel useless. The fact that my husband has been in transition in his own career hasn't made life very stable for us either. The fact that I feel as though he's lost interest in me and lost interest in our baby has me feeling not so stable myself. I stopped worrying about what he might think when he reads my blogs, probably because he stopped reading them. Ironically, I blog to provide an insightful tool into the mind of a mourning mother and wife, but the person I most wish would tap into my mind has no interest in this tool I've provided.

Recently I read the following poem by Gretchen Warren:

"Forgive me, Friend
If I don’t seem there—
If I seem a little distant
Or you think I don’t care.
My child has died

It’s hard to explain
My down-an-out days
When I don’t respond
Or I seem in a daze
My child has died.

I seem to be happy
When I suddenly cry—
The emotion overpowers me,
Hard as I try.
My child has died

So forgive me, My Friend,
When I can’t seem to give.
I’m doing all I can
Just to get up and live.
My child has died."

My child has died. And that about sums up what has happened in my life, what has me a shattered, broken shell of the woman I once was. My child has died and that's why I don't get out of bed until I have to -- why sometimes I struggle to believe there is even anything important enough to warrant "having to" get up. My child has died and that is why I have moments when I realize that I have driven somewhere, but can't remember the drive. My child has died, and that is why my husband and I are like roommates, sharing a space but simply passing each other by with distracted minds. Our child has died. We, and our marriage, will never be the same.


  1. Oh, Andrea. Continuing to hold you and your family in prayer. God really does make all things new....hold on to your faith like the lifesaver it is! Love & hugs over the internet since I can't give it in person. ((((Andrea))))

  2. Andrea, I have been following this blog since the beginning, and I have to say that the grace and faith with which you have handled your tragedy have been absolutely beautiful. I almost find myself feeling less of a Catholic sometimes because you are such an incredible one!

    With the pain you have endured, I can understand why it is that nothing you used to enjoy brings you the same enjoyment as before. One thing I remember feeling after deaths in my family is not wanting to enjoy things because the one I lost cannot, so why should I? Just remember that where Gabriel is, is a joy far greater than what you and I experience down here. You are ALLOWED to be happy and find new things to bring joy into your life - Gabriel would WANT that very much for you. Even though he is not here with you physically, still live your life for him as much as you would if he was. Remember him and love him by being happy and living life to the best of your ability. Look to heaven often and smile - he is there and will be smiling back.

    I hope and pray you don't really believe that Ben has lost interest in you OR your son - that is such destructive thinking. We gals tend to dwell on things and feel things much longer and deeper than men. While you need to feel, Ben needs to move, to do whatever he can to step forward. He doesn't understand your need to memorialize just as you don't understand his need not to. Men don't want to feel the pain, they want to get past it (read: RUN FAR FROM IT!). I know it can make us crazy when our man doesn't want to talk about something when we need to, but, holding resentments toward our fellas for it doesn't help the relationship between us to heal/blossom again. I know, I've been there, even very recently, I might add!

    The both of you will always feel those twinges of sadness and loss, although the intensity of the pain will lessen with time. Thing is, I have seen so much love and strength between you and Ben that I know it's possible to get back to the closeness you had before. Remember what has always been good between the two of you and embrace those things again. Just focus on what can be and not on what isn't.

    I know things will be good and beautiful for you again, Andrea, I just know it. God doesn't allow us those things that we cannot handle, even if he does give us some doozies sometimes. I genuinely believe that some things can come close to breaking us, but, we have to have faith that God wants better for us, and those brighter days will come if we run towards it and look to him always.

    My thoughts and prayers remain with you. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us.

  3. This road of grief can be so different for spouses so it can be hard to connect. I hope that in time you can have the connection again.