Have you ever lost something irreplaceable? Does it still bother you? I have, and yes it does.
I like to collect old license plates. I have several in my garage. The Utah and Washington license plates from my college car. The Utah and Washington license plates from my wife’s first car. The last license plate from my grandpa’s last car. License plates from old trucks on our farm. Even the license plate from the old truck I fell out of when I was five and tore my lip away from my chin. As I write this I can still taste the salt water I had to gargle with to keep from getting an infection. These are a connection to meaningful parts of my past. When I lived in Washington, I sold my motorcycle. I wanted the license plate. Somehow, the person I sold it to convinced me he needed it until he could get it licensed and get a new plate for it. I relented and let him take the plate with the promise that he would mail it to me once he didn’t need it anymore. He never did. I even called him a few months later in an attempt to get it from him.
I travelled a mini journey of grief because of this over the years. At first I was angry with him for not sending it to me coupled with anger at myself for letting him take it. I eventually acquiesced to the reality of never getting the plate back. Since then, I have acquired other plates, but none of the plates I have acquired or any I will acquire in the future will be that plate and I still have a small regret in my heart for that.
I have lost other things much more meaningful that will never be replaced in this life.
Between our second and third child, we experienced two later term pregnancy losses. The journey of grief was a brutal teacher. One of the most poignant lessons learned was that my path of grief was different than my wife’s path and that is ok. It took time to realize this though. At times I believe she was upset with me because she felt I wasn’t sad enough. At times I may have been impatient with her because she was still so forlorn. Ultimately we worked to understand each other better and to support to each other in our individual grief paths. The journey of grief was a brutal teacher. One of the most poignant lessons learned was that my path of grief was different than my wife’s path and that is ok.
About 2 years ago, my wife passed away.
I lost my best friend. The person I looked forward to spending the rest of my life with. The person I loved more than anyone on this earth. We were a team and now half my team was gone. I would not wish this path on anyone. It is the hardest thing I have ever encountered. My life has been forever changed. It will never be the same. It is my responsibility to make it the best it can be, but no one can “fix” what happened.
Often we want to be “fixers.” We want to fix or repair what has happened in others lives. Maybe this is so we don’t feel guilty about what we still have that they have lost. In this effort we often use trite phrases or say other things that can seem insensitive. After we lost our babies, people often commented about our belief that families are forever and how great it was that we could be with our babies again. We were silently frustrated, because we were feeling the extreme hurt of not having them with us now and comments about being with them in the future were not helpful. Often we want to be “fixers.” We want to fix or repair what has happened in others lives. Maybe this is so we don’t feel guilty about what we still have that they have lost.
Through our experiences we learned that we cannot say anything to fix what people are going through. When people are sad or grieving, they want to know that people care. Words weren’t what helped us feel that. People have said inconsiderate things to us because they did not know what to say. Others would say nothing because they knew not what to say. Some would even avoid us. All of these scenarios were hurtful in their own unique ways. Having experienced this, we then learned to say, “We are so sorry. We know there is nothing we can say that will help what you are going through, no words that will make everything better. Please just know that we love you.” I have also been on the giving end of inconsiderate things, because I knew not what was best. Because of that, I have patience with and appreciate every effort of comfort and understand when it appears that no effort was given.
In conclusion, other babies were born in to our family. They are greatly treasured and loved. I would not trade them for anything, but they didn’t replace the two we lost. I still wonder what they would be like. I still wonder what they would be good at. Even as I move forward in life I lament the loss of my wife. In the future, there will be triggers of grief. Often these triggers will be associated with happy times or milestones. Happy days of children getting married, grand children being born and the celebration of other milestones will be wonderful days filled with joy. They may also trigger sadness that my wife is not physically present with us to enjoy them. I will always remember her, how could I not? She is an integral part of who I am. I would not be the person I am without her influence. I am definitely a better person for having known her. No matter who comes into my life in the future, they will never be a replacement of what I have lost, they will never be the license plate from my motorcycle in Washington and that is ok. They aren’t supposed to be.