The List


I have been deluded about grief from the very beginning. It started back when I was pregnant with Annie and there were times when I found myself wishing it was over so I could just get on with the grieving process. I thought, “when she is finally born and if she actually dies, then we can really grieve.” After she passed away I felt trapped. The grief and pain were welling up in me and I remember thinking “once we have her funeral, then we will be able to move on.” That didn’t happen either. The thoughts continued to morph; once we get through the holidays… once we honor her at the rose parade… once we celebrate her birthday… once Iva is born…

After this past Christmas I noticed that these feelings are still very present. In a tearful conversation with my husband I realized that a part of me is always going to feel sad and empty. Since apparently my expectations have been so unrealistic up until this point I have some work to do. I found a grief support group here in town and have been attending for the past couple of weeks. There are only 5 of us in the group, and I am the youngest by over 40 years. At first I thought that because of this I was likely wasting my time. It slowly became clear however that even though every person’s journey through grief is different and everyone’s individual story is different, the feelings are usually the same.

We were given “homework” this week, and I am going to do it here. It has helped to pull me out of myself to hear that other people have these thoughts and feelings, so I decided to be open about it in the hopes that it might help someone else. Our assignment was to list our feelings and thoughts about our loss. I’m hoping that this helps because I often feel lost in a fog of my thoughts. I think actually naming these thoughts and feelings might help clear that fog. Here goes…

  • I feel like I am misunderstood by even the people closest to me.
  • I feel like I’m failing my girls.
  • Dylan tries to help, and I hate that she carries that on her tiny little shoulders.
    • The girls and I were snuggling on the couch and Dylan said “aww, mom! You’re holding all of your girls!… because,.. you know… you are always holding Annie in your heart… Right?” Moments like this happen fairly often, and it makes me happy and proud that she talks about her sister and has a protective heart for her momma, but it breaks my heart when I see her worried and feel like she has to include Annie.
  • I have trouble concentrating on even the smallest tasks.
  • I feel like other people think I should be further along in the grief process.
  • I WANT to be further along in the grief process.
  • Since I have realized that this will never be “over” I have felt so completely EXHAUSTED
  • I am having a hard time accepting that this is part of my identity now
    • Every part of who I am I have chosen. I chose to join the military. I chose to marry my husband. I chose to have a large family. I chose to become a nurse. I chose this life. I did not choose to have a child with a terminal birth defect. I did not choose to be the mother who lost a baby. I struggle greatly with accepting this as being who I am now. When I get an email or message (which has happened often) asking for advice because someone knows someone who is going through a similar situation, or someone just lost a child, it almost paralyzes me. I have been in complete denial that this is who I am. I am unfortunately qualified to give advice on these awful situations, and I endeavor to become better at this. It usually takes me weeks (if ever) to respond to these messages, and it is because I feel these people’s pain so deeply I don’t know what to do.
  • Actually, you know what? Advice is the last thing people need. (well meaning friends and family, please take note)
    • The main reason I blog is not because I just really enjoy telling the world all of my failings and insecurities. Although that part is super fun… It is because when I write, my computer doesn’t try to fix my problems. It doesn’t talk back. It allows me to purge these feelings and the only things it fixes are my spelling errors. If someone you know is hurting in any capacity, I encourage you to overcome your own feelings of being uncomfortable and awkward, and ask them how they are doing. Then, just listen. Don’t offer suggestions, or even worse, a platitude. Most of the time people just need an outlet for their grief. There is no easy solution, no quick fix. This can be incredibly difficult to do. It is hard for people to see someone they love hurting. It is in our nature to try and help them. My suggestion is that a great way to do that is not to try and “fix” them but to let them know you care and just listen.
  • These past few months I feel like I have been dishonoring Annie’s legacy. She taught me so much, and undeniably changed me. Her legacy is one of love and light, and it makes me grateful for each and every day. A lot of those days have been heavy lately, and I have been swallowed in my own grief. I don’t want to waste this precious life…
  • It really sucks that this is who I am.
  • It really sucks that I will be dealing with this grief for the rest of my life.

Even though this sucks, I am grateful for it. I am grateful that Annie was born. Her birthday was one of the best days of my life. It’s amazing that such a tiny little life changed the world. I am unbelievably proud of her. I will always love her and praise God for giving her to us, even if it was only for a day. I am a fallible human being, and am trying to figure things out day by day. I’m so honored by my husband as he loves and helps me, even when he is in the most stressful and demanding season of his Air Force career. (Here he is taking all 3 girls for a jog on a freezing February afternoon so I could have some time alone. He figured out how to fit them all in a double stroller, so he’s smart AND good lookin.)

I am beyond blessed by my daughters. Dylan has grown up much faster than I have wanted. She is patient with my unpredictable emotions and is quick to forgive me when I fail. Harper Lou is hysterical and goofy and brings such joy to my life.

image image
Iva is the most precious little toddler, and she melts me with her pigtails and her giggles.

I have so much joy in my life and this part of my journey is my attempt to actively focus on that joy while acknowledging and attending to my grief in a healthy way. I’m doing the best I can, and it’s really nice to know I’m not alone. The grief support group has taught me that. It’s strangely freeing to actually list these feelings. These past few months have been confusing, and actually seeking help has started to bring some clarity. Thank you for letting me purge here for the past few years. Writing has been the most productive thing I have done in my healing process, and I’m so grateful for this outlet.




5 thoughts on “The List

  1. I just want to say thank you for being vulnerable and sharing all of this. Your vulnerability is beautiful Abbey. It honors Annie in the best way. I just took a class on the psychology of grief. It was so eye opening. If I learned anything from the class is that there is really no timeline for grief but joining a support group is something amazing you can do for yourself. I’m proud of you lady and I’m sending you a hug right now. I would love to meet up and catch up sometime! Miss you!

  2. Abbey, I feel so privileged that you share your words, your grief, your family & your heart with all of us….writing is a amazing form of therapy. There’s Is Not a “time frame” for grieving we are all individuals. Anytime your ready to slip away for an hour or two, yell….we can go get coffee & work on adult coloring book.

  3. I don’t even know where to start. 18 years ago, my 3 month old niece died, while in my care. No warning, just gone. The day of her funeral my sister recieved a call, cause of death, three major (undetectable) heart defects. At that time, I had a 6 month old son. My whole world crumbled, at the ripe age of 19. She wasn’t my baby. I will never pretend to know what a parent feels, when a child dies. What I didn’t understand, was that I was forever changed. Like you, I kept waiting for it to get ‘better’. In the beginning, I remember putting a small soft toy on my son’s chest when he slept, so I could watch him breath. Terrified that the same could happen to him. (He is 19 Today!) I’m rambling here. I finally understand that ‘haze’ you mentioned about Annie’s absence. I have that too. Nothing was the same, it’s better than it was, but never the same. My heart cries for you. God bless! I know this is an old post, but thank you for sharing. It helped!

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