The 1 in 4: My Beloved Briar Paul
A tiny life that spoke without ever saying a word
How does one even begin to speak of their darkest moments, to be so vulnerable in a world full of judgement at every turn? How does one speak of their brokenness, their deepest pain, that only the ones that have experienced can truly understand?
Child loss, stillbirth, miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome, just the mere thought of these words send me into despair and deep sorrow. There will always be a before Briar died and an after Briar died. It is like I have lived two lives. The first full of hopes and dreams and the second full of reality and sorrow.
I am so tired of seeing all of these posts about the hopes of the New Year. “Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365 day book. Write a good one.” Or, “New Year, New You.” Or, how about “What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.”
Bringing in the New Year of 2016, I had a sweet baby boy that I held in my belly. I was pregnant with my third child, a long-held dream that finally came to fruition.
Unfortunately, as the quote would have it, I did not get to choose any of those pages in my 365-day book. I was undeniably and reluctantly a “New Me” for the “New Year.” I brought joy and life to 2016 and in return it handed me death and heartache. An eerily strange parallel to the once holiday of new beginnings where hopes and dreams are reborn each year. This is no longer true for me. The new year serves as a reminder of what is to come, the horrific remnants of that life-altering day in February when my sweet baby boy died, and I had to keep breathing.
I wish I could tell you that a miraculous healing will overtake me one day and all of the person I once was will come back full circle. I wish I could tell you I had some sort of epiphany and have overcome this truly heart-wrenching experience. I wish I could say that after my son died that my friendships and relationships stood the horrific time in my life and became stronger. I wish I could tell you these words, but that wouldn’t be true.
The pain is excruciating, really there is not a strong enough word that the human brain could possibly comprehend to truly understand the depths of the pain, unless you have experienced it for yourself. I look in the mirror and sometimes question who the person is staring back at me. My once extremely extroverted and social butterfly personality has now been replaced with an introvert, very much preferring to keep to myself most of the time. If an event is coming up, I have to prepare for it. Spur of the moment events are unlikely to be favorable anymore. Most would say they catch glimpses of who I used to be as if they were peeking through a looking glass of sorts. I am not sure I will ever return to who I used to be, and I am not sure I want to anyway. I see more clearly and feel much deeper now. The world looks a lot different though my eyes as if I were completely blind before.
There is no sudden healing, none. It has been almost three years since my son died, and there is no healing in sight. I’m not sure you ever do heal from the loss of your child. I’m not sure it exists. I am truly trying to accept that is just it, healing will not come. I did not break a bone, bruise my body from a car accident, survive some awful disease, those logically warranting healing for the fortunate. My child died. He’s not coming back. How do you heal?
I lost my dad to cancer when I was four and half years old. I never healed from the loss of his death either. How do you, when there are constant reminders of his absence growing up? Any event, daddy/daughter dance, my wedding , the birth of my children, he was not here for any of it, so how do you heal? Is it possible? He has missed out on my children’s ballgames, cheer comps, graduations, their one-day weddings. His absence will always be felt. It is a pain I have learned to live with.
I am certain some may question how I could love someone I did not know, and there is your answer. I loved my dad, and I did not know him. His absence has been felt for many years now and will always be just as my son’s will be felt until I take my final breath on this earth.
I loved my son since the second I knew he existed. I dreamt of holding him and watching him coo and smile at me. I dreamt of seeing him crawl and wear LSU jerseys just like his brother and dad do. I dreamt of pictures of all my family together. I dreamt of him listening to his sister sing and loving every minute of it. I dreamt of him and his brother fighting over toys, turns snuggling with me, snacks, anything. I would gladly take the fighting and playing referee between the two of them. I would be so happy just to hear him cry, laugh, and just be a typical almost three year old.
So with all of this non-healing business, where does that leave me? How in the world do I survive? How in the world do any of the parents that have lost children to death survive? It is a daily struggle. Sometimes it can be a minute-to-minute struggle. There are days that hit harder than others. For me, it is the day his lifeless body was delivered, holidays, his (was supposed to be) birthday, and family gatherings. After Briar died, eight boys were born in our family, eight! It is a struggle to be around them. I actually have not even met some of them yet. It is too hard. I am so glad that they are here and safe. They just remind me that Briar is not here with them running around playing at Christmas time or any gathering for that matter. It is beyond a deep, agonizing pain in my heart.
What I have found that truly helps the grief is the unity of others that have experienced this same heartache, and the support of my family and friends. I have met so many people experiencing the same devastation, and when we are united, it is honestly a divine experience. I have had mothers and fathers before me that have had their baby die hold my hand and walk beside me. I have reached out to those that have lost their babies and have offered my hand to them. That is the beauty from the tears, the solidarity.
I cannot host a Pinterest perfect birthday party for my son, but you can join me at Anna’s Grace and that truly makes my heart happy to celebrate him there. It delights my heart that others come to celebrate him too and all of the babies that have died. You can truly feel such a magnificent, unexplainable presence. That is one of the greatest gifts you can give me and my family. Your presence. Your whole-hearted presence at an event that means so much to us.
There were so many peculiar happenings after Briar died, that I would have to write an additional blog to tell you all about them. One in particular, I have to end with. I delivered Briar at St. Tammany hospital where I had a bereavement nurse that stayed with me almost the entire time before and after Briar was born. She explained to me what would happen when he was delivered, what he may look like, and how we can spend time with him when he arrives. She offered education, compassion, and loved me like I was her family. he gave us a folder which held resources for a support group, which later I realized the kind gentlemen that baptized Briar oversaw the organization and founded it.
I remember feeling so lost when I got home from the hospital. could not wrap my brain around having a baby and not bringing him home. I had to leave his cold, lifeless body behind. It just did not make sense. He was just here, alive, and now he’s not. Just like that.
I ran across the folder that my bereavement nurse gave us and began viewing the materials enclosed. The information for the support group was in there. I knew we needed to go, my husband and I that is. The night arrived when it was time to go to our first meeting. I got dressed, put makeup on, fixed my hair, then panicked and got back in bed. My husband shy of dragging me kicking and screaming, strongly encouraged me to go.
I pictured the meeting to be short of a nightmare where people one by one stand, state their name, and say something like, “Hi, my name is Emily and my baby died.” It sounds morbid, I know, but that is seriously what I pictured. Thank goodness, it was nothing like that. It was husbands and wives that shared our heartache and grief telling their story, so much that they became family, along with their children in Heaven.
After the first meeting, the gentleman that oversaw the group, asked for everyone to turn in what they thought the group should be named. This was something that had been discussed at the previous meeting, and they were voting on it this particular night.
My eyes grew large and round, I could not believe what I was hearing. For several nights, I was awakened from a deep sleep with a strong urge to name a group. I did not understand why at the time. This kept happening to me for several nights. I would wake up, start scribbling away on paper trying to make sense of what I was doing. Acronyms would continue across every page I scribbled on with various words. I did not know what all of this meant. I just knew I had to do it for some reason beyond my understanding. Finally, the acronym S.O.B.B. came across my page. “Supporters of Babies Bereaved” finally satisfied the nagging urge. I could finally stop the scribbling and go to sleep.
I recounted the story to the group and asked if S.O.B.B could be considered for the name too. They all happily obliged and placed it among the other suggested names. We each privately voted to name the group and unanimously, S.O.B.B. was chosen. I guess those restless nights had a purpose after all.
Thank you for taking a glimpse into my story, my journey, my deepest heartache, my brokenness, my Briar.
To join Emily and team S.O.B.B. in the Anna's Grace Quarter Marathon, visit https://www.annasgrace.org/quarter-marathon.
About Anna’s Grace Foundation Anna’s Grace Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting families in the Greater Baton Rouge Area who experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Each and every day one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, or family members will experience the devastating loss of a baby, and Anna’s Grace is there to provide emotional and financial support so that families can focus on healing. The Anna’s Grace Quarter Marathon is on March 24, 2019. For more information or to register, visit http://www.annasgrace.org/registration.