18 Months Without You
How did we get to 18months? I can’t quite believe that I’m here. It’s a tough day and after all the milestones we’ve had to face I never thought this one would would affect me. I think it was such a turning point for my eldest daughter. She was walking, building her personality and becoming a young girl that I think it’s made me wonder what Tabitha would be like. This is why milestones hurt so much as it brings up all the ‘I wonders’ and ‘what ifs’. They are the things that cause the most pain and are the hardest. They are days that should be celebrated but are ultimately a bit sad - if I’m lucky and they’re not truly awful.
The build up to milestones is hard
The build up to milestones is hard, although this one has been a surprise. All the others have been mostly anxiously anticipated and usually I’m so exhausted by the time I get to them that they just move slowly by in a haze. In the first year I had no idea how I would react or feel. Mother’s Day I was still in shock so that went by in a foggy blur. Father’s Day was horrific. I hated not knowing how to include Tabitha in the day. This year was a little better. I sat and coloured a card with my daughter, just like I would have done with Tabitha. That was easier but still sad. I’d say the first year of milestones are painful - gut wrenchingly so - so many tears, so much confusion, so much hurt. So far into my second round of milestones they are momentously sad. I feel lonely and especially on those milestone days when no one even realises that they are milestone days - but why would they?
You learn to live with grief
It feels tough but it’s not as hard as the first ones. They say grief eases with time but I don’t think that it does, I just think you learn to live with it more. The cues are there and you see them coming a bit more. You learn how to deal with them or at the very least how to embrace them. I’ve really learned how to say ‘no thank you’ to things now. I used to think that I just had to battle through days and that was just part of life now but I was becoming washed out for days on end and whole weeks would be written off because I had put myself through a social event that I didn’t really want to do. You really have to learn how to take a step back and look after yourself. I would push forward regardless of my feelings to make others happy and it was simply way too much to deal with. I would suffer, my husband would suffer, my daughter would suffer. I used to think that self-care was just about physically getting some time away or reading a book or having a bath or something but it’s actually about just checking in with yourself more and just doing what you need to do. Sometimes it’s even work which is self care for me and so that is what I am making time for in the evenings or at breaks in my day. You must do things that make you feel connected to yourself, not what others or even the world ‘expects’ of you. It’s not selfish and it ultimately benefits the people around you and that in turn makes you happy too.
It used to be every Wednesday that got me. I would wake up every Wednesday and relive the morning of her birth over and over in my head. It was like Groundhog Day in there and sometimes the memories were just there but sometimes they tore through me and split me in two again. Over and over again. I used to look at the clock until the time got 12.54 every single week for 6 months. Reliving what had happened, good and bad. Every week I would know how old she was in weeks like every mum does. It seems incomprehensible that I was actually counting how long she had been gone for and not how old she was. When it got to 6 months I began counting in months, just like I did with her sister I guess. I think this was the point that I also stopped crying every single day too. My pain and grief hadn’t eased or changed, just the way I was coping with it had.
Then the 9th of every month would hit me. All those baby milestone pictures I never got to take. I remember being so excited at the thought of taking those and comparing them to her sister’s. I still get to the 9th and think how old Tabitha would be - like now at 18 months. I’m not sure another 9th of the month will pass and I won’t do the same. Ask me next year.
This milestone was a surprise. I’m off to a place today where I feel a connection with Tabitha. We went there in the early days of our grief and there are so many spots that remind me of her. A particular spot where you can sit on a bench and look across out to the sky above the tops of the trees and birds come and eat close by. A deer carved into a tree (Tabitha means gazelle) which is meant to symbolise the connection to earth and the spirit. Although it’s just the deer that makes me think of her, which I know isn’t a gazelle but it’s close enough for me. Just feeling the breeze on my face makes me feel close to her for some reason. We seem to process these days by making new memories. I used to hate doing this in the first year and I found it was so difficult that she wasn’t physically here to make the memories with us. I didn’t want to ask for ‘tables for three’ and not four. I didn’t want to go and see new things when she wasn’t there to see them. I didn’t want to go back to old places without her. But as time has gone on it has eased. Asking for a table for three still gets me all the time but it’s easier. We went away for Tabitha’s birthday and made so many new memories and although she wasn’t physically with us I know how much I was thinking of her and doing the trips for her that I look back at the photos with fondness. It’s hard to explain, but we have photos of us celebrating her birthday and although she’s not in them, we have created the memories in her honour and that brings me much peace. It makes me feel more connected to her.
I sit here and I wonder what next milestone I will feel so heavily? It’s not just Tabitha’s milestones that get me and I now find family birthdays difficult and I think my daughter’s first day of school may hit me a bit. I find any event which requires any ‘sense of occasion’ difficult. They tend to highlight that she is not there in such a blinding way that it becomes distracting and painful. I used to find birthdays such a wonderful thing - bigger than Christmas in fact - but I can’t bring myself to face them yet. If I do do them I usually have to make sure I have nothing on for a few days after to recover from them. If only it was from the side effects of drinking or eating too much! It’s now actually down to all the questions I have to field and processing all the feelings that come to the surface when you are surrounded by other peoples lives.
It’s a tough day in my head but as the ‘ever forward’ person I will try and physically make it through to the end of the day, just like all the other days I have done and all the days I will have to in the future without one of my girls.