Universal Grief

I’m constantly surprised that the grief things I thought were unique to me are actually universal. That overwhelming feeling of guilt I had the first time I laughed after Owen died or let an entire afternoon pass without an intentional thought of him? Someone else has been there before. The uncomfortable dilemma of how to answer someone who, during the course of idle chit chat, asks if you have any children? Yep, that’s already happened to a bunch of other broken-hearted mamas.

I have a lot of guilt. I know that it’s irrational and (after some really intense conversations with our cardiologist and Dr. Krakow at the International Skeletal Dysplasia Registry) I know that we did absolutely, 100% the best possible thing we could for Owen in letting him go. He was always going to die. From the moment he was conceived to his first little kitten mewl to the time we withdrew interventions, his course had been decided. But I still have guilt, and I’m learning that that’s pretty universal too. I came across this essay at Still Standing a few weeks ago, and as soon as I read the title, I felt it. I am not alone. When I am torturing myself that I didn’t do more for my son, a great swell of other mothers rises beneath me and holds me up. They’ve all been there before.

A large number probably even know what it’s like to believe that you could have done the impossible. After Owen had died, when his body was still with us but he was gone, I had the strongest urge to breathe life into him–to just put my mouth to his and breathe. He had been so perfect and robust, aside from his tiny chest. I just knew it would save him. I knew the numbers of his illness: the sizes of the chambers of his heart, the gradient of his pulmonary pressure, the circumference of his chest. But, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that I could give him life if I just wanted it enough, wished hard enough, loved him more, even though I wanted him intensely, wished for him with all of my being, and loved him ferociously.

There’re always the what-ifs in so many things in life, but they are especially present in baby loss. What if I hadn’t taken one dose of ibuprofen, with my provider’s approval, at 8 weeks pregnant? What if I had eaten more protein? What if I had laid on my left side more? I do know that ultimately no amount of left-side lying, protein eating, or medication avoiding could have saved Owen from faulty genetics, from a mutation laced in his cells. I know that I had a nearly perfect pregnancy, health-wise. Still, in the moments when missing him overwhelms every other thought, I wonder, why isn’t he here? There’s no science that answers this pain, and there’s no genetic test that soothes the loss of him, my perfect, beautiful baby son.

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3 thoughts on “Universal Grief

  1. I love you my sweet child. You are the most selfless, courageous, ferocious mama I know. You are my sunshine.

  2. I had that thought today- used the very term “universal.” Watched The Fault in Our Stars- i knew what I was getting into because I had read the book. Aspects of grief are totally universal.

    and, yes- the what if’s can be haunting. it’s our only way to try to make sense of the senseless

  3. I really struggle with the idea that i have the scientific answer to “why” did my baby die… I know exactly, why and how…. But why ME? Why did MY baby have messed up genes? Why did it all happen to us at all? And I’ve found that to be pretty universal. Sometimes it’s reassuring, and sometimes it makes me sad that nothing about my pain for her is unique, only that she was mine, and I loved her.

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