A question asked by one of my darling daughters earlier today … I was trying to explain that it’s okay for people to cry about Otis not being here with us & she asked why I never do.
The truth is, Maisie, I cry every single day. I cry for hours on end. I cry until I can barely breathe. I cry until my chest hurts. I just don’t cry in front of you.
You and Cora are such happy little souls. I’m BLESSED beyond words to have you both in my life. I cannot believe I made you. I cannot believe I grew you. I cannot believe I have the honour of raising you. It doesn’t feel ‘right’ to cry in front of you and have you feel that you don’t matter.
If I cry over Otis all day every single day in front of you, I fear you would think you don’t mean enough to me. I fear you would think that Otis matters more because I’m concentrating on his death as opposed to your lives. I love you all, equally. I want to show you through this that you are as important to me as Otis, as special to me as Otis, as loved and as wanted as Otis. I know it may seem that he gets more attention than you right now, it’s just because his death is so raw.
This is why mummy doesn’t cry around you.
I try to keep “strong” during the day. I try to keep focused on ANYTHING to distract me from crying. If I do feel a tear; or if I do feel that horrid lump in my throat; I suppress it. I breathe quickly for 10 breaths and it goes away. Then when you’re sleeping in bed at night, when I’m out of your view, when you’re dreaming sweet dreams and thinking happy thoughts, mummy breaks down. That’s when I cry. I don’t keep the crying suppressed because I know that’s not healthy; I know the best thing I can do to help myself through this journey is to be HONEST with myself; is to accept how I feel, embrace the ‘madness’ that is grief, and LIVE it until it eases.
I don’t cry all the time; I don’t spend my days indoors sitting by myself and crying in to Otis’ blanket or his teddy. This is not because I don’t want to because, believe me, some days I do! But I am TERRIFIED that becoming a loss mummy will define me for the rest of my life.
When people see me, they expect to see a visibly broken person. People expect to see someone who is visibly upset. Grief doesn’t always show in a physical way. Some people may lose weight, some people may gain weight, some people may look tired and weary, some people may have red eyes from crying, some people may be shakey and feel weak. I’m not one of those people. If you look at me, it isn’t obvious at all that I’m currently mourning the loss of my son. Yes, I’ve lost a bit of weight; but I’m doing that purposely for myself and my health – it isn’t something that’s happened through lack of eating after Otis’ passing. But aside from that, I look ‘normal.’
I haven’t changed on the outside at all. People look confused when they see me, like they expected me to be .. different, I guess.
One of the other reasons I don’t cry is because people look at me differently – there seems to be this universal “sympathy look” (seriously, I’m not lying!) that I get when walking down the street or when at the supermarket etc. People cock their head to one side, slightly raise or lower one eyebrow and say in a gentle voice “so how you doing?” or sometimes, they don’t say anything, they just give you “the look.” I’m sure many loss parents can relate to that and will probably be able to tell you what “the look” looks like!
To the people who seem to think I should look or act a certain way… Here’s something that might shock you:
I am NOT my circumstances. I am NOT death. I am NOT stillbirth. YES it happened to me, but I’m still fudging human – all be it a different one to the one I was 7 weeks ago. Losing my little boy has changed me, but I am doing all I can to ensure that his death does not engulf me, my life & my children’s lives for the rest of eternity. We WILL make some good come out of this. There is absolutely nothing I can do. Nothing. This seems to be a hard concept for people to grasp. Nothing at all will change the fact that Otis is dead. Nothing is going to bring him back. The ‘typical’ expectation of a grieving mother or father is for them to cry most of the day, every day. YES, some people do that! And that is absolutely fine. That is absolutely 100% normal. But that’s not me. You see, to me, sitting around crying all the time is not going to breathe life in to my son’s lungs. Sitting around crying all the time is not going to start pumping blood around his veins. Sitting around crying all the time is not going to make his heart start beating again.
Me not crying every minute of every waking day does NOT mean it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean I care about him any less than the lady crying 20 hours of every day over her little boy. It doesn’t mean I love Otis any less than she loves her son. It doesn’t mean I miss Otis any less than she misses her son. It doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t matter how hard I try, I cannot change what’s happened. I cannot bring my little boy back to life.
Believe me, if crying every minute of every waking day would do that, I’d cry a river for him daily. But it won’t. So, instead, to keep myself sane, to cope, to get through this, I have to put my energy and focus my grieving on doing all I can to keep his memory alive. I cry when I need to cry; I cry when I cannot physically hold it back anymore; I cry when I see something that reminds me of Otis; I cry when I hear a line in a song that makes me think of him – and that’s okay. It’s okay and it’s NORMAL that I don’t cry sometimes too.
Girls, your little brother was here. Your little brother blessed our lives with his short life and existence. Your little brother is loved beyond belief and missed beyond words. Your little brother honoured our lives by choosing us to be his family. Your little brother is doing amazing things. Your little brother is moving mountains from Heaven. Your little brother is making all of us PROUD every single day. Your little brother is not in pain anymore. Your little brother isn’t suffering or fighting against everything meant to break him. Your little brother EXISTED and we will forever embrace that.
That, Maisie, is why mummy doesn’t cry all the time about your little brother dying. Because he lived. He was stillborn, but he was STILL born.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; we miss you, we love you, we will do both eternally.