I often joke at work that students want me to have a magic wand I wave to make all their problems go away. I'm wondering if I was hoping the same thing from a counselor last night. All I wanted was a little relief. Someone to tell me how to help myself eat right now, when I feel incredibly guilty when my stomach growls and the thought of food still makes me want to vomit. Someone who has seen this kind of grief, who can tell me it will get better even if she can't yet tell me how. Someone to help me get through Day 5 Without My Daughter.
I didn't get that last night.
After all the work I did looking for a counselor with experience in our kind of grief.
Instead, Justin and I sat in the waiting room, holding hands, waiting forever to be called back. It was our first time out in public since we lost Lydie. I was so afraid of seeing babies. I didn't think how it would feel to watch the mother sitting with her daughter across the aisle from us. The daughter was maybe 8, and she was reading, nestled into her mom. Her mom was playing on her Iphone, but she'd sometimes reach over and ruffle her daughter's hair or kiss her head. Just when I keep thinking things couldn't possibly hurt any worse. I didn't just lose my baby. I lost my one-year-old, and my two-year old, and my eight-year-old, and my moody teenager, and my thirty-year-old. I lost my whole life with my daughter.
The counselor started off by asking us about our marriage, about whether we're communicating, about whether we understand that our grief may be different and that's okay. We spent the first fifteen minutes of our hour session on this. I finally told her that I know the statistics - I know how many marriages of parents who have lost their child end in divorce. That's why I made Justin promise in the hospital while I was in labor with Lydia that he would never leave me. I finally told her we understood this was a concern but right now, we just need some help getting through each hour.
I think we overwhelmed her with our grief. I don't think she's ever seen grief like ours before. She looked uncomfortable.
We didn't say anything that we haven't already said to each other or to my mom. She didn't crack us open at all. She said there are stages of grief and we just need to work through them. No shit.
She asked me if I could consider that I did take good care of Lydie. I looked at her and told her my daughter died inside me, and there will never be a day that I don't apologize to my daughter for that. No matter what the fuck happened medically. No matter how many people tell me that it is not my fault. I am her mother. It was my job to take care of her.
She told us to be kind to ourselves. What does that look like?
She told us we should avoid the word "should." That we should do this or we should do that. I said my "shoulds" are about my son. I should take care of him right now. I should put his needs before my own. I should go to him when he wakes up screaming with another nightmare. I should be gentle with him when he is afraid to put his pajamas on.
At the end of the session, I asked her if she had had any experience with people experiencing our kind of loss. She said no. I could have told you that already. My husband asked her if she had children. She said no. I could have told you that already.
I know she doesn't have a magic wand. I know if anyone had a magic wand or a time machine or anything else, they would change this for us. But I was hoping for a little more.
The most helpful people have been family and friends - and strangers - who have been through similar grief. And they are coming out of the woodwork. My aunt and uncle whose baby Michael lived five days. My cousin's wife I mentioned in my first blog, who delivered her baby Caleb, at 40 weeks. An old family friend who lost a little girl. A close family friend who I never knew had another son. A guy I went to high school with who lost his baby. About ten names and numbers of other people who have lost their child who are willing to talk with us.
And we are set up with a different counselor on Friday. We've only left voicemails and exchanged a few emails so far but she asked our daughter's name and then told me she looks forward to getting to know Lydie through our eyes. What a nice way to put it, and I already feel a little more hope that someone can help lead us out of this darkness.