As time goes on, I’ve found that while the grief over my son endures, the grief over my lost former self has largely resolved. Or, stated differently, while I’m still grieving, I’m comfortable with that fact.

Though at times I get frustrated that aspects of my social life remains complicated and difficult, I would never want to go back. I’ve gained too much, and grown too much. I still cry very frequently, I still can’t work as much as I used to. I still struggle with trigger-related anxiety and flooding, to the extent that social gatherings can quickly become unpleasant and overwhelming. I don’t think I’ll ever attend a delivery again — and not only that, but I’ll likely continue avoiding emergency and critical care as well, in a drastic change from my previous career plans.

I faced all the stages of grief in confronting my own internal changes, starting with enormous shock and denial. Then I fought, in anger and sadness, against losing my former personality and my former identities. 

Guilt was the strongest, darkest contender. Breaking down that guilt, bit by bit, provided a liberation that I never would have stumbled across without Sacha’s guidance. 

He has taught me to receive kindness and support without looking for an insinuation of weakness or incompetence. To be more compassionate, more accepting, more loving towards myself, more open to change and growth, more excited and curious about the future (even in my awareness that most events are beyond my control). I’m not perfect in those regards by any means, but I am completely changed, and I’m happy about it.

The New York Times has an ever-growing series of brief essays by parents of babies who were stillborn, and right now I especially connect with the words of Brooke Taylor-Duckworth, who writes:

For a long time, I missed my old life and my old self almost as much as I missed my daughter Eliza. I felt like my identity had been entirely subsumed by my grief.

I still miss my daughter more than words can say. But my old life? My old self? No longer so important…

I was happier before Eliza died only in the sense of being without sadness. Now I am both heartbroken and joyful: I have given birth to death and to life…. I hold a grief in my heart that makes me more human, more compassionate, more furious with the injustices, and more grateful for good fortune.

I landed on the slim side of statistics with Eliza. I am acutely aware that there is nothing that protects me or my family [and in my case, my patients] from landing there again. This understanding — of how fragile, fleeting and unpredictable life is — is my burden and my gift. I would trade it for nothing, except Eliza. I love her and miss her, and always will.

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