Last week I read an article about healing from infant loss. This is nothing new as I am constantly seeking out ways to heal my broken heart. As far as I've come in the past 19 months, my heart still aches. Unlike most of the articles I have read this one had a line in it that captured my attention. It said, "If your broken heart is going to heal you have to give yourself permission to not think about your baby". The article went on to explain that it's normal to think about your dead child/children all the time. But sometimes it can be easy to become wrapped up in the what ifs. Since I read those words they have been whirling around in my brain. Yes, I do need to give myself permission to not think about Penelope and James every day, every hour, every minute. But giving myself permission and following through are different challenges.
Several months after losing my twins it became pretty obvious that I was suffering from PTSD. Whenever my eyes closed I would have vivid flash backs of the moments leading up to their death as well as watching them die. I couldn't escape those images and thoughts. I would often lay in bed at night fighting with my brain to just turn off. I also became overwhelmed with anxiety that my living daughter would die. Two months after we lost the twins my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to cashews. Watching her sweet little face swell up with hives as I held her in my arms giving her an emergency breathing treatment in the urgent care was almost more than I could take. Riding in the ambulance listening to her cries and feeling helpless. For the weeks and months following her allergy attack I struggled. I couldn't eat meals with her for fear that she would react to something. I would constantly lift her shirt to scan her for hives and if I saw anything she got a benedryl. With lots of time and the help of a great therapist I was able to work through my intense anxiety. I still worry, it's hard not to. But the intense feelings have faded.
To help relieve my PTSD and anxiety I had to give myself permission to feel it. When I felt the anxiety rushing over me I had to do the opposite of what I wanted to do, and just let it happen. Instead of running upstairs while my daughter was eating I would sit at the kitchen table and feel everything and let it run it's course. I learned not to fight it, not to block it out, but to accept it. By accepting the feelings, knowing that in a few minutes they would get better, I was able to get through it. Now those moments come so infrequently that I have almost forgotten about it.
Now that I am through most of my struggles with anxiety I find myself trying to give myself permission to live my life. This is a really hard step for me to take. I'm sure it's a step that many people think I should have taken long ago. But the truth is that up until this point I haven't been ready. I knew from day one that this grieving process would be a timely one for me. But I feel like I am there. I am at the point where I am ready, not to forget my son and daughter, but live life like they never got a chance to. I know it will still be a slow process. I have begun to put little things away that remind me of them, which has been really hard. In some ways I feel like I'm disrespecting them. But I also know that they will always be in my heart regardless of how many photographs I have around the house. Penelope and James were loved, they are loved, and they will always be loved. I give myself permission to trust my love for them and not think about them.