CHRONIC GRIEF: WHEN LIFE DOESN'T GO AS "PLANNED"

Our church recently had a family game night. I was playing Farkle at a table with other ladies. Two who are currently pregnant, one with her first child. Oh, the anticipation! The glittery eyes, the talk of baby things like car seats, strollers, carriers, sippy cups and swings. I loved joining in on the celebration, excitement, and planning for this new precious one’s arrival.

The conversation turned to maternity leave with all the same joy and sparkle of the previous conversation. Six or eight weeks off work and then back to work and baby gets to come along and how wonderful the situation will be so mom can be out and about. 

That triggered me. I’d had the same anticipation when I was pregnant. I’d had similar expectations. But it had turned out so very differently.

Suddenly, I was struggling to participate in the conversation or even stay sitting at the table. I couldn’t rejoice with the anticipation of the soon-to-be-mom anymore. I wanted to try to warn her to be careful with her expectations or at least have a Plan B in case baby isn’t an easy baby. Because, well, you just never know.  

I couldn’t leave the table without it being abrupt, so I tried hard to keep a pleasant, neutral look on my face so I didn’t throw a wet blanket of gloom on everyone at the table and festivities. I don’t know if I succeeded, but conversation continued swirling and my mind went back in time.

I’d been so excited about my baby. I’d planned and prepared. I’d gotten everything ready. I’d been so careful about not taking any over-the-counter medications or eating food that could pose a danger. I researched natural birth. I had a birth plan. Due to our life circumstances at the time, I had an after-hospital plan, a 2-month plan and a first year plan. And of course, expectations for the rest of my newest little love’s childhood and life. 

But, things don’t always go as planned. You know that or you wouldn’t be reading this. Sometimes plans gone awry are a little hiccup, no big deal. Sometimes, life will never ever be the same.

During the first few years I fought it with everything in me. In the last few years I have come to accept it – whatever “it” looks like – progress or regressions. The unknowns of the future. I grieved the child and life I expected but will never have and came to accept our new normal. Not to say that daily life is easy. But I’ve accepted our reality and am content in my life.

Let me be clear – I delight in my child and who he is, but accepting all the challenges that came with him, the struggle that he (and we) live with daily, and the total upending to our entire life expectations is what was difficult.

Then there was game night and an excited new mom-to-be. As I sat down to write this blog post and traveled back to where she is now, I found tears rolling down my cheeks and sobs escaping my throat. I guess I’m still grieving the loss of that dream, of what never was and what never will be. It’s been so long since I’ve gone there and remembered that I ever had a different dream than what I’m living right now.

Chronic grief. It can be all consuming when you’re in the worst of it or can hit at any moment, unexpectedly. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child with all your heart. It means that you lost something that was dear to you. Cry, sob, acknowledge it, name it - grief. Then dry those tears and go hug the child you do have and love dearly.

Written by Sarah McGuire

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Sarah McGuire  is the Mom of two boys and co-founder of Hope Anew, a nonprofit that comes alongside the parents of children with additional needs on spiritual and emotional level. You can follow Hope Anew on Facebook here.