A few weeks ago, I was talking about this project with a friend and she mentioned that she knew someone who would be a great fit, that’s when she told me about Sam. Fast forward a few weeks…last Sunday, I was thinking about this weeks’ post and Sam popped into my head. I quickly brushed it off to go get my son ready for Church. As I walked up the stairs, my phone lit up and I saw that Sam had “friended” me on Facebook…call it a coincidence or a sign… I messaged her that minute and BOOM…we made it happen. Photographing her and her husband was such a treat. They are real, hilarious, and so cute together. I found it endearing to listen to Mike complimenting Sam as I took her picture or Sam lovingly looking at Mike as she told me about their life. I am grateful to meet such cool people through this project.
Here is their story…
“There are moments that the words don’t reach… there is suffering too terrible to name. You hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable…” -“It’s Quiet Uptown” Hamilton Musical.
On April 22, 2016 my life changed forever. I gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy, Tristan Thorup. He was 5 lbs, 5 ounces of joy and perfection. For the next five weeks, my husband and I experienced a slice of heaven. Everything was blissful. Although I was exhausted and adjusting to stresses of motherhood, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier than in those five weeks.
On May 28, 2016 my life changed forever again. It’s safe to say that day was the worst day of my life.
At 7:45 I woke up to find my son not breathing.
At 7:49 my husband performed CPR and an ambulance arrived.
At 8:30, in the ER, my son was declared dead.
At 8:31, my heart shattered.
They say that losing a child is the hardest thing anyone can do. After this experience, I can absolutely say that this is true.
When this first happened, I was surrounded by love and encircled by support. Seeing my husband so sad, I felt the need to be the strong one. I held my head up. I felt every emotion possible—bitterness, anger, love, joy, reassurance and unexplainable sadness. In a word: unimaginable.
Gradually, when things calmed down, the funeral paid for, Mike and I moved into a new place; I thought that perhaps my new normal would play out nicely. I got myself a job and started busying myself with things that I’d always wanted to do.
But everything came with a price.
For every moment of happiness, I found myself in despair. For every nap I was finally able to take, I felt the yearning to take back the sleepless nights. While I was able to smile around people, I still felt a pang in my heart every time I was alone.
I found myself in a dark place I’d never been before. I started having signs of post-traumatic stress, nights plagued with nightmares. Long periods of emptiness and eventually, I began to feel grief-induced anxiety.
The interesting element to all this is that it was public so fast. Due to social media and my chance to portray one side of my story to the world, I found myself in the spotlight. I wanted to use the experience to help others, to lift others up. I’ve been fairly open about my experiences and it has helped me to feel support.
People started calling me “strong” and “an inspiration” because they saw that I wasn’t crying all the time and because I chose to focus on the brighter outlook on things. In reality, I was just trying to cope in any way possible. I felt like Katniss Everdeen, put into the public spotlight and feeling like I had to put up a face when in reality, no one quite knew what I was going through.
I usually fancy myself an optimistic person. I believe that I will see my baby again. I believe that I will always be a mom. I am not one to let things get me down. But what do you do when everything you’ve ever lived for suddenly gets stripped away? Even with my optimistic outlook on things, I found myself filled with the weight of being inconsolable.
So…where is the silver lining here?
Well, although this is still so fresh (less than 4 months since it’s happened), I wanted to share a thought that I have come to appreciate more and more.
There is power in truly mourning with those that mourn.
Romans 12:15 says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Whether you believe in religion or not, this concept resonates with all who are grieving. I’m in a place I never thought I’d be before. I know that eventually, things will calm down, I will be healed; I will reconcile (losing a child is never something you recover from; only reconcile with) and I will form the essence of a beautiful new normal.
While I’m still forming that, however, I can tell you only one thing has helped. When suffering a loss this deep, this soul wrenching…I simply need people to mourn with me. The problem is, most of us have heard this our whole lives and never really understood how to do it.
Of course, I always appreciate well-intended comments and people who attempt to help me see the brighter side. I appreciate the kindness and thoughtfulness of a reassuring hug and sweet smile. But truthfully, there is a time to be sad. There is a time to grieve. It doesn’t mean that I don’t smile or have moments of having fun. It doesn’t mean that I’m not happy my son is in a better place. It doesn’t mean that I don’t find meaning in life right now.
However, my point is that there is healing in mourning.
I look forward to the day that I can look back at the memory without sting, but the time is not yet and the waves of despair are real. That is when having the right people in my life has had such a great impact. What a contrast!
How beautiful is it that a tragedy so awful and so terrible can bring about such beauty by allowing human beings to come together?
This is the first time I myself am in a position to let others help me up. It’s uncomfortable and it hurts; I’m not used to having such raw emotion flood me all the time. It’s odd being the person on the ground, but how grateful I am to have so many people around me that can lift me up and have done an admirable job in doing so.
Some great examples of this are the people who have been active listeners. Being grief stricken, I’ve found it’s often not helpful to talk to people who feel the need to give advice but rather to talk to people who really take the time listen. Even if I may say something that reflects intense sadness, anger or bitterness, the people that actually take the time to really listen are the ones that are most helpful.
I also love when people ask me if there is anything I want to do that might help. In many cases, grief is so unique to the person that they themselves are often the only ones who know what will help best. It may change from moment to moment so I find that the people who actually take the time to find out what I might need at the moment (whether that be time to talk, go see a movie, listen to music, etc) can make a big difference.
I cannot go throughout this without mentioning my husband. It is more difficult than words can express to go through this with a spouse. But he is the perfect example of allowing me to mourn at my own pace and in my own time. He never fails to listen to me or just hold me. I couldn’t do this without him.
I’ll never be able to describe what loss so devastating feels like. But in my darkest moments, each person who takes the time to mourn with me whether that be through Facebook, face to face conversations, phone calls, random notes, prayers, etc…that is the light that’s keeping me going.
I truly am so lucky to have so many lights in my life. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve taken away so far is that there is a time to be a light and there is a time to let other people’s lights shine.
Above all, I think the quote from Les Miserables sums it up best. To love another person is to see the face of God.