There have been a few instances this week where I have looked at Shay and Florence and seen Patrick's absence.
The hubby and children were in the sitting room the other night and Shay and Florence were laughing. I don't remember what they were laughing about, but it was probably nothing. It amazes me how the laughter bounces off each of them. Florence will be laughing at Shay and Shay will be laughing at Florence. They will both find it the funniest thing ever. I love nothing more than hearing their laughter. It is a wonderful sound and I thank God that we are all healthy and happy.
So, the other night they were laughing away with each other. I went into the sitting room and the hubby and I both stood in our respective corners watching them. The joy on their wee faces is lovely. The hubby said, 'imagine that there should be another one in between'. And this is exactly how I feel all the time. Florence is sitting, Shay is walking, and Patrick would be...? I do not know. I never will.
It's lovely and sunny today. There is a frost on the ground. I will take the children for a walk. Shay will be walking and Florence will be on my back. And Patrick will be... He should be one year and seven months old now. Can you imagine? I have a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby. If only I was so lucky to have all three here with me.
Patrick is the missing one in the family, in the photos, in the days out, in the walks, in the night time routine, in every single thing on each and every day.
It was my birthday on Saturday. Time is flying. I could not believe that it was that time of year again. But, in saying that, just as quickly the day has passed, I am another year older, and it is time to move on to the next birthday/celebration/special event.
Like a lot of things now, my birthday just does not have the same special quality. Patrick's death has affected so many areas in my life, some I did not know he could. It is hard to determine exactly how Patrick's death has affected how I feel towards my birthday, but it has.
The most noticeable difference is that I have no real interest in presents anymore. I do not care about getting stuff. Sure it is nice, do not get me wrong, I appreciate all that I have and all that I am given. However, when asked what I would like, I cannot answer. I do not really want anything apart from Patrick. And as that can never be granted to me, then I do not have an interest in acquiring presents. My desire for material possessions, to have nice things, is all but gone. What does it matter what I have to show when I do not have one of my most sacred 'possessions', my son.
On special occasions I am more aware that there is someone missing. We go out, we have photos taken, we make special memories, and it all makes me more aware that Patrick is not here, that there is someone missing from these occasions. Every happy occasion is shadowed by Patrick's absence. Although I may not show it, the pain of his absence is still there. I am very aware of what a birthday should be like and in order not to confuse the children I act the part that I have been given. I do not want them asking why Mummy is crying on her birthday when a birthday is supposed to be fun and filled with cake and presents.
It is hard. Sometimes, in my moments of analysing myself, I wonder if I actively engage in anything anymore. I act the part I am supposed to - wife, mother, family member, and a member of my community and society. This is it, nothing more and nothing less. I do all I can so people do not look too deeply. I plod along being a grounded and stable person so no one sees me screaming inside at everyone and everything. My birthday brings this screaming to the surface. I push it down and try not to think about it too much. I tell myself, 'be happy Suzanne, smile and talk about presents and cake. Be normal, be normal. Don't cry. You can cry tomorrow when it's not your birthday'. For me, nothing is the same and never will be. But to everyone else, the world has moved on and everything means the same as it did before.
So, happy birthday to me. Only 362 days until I have to go through it all again.
I have started going to support meetings again. Three weeks after Patrick's death I went to my first, stopped when I was about six months pregnant with Florence, and have started attending again. The meetings are such a relief, comfort, and help.
I will not say that I look forward to the meetings. Like everything else, I wish I did not have these meetings to attend; I wish that I was still blissfully ignorant to the presence of stillbirth and infant death. I wish this was not what my life involved. However, the meetings are a comfort every month. For the simple fact that I can go into a room and talk about Patrick, they are very much a comfort. The fact that I can go into this room with other people who understand in a small way what I am going through, or who will not judge me for the sometimes irrational thoughts that I say, I will be eternally grateful.
You see, once I reached a certain amount of time (about six months) after Patrick's death everyone expected me to move on. Move on to where; on to what? Especially after having Florence, another child after Patrick's death, the world assumes that I am healed somehow, that I am 'back to normal', that I am no longer grieving for my son. I will always grieve for Patrick. This I know. My grief is always there. His absence is always present for me. The sadness of losing him never goes away. This is either not understood or people do not want to address it. So, support meetings become my solace once a month.
When the world expects me to stop feeling anything about Patrick's death, the support meeting allows me to express the pain I have over losing him. And when the world assumes that Patrick has been replaced by another child and therefore I am healed, the support meeting allows me to openly talk about Patrick and what he means to me. He has changed my life in so many ways. He has changed my personality, my ambitions, my view of the world.
Although everything is repeated (there are no new memories for me and Patrick) the meetings are therapeutic. I can dedicate those two hours to Patrick. I can talk about all those thoughts and feelings which I find distressing, confusing, manic, or just depressive and void of hope. It is comforting to know that there are other people in my position, other people who I can talk too, other people who have some understanding of this life sentence.
Talking is excellent therapy. Next month I will dedicate another two hours to Patrick. This is what I have; this is what I look forward too.
Yesterday was the Blessing of the Graves. I wore my grief on my sleeve. This is something which takes place in November every year. The mass is offered to the people of the parish, for their loved ones, for the souls of those who have passed, and for those buried in the chapel. Although I have never followed religion strongly in the past, since Patrick's death this is changing. I need to believe that I will see him again. I need to believe that I will be able to hug him at some point and hold him in my arms, the way every mother should be able to hold their child.
This year I went to the Blessing by myself. I must admit, it was not as 'bad' as last year. I suppose I 'held it together' better yesterday than I did last year. Last year everything was so raw, every day presented a new challenge. Just get through it, just survive another day. This year was not like that, I could tolerate the experience more than last year.
The Blessing is an opportunity for me to do something which is only for Patrick. I have so few opportunities to publicly acknowledge Patrick that I relish the opportunity to focus primarily on him. It is just about him. Do I enjoy it? Not really. I wish I did not have a grave to bless. However, I am comforted by the fact that I have done my motherly duty for him. I do not have a son to care for so I turn to the next thing available, his resting place. I am trying to make his resting place the best it can be. This is all I can do. I am trying to make peace with it.