Life seems fractured.
Daily events feel insurmountable.
Relationships are strained and unstable.
Work is challenging.
Motivation to care, about much, is gone.
I’m sharing this deeply personal post because I know for sure that I’m not alone. That out there are other mothers, in mourning, trying to hold it all together, being strong every second, achieving amazing things just by getting through a day but feeling like a failure throughout it all. I want to reassure those readers that they are not failures, but that the feeling of failure is normal living with what we do.
Failure is a cruel term. How can I possibly have failed at anything?
I am loved.
I am safe.
I am provided for.
I’ve read all the posts, seen all the ‘grief charts’, know the lingo of the phases and stages… but I’ve yet to see the word ‘failure’ mentioned.
As an independent and determined woman, I worked hard to carve out a career and a stable family home. Then death came knocking at my door and decided to pull the rug from under me.
The feeling of failure is huge, but in order to shrink it I’ve tried to consider exactly where and why I feel I’ve failed.
I’ve failed as a wife – I’m so emotionally broken that I struggle to tolerate. To be patient. To be understanding. To be supportive. To be selfless. To be together. Feeling guilty for the way I’m handling it. Feeling guilty for what has happened to us.
I’ve failed as a mother – At times, I feel overwhelmed by the demands of daily life, of giving my all to my children to make sure that their days are the best they can be, yet feeling over-sensitive to their anger and behaviour (even though I understand they are just kids). My thick skin is thinning. I’m wanting to protect them from harm, but also give them the freedom to be themselves. Never feeling like I’m giving them enough.
I’ve failed as a family member – Every single bereaved mother I’ve spoken to has some issue with family since their loss. Either parents or siblings who don’t understand or support in the way they need. Grief breaks up homes and families! My refusal to ‘get over’ it, just to keep the peace with certain – once key – figures in my life means I’m failing my family. I’m misunderstood. Isolated. I’ve become the ‘perpetrator’ by not handling things well, with dignity.
I’ve failed as a friend – I have some amazing friends, but I struggle to dedicate time for friendships and laughs and being sociable. I cannot give much to friends, only take. I am avoided because friends know their problems are ‘nothing like mine’, who themselves feel guilty for complaining about the ‘mundane’. Or I remind them of how fragile life is.
I’ve failed as a Christian – I know God is bigger than this, and that He’s with me, but the guilt at not feeling worshipful or thankful, for feeling anxious and fearful, makes me feel like I’m failing Him. I can hide from friends and family, but I cannot hide from Him. He knows I’m angry and afraid but that I need Him more than ever. This isn’t a huge concern – God and I have a good thing going generally – but it adds to the overall feeling of not being good enough in anything.
I’ve failed Abi’s memory – I’m unable to face tending my child’s grave. I turn away from memorials or public reminders. I should be doing her memory justice by being more expressive, more positive, more hopeful, more thankful. What kind of mother am I?! I know she wouldn’t want me to lose my mind over this. That she’d want me to do good things in her name. So I’m failing even the memory of her by allowing grief to eat away at me.
I’ve failed as a person – I’ve changed from a generally patient, considerate and good-natured woman who enjoyed life into this bitter and angry anxiety-ridden freak who is obsessing about death and negative thoughts. I’m feeling a failure because this isn’t something I feel I can win. I have beaten postnatal depression in the past without it impacting on my life. I have ridden through the bad times with always new-found strength. But not this. I’m failing myself every minute because the repercussions of grief chip away at my stability constantly. I don’t know myself anymore.
And worst of all, I’ve failed Abi – the fact I was not able to save my first-born child from dying. The child who was the key stone in our relationship as a ‘family’ – the child who secured our love. Who shone our love from her very being. Who is the reason we have more children. I couldn’t save that child from her death. I’ve failed her in the worst way possible a mother can.
Grief has taken the person I was – the woman who had everything she ever wanted – a loving husband, three healthy children, a safe house in a safe environment, a successful business, good health and happiness – and ripped her to shreds, leaving behind the dark side of me. The side I don’t want to know. The side I barely knew before this.
Now, I’m hard.
I’m angry to my core.
My heart aches all the time.
My throat is tight.
I’m suffocated by the people and situation around me – everyone moving on, getting on, making plans. I skip along at times, joining in, pretending that if I just act it out long enough it will finally stick. But then I suffer a fallout.
Grief is a perpetual battle.
I imagine my early death. I feel certain this will kill me – my feelings will eat at me inside, literally breaking my heart or causing something bad to grow in me. And people will be unsurprised and would say of me, ‘Oh she never really ‘recovered’ after Abi died’.
Because that would be true.
But how on earth can I recover from my child’s death? Am I honestly expected to? Because I’m not and I won’t. So what, then, does the future hold for me?
I know the rules of grief better than most. I know that ‘time’ will help me to adjust.
You know, I feel I have adjusted to the fact that Abi has gone. These overwhelming feelings are not about her death as such, they are about having to live my life in mourning.
Having to change things because of grief.
Not speaking to certain people because of grief.
Not being able to make a single decision without grief coming into it.
Not being able to walk down the street without grief following me.
Not being able to look into my husband’s and children’s eyes without seeing our grief.
Every. Single. Day.
I can understand why Queen Victoria always wore the black mourning clothes after Prince Albert died. Perhaps I should too? To show people that no, I’m not ‘over it’, That even though I may smile and laugh and look okay, I’m perpetually in mourning.
The first year of my grief was somewhat ‘romantic’ – I tuned right in to being there for Abi, of being thankful for the friends and sympathies, the memorials and remembrances, of trying with everything to stay ‘me’. I needed that. The second year turned me right on my head and kicked me in the face. I knew it would be tough, I just didn’t realise how so.
Adding a new baby to the mix, as blessed as I am to have him, adds a huge strain to an already strained home. New babies do that. Yes, the more you have the less stressful it can be, but post-natal anxiety is a natural problem that even ‘normal’ parents face. To slap that onto grieving parents can be doubly hard.
I admire anyone living with childloss who risks their heart again. A rainbow baby is a wonderful thing but the guilt that comes with it – the guilt of wishing you had your old life back – is pushed under the carpet. But it’s the guilt that eats at you inside. It’s the guilt that will send you crazy.
Half my problem is that I’m an emotional perfectionist by nature and find it hard not to have life just so. I’m very hard on myself.
I know life isn’t perfect by any means, I’ve experienced plenty in my lifetime to know there’s no such thing. But when grief overwhelms you it’s very hard to see any wood for the trees. Life isn’t just imperfect, it’s a huge tangled mess! The logic I once had has taken a hike!
I need to find a way to make this stop.
I refuse to succumb to the breakdown that grief wants me to have, because if I crawl under that rock I’m not coming back out again.
People can tell me I’m far from a failure. I’m a good wife and mother. That my feelings are natural. I know I’m cared for, and I appreciate it. But it’s me who has to tell myself these things.
I need to cut myself some slack. To stop blaming myself for how hard it is. To ease off the guilt. To treat myself kindly. To get the help I know I need.
After I wrote this, I read this amazing message that popped into my inbox – You aren’t crazy, you are grieving. A sign if ever there was one!
‘Your way back will happen slowly…
Not crazy. But bold.
Not scared. But cautious.
Not you. But still you.’
I suppose my stubborn strength is what will pull me through. Very likely leaving scars along the way but it’s a road I must travel, in order to reach the place where I’m not so scared. Where I’m not overwhelmed. Where I feel at least a little peace.
So I will continue to breathe in and out. I will continue to take each day as it comes. I will continue to get along with life. And I hope that with the right help I can look back on this in years to come and be thankful I’m not in this miserable place anymore.