I am finding the first weeks of this New Year to be more difficult than I expected. I write that, but inside I’m thinking to myself “will anything ever be easy again?” We made it through December, which was our wish when November started. The last eight weeks have been spent dodging landmines. Christmas decorations. Stockings on the mantel. Holiday cards with everyone’s families on them. Pregnancy announcements. Birth announcements. Birthdays. Packing for holiday travel and having seconds of relapse thinking “what do I need to pack for Toby?” only to be slapped back into reality with that horrible stab in my heart – he’s not here! Many may think that these relapse moments are ridiculous – why would that even cross your mind? Because I am a mother. We are parents. Parents of two – in two different places. Heaven and Earth. Please don’t get me wrong, because when I became a mother it was the biggest blessing and most fulfilling experience of my life. In some of the hardest moments throughout each day, when I just want to see Toby, I find myself thanking God for Lucas. But, seeing these moms and families, hearing or reading announcements, or watching siblings interact, it’s all very intense. My tears and screams are held back until I’m in the car, or the bathroom, or pulled over on the side of a road because it’s all just too much. Jealously consumes me. But again, the reality of it is I’m just broken. Physically, mentally, emotionally – heartbroken without Toby.
I feel as if January has pulled me backwards. Back to the days in September when my mind would have flashbacks to the day Toby died. I don’t have full-day flashbacks, thank god. Those were enough to make me feel like I couldn’t do this. But, now I feel like these flashbacks are even more incapacitating. They come out of nowhere and sidetrack my thoughts. Take my mind captive. I see his face. Him looking at Luke, as I watched him, in the rear-view mirror of the car. Toby smiling as I held him that morning after he had his bottle. They make me cry, but at the same time, I don’t want them to go away – they bring back vivid, sensory-evoking, pieces of my sweet Toby that I don’t want to lose. That I will never have again.
This is where anger and jealously have planted their seeds and are growing in me, like a bad weed. I am struggling with what is Toby’s and what will never be Toby’s (or ours – Dan & I). I have this box that I “carry” with me every second of the day. In there are pieces of Toby – things that are his – memories that are ours – emotions and pieces of his beautiful personality – that is what is inside this box. As a mother, if someone or something dare touch those, or even get relatively close to them, I’m in lockdown mode. May 27 – Toby’s birthday. That will forever be Toby’s day. I don’t want to celebrate anything else in the days leading up to that, or the days following. Those are the days that I prepared for my son’s arrival and the days when we brought him home and he made us a family of four. Those are Toby’s – and will always be. Our Holiday Card this year. We made the decision to send one and use the family photos we had taken when Toby was three weeks old. That will be the only holiday card – for the rest of my life – that Toby will be in. August 23 – I gave Toby a bath that evening, fed him his bottle, and put him down for bed. He normally feel asleep pretty well for me, but that night he was fussy. I asked Dan to try and put him to sleep and he wasn’t in his room five minutes and Toby was asleep in his arms. Our normal routine was I got Toby ready and put him to bed and Dan wrangled Luke for bath and reading before his bedtime. When I think back on that night, I was so mad at myself because I got upset he wouldn’t lay down for me, and then I thought, what if our angel knew that was his last night and he wanted daddy to put him to sleep. Every picture. We have over 300 pictures of Toby from the 12 weeks and 5 days he was here with us. August 14 – the day Toby was baptized. It was the only day, in his short life, that both sides of our family were all together. Every one of us. For those that know us, you understand why this is so sacred. Tobias. His name. We wanted him to have a full name, like Lucas (even though he goes by Luke). After the paperwork for his birth certificate was done at the hospital he was Toby. He will always be Toby. Graham, Toby’s middle name, was a family name from Dan’s side. His mom’s grandfather and brother. That fit perfectly for him and will forever, in my mind, always belong to him. No one else. August 24. The day that changed our lives forever. These are just a few of the things – both material and spiritual – that are inside my box. Maybe over time the possessiveness of these things will change for me. Maybe they won’t. But for right now, these are the things that I am carrying and protecting. Please be careful with them. They are my world – my Toby.
This pulling force, that January brought in with it when we opened the door, is as breathtaking as the piercing air in winter. I am worried that I may never overcome these setbacks. Worried that they will turn everything grey. I still have no idea where life is going. Planning, which was such a part of everyday life for me in the past, has become somewhat of a “if I feel like it” in which most cases I don’t.
Every day is still a struggle for Dan and me. The reality of Toby not being here is still so raw and paralyzing. Our three lives – Luke’s, Dan’s, mine – feel so empty without him. Sometimes we feel like people forget just how awful this is. Everyone gets to move on with their life and their children – celebrate, grow, add to their family, take another picture. The pain we feel is downright excruciating. You may not see it every time you speak to us, but it is still there the raging anger, tears and sadness. There is no moving on. There never will be. There is only moving forward.
I found this quote one evening last week while I was mindlessly swiping through Pinterest before bed. It made me shake my head yes. My hope is that anyone going through grief, no matter what kind, never has to feel like they have to grieve a certain way. It’s not possible. People should be mindful of how grieving parents look vs. how we feel. There may be days we just hide it well.
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Love & Prayers,
Katie & Dan