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February 2020

A Mother’s Grief

Losing a Child

By Erin Beck Maver

Yesterday at the gym, I saw one of the nurses who helped deliver Phoenix. She gave me the most heartfelt hug, and in an instant it all came flooding back. 

I’ve been struggling recently; the holidays were shockingly difficult. On the one hand, I was trying feverishly to absorb each precious moment and feel the joy. On the other hand, every moment felt like a loss– a magical experience that wasn’t as I’d expected or hoped. I missed Phoenix acutely. It was just so much.

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Since the New Year I’ve been on a “self improvement” kick–healthy food, zero alcohol, reading every night, writing. I’m even sticking to the routine of washing my face every morning and evening. Seems so innocuous, but self care hasn’t been my strong suit for the past many months. Last Sunday marked six months since I last held her.

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But, in my pursuit of happiness (?), I have been inadvertently squelching my grief. I have found myself avoiding all painful feelings, like I was afraid they might suck me in.

Tonight I attended the monthly grief support meeting through HAND. I had a pit in my stomach, and I almost didn’t go, but some part of me pushed through. I’m so glad I went, because I’ve discovered something.

Since losing Phoenix, I’ve waffled back and forth between feeling nothing and feeling everything. It’s exhausting! Not to mention the need to live life “normally” and to be “OK”. It’s a crazy-making roller coaster, and I desperately wanted off! So, in these past weeks I’ve jumped into my self care, and I’ve been pushing my grief into some distant abyss, or maybe just way down deep in my soul? 

But tonight I cried. Thick air filled my lungs and I allowed myself to just hurt. It was awful, and perfect. And I discovered this most important thing (it was a shock and a revelation)– I found myself standing ankle deep in my pool of grief, and then I just sat down in it, and… 

I didn’t drown. 

I cried, and I relived the pain, and I talked about all of the smaller ways in which life keeps smacking me with the reality of this loss. And then I drove home (as I cried some more), and I walked upstairs, and I washed my face. I discovered that I don’t need to stand on the edge of my grief in order to be okay. I can sit down and put my feet in the pool, and I won’t get swallowed up! I can cry and I can wash my face. I can take care of me and I can still hurt because I miss my baby. I don’t have to feel nothing or everything.

Phoenix Rose, I miss you every day. The lens through which I view the world is colored by beautiful you– my Phoenix Rose colored glasses. Some days I’ll be so sad I cry. Some days I’ll go shopping or get coffee with friends. But always I’ll carry you in my heart. I can love you and miss you, and love this beautiful and precious life. And I won’t drown. 

Erin Beck Maver is a native of the Santa Cruz Mountains. She is a wife, mother and advocate for normalizing grief. 

If you or someone you know is struggling through pregnancy or infant loss, HAND (Helping After Neonatal Death) of the Bay Area is available for support. Visit www.handsupport.org for more information.

The author owes a debt of gratitude to the staff at Sutter Maternity and Surgery that can never be repaid. Special thanks goes to Rachel Groleau R.N, Jodi Crowther R.N, Tierra Owen R.N., Margaret Moore M.D and Cheryl Northey M.D. You’ll never know the depth of your impact, thank you is not enough.

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