This post is part of our series throughout the month of May on motherhood. This story is the second part to “Moments in Time – Part 1,” reflections from Elisabeth on the death of her grandson, Coby. As mentioned in Part 1, we post this story in honour of all the mothers who have experienced the tragedy of loosing a child.
We wish you comfort and peace this Mother’s Day.
Life fifteen months later.
“It has been fifteen months since Coby’s funeral. To say that it has been difficult doesn’t really paint the picture. As a family we have gone through the traditional processes of grief, numbness, anger, sadness, and many, many tears. What I have learned though is that more often than not this kind of loss is treated very differently than other deaths. In fact, through this process I learned a new term – Marginalized Loss. It is a term that refers to the fact that, as a society, we do not give the same relevance to this type of loss as compared to another type of death. I think this sometimes makes it even more difficult as people have expected us to just get over it.
As a mother, this has been the most painful experience I have endured. We do so much as parents to protect our children from harm; our instincts are to do what we can to make the pain go away when we see our children hurt. I remember very clearly that first night when we learned Coby had died, thinking to myself I can’t make this better, I can’t make this go away. It was a hard realization. So for the past fifteen months, I have watched Kirstin and Jason travel this terrible journey. They have traveled it with incredible grace and dignity, and have been very present in their grief as they mourned the loss of their first child. It has allowed me to be present in my own grief, and it has given me peace as I have watched them move through it, to know that in the end they will be okay.
As we traveled through the firsts, they were as difficult as we expected. One of the most difficult firsts was Mother’s Day. It felt like a giant hole. Kirstin had gone through the right of passage, had given birth, but there was no baby to celebrate her first Mother’s Day with, and yet she was still a mother. The first Father’s Day was no better.
Kirstin said it very well,
“You expect the firsts to be hard, but what is harder is the unexpected moments that catch you by surprise.”
Like the moment when I was at the hairdressers, and the woman next to me was talking about her pregnant daughter who was due any day. It took everything in me not to burst into tears and run out of there or to stand up and say to her, “You don’t know everything will be okay, because if might not be, so you shouldn’t be so excited.”
There are many strange moments that happen, such as, when someone asks me how many grandchildren I have. I have learned to say, “One living.” I still find it difficult when I see toddlers the age that Coby would be and I find myself wondering what he would be like. I find myself sometimes looking at Kirstin and Jason, and thinking about what life should have been like for them now. I still have moments that take me by surprise: A commercial, seeing a tender moment between a mother and a child, or a random memory that can catch my breath and instantly bring me back to the reality of our loss.
Kirstin is now pregnant again.
It has taken great courage for them to take this risk again. It has been interesting to note people’s reactions when they learn of this pregnancy. Many people have wished them well, and said how brave they think they are, and that their prayers are with them. However, from some there has been this reaction of, “Oh good, now that you are pregnant, it will be all better and you can put it behind you.” It is in these moments that it expresses clearly the term Marginalized Loss. If Coby had lived to be 6 months, 1 year, 20 years, would we dare to think another child would somehow replace him? Is it somehow supposed to make it easier that he is not with us because there is the possibility of another child? It is because of this lack of understanding of what it is to go through this kind of loss that Kirstin and Jason, and consequently I as well, have become outspoken? In this last 15 months I have heard many similar stories of loss, and what has been the most striking thing to me is that it didn’t matter how long ago it had happened, in telling their story, the depth of loss could still be seen. What has also struck me is how much we don’t speak about it and the overall lack of understanding there is about what this means for a family.
Again, I find myself taking cues from Kirstin. As I have struggled through my own fear and anxiety over this pregnancy, I have learned through watching her that although she constantly struggles with her own anxiety and fear, she has also allowed herself to have hope. She lives comfortably in a kind of duality of difficult emotions along with hope and anticipation. I have learned through this time that Kirstin has grown into a wise young woman. I have often been awestruck over these last fifteen months by her grace, her wisdom, and her ability to move through the challenges and hurdles of her journey. She has become a great advocate for breaking the silence and being vocal about pregnancy loss, and baby loss, and what it means to families. I feel very fortunate that, as Kirstin includes me in her journey of this subsequent pregnancy, she inadvertently forces me to deal with my own emotions, to be present in the moments, and live in the same duality of anxiety and hope.
Losing Coby has forever changed our family and forever changed how I feel about pregnancy. I am no longer innocent. I know the harsh realities that can come with pregnancy. We no longer live in blissful ignorance that pregnancy always has a happy outcome. We will always miss Coby, he was only with us for a moment but his impact has been everlasting.”- Elisabeth Zimmermann, ED YWCA Niagara Region
“Smallest, Wingless”- Craig Cardiff
Photo Credit: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep