My therapist keeps asking me, “How are you going to memorialize or incorporate Nora’s story into your life.” At first I kept quietly answering, “I’m not sure yet”, and would shrug my shoulders. I did respond later with ideas I have received from other grieving families such as buying presents for her on the day she was delivered, every year for the age that she would be at that time, and then donating them to children in need. I thought this would be a nice idea for our future children to get involved in and to let them know they had an older sister. But that is once a year and down the road.
So, what I came up with was writing letters to Nora. Two weeks after Nora’s death I read the book Love Mom, by Cynthia Baseman, about a woman who experiences a stillbirth and tells her story through letters she has written to her daughter. I liked the idea of writing letters to my daughter as she did in her book. I hadn’t brought up the idea with my therapist, but in my second session with her, only two weeks after Nora’s death, she asked me if I had wrote a letter to Nora yet. As a therapist, I knew this was a common practice in helping people heal, and had used it myself when working with grief with my clients, but I hadn’t started yet, so I just shook my head with a silent no.
A few days after that therapy session with Amber (my therapist), and three weeks after Nora’s passing I decided it was time to buy a journal. I set out to find the most beautiful journal I could for my daughter. If this was going to be the place where my daughter and I met, then it had to be perfect, like her.
The journal that spoke to me was a brown hard cover medium pocket journal that has embossed green, and red, and blue flowers on the cover. Inside the journal, the pages were lined and there was a ribbon tassel to mark my spot. I knew it was the right journal when I saw the first page in the front, where the words read, “This journal belongs to”. I knew right then what I would write in that blank space after the words “This journal belongs to”. I would fill it in with the three wonderful words, “Nora and Mom”.
When I wrote her name in it for the first time, tears came rolling down my checks. Then the words just kept coming. Here, in this space, I got to talk to my child. I got to tell her my secret dreams for her that I would not get to as she grew older. Here I was able to tell her stories from my pregnancy with her, which I feared no one else would now want to hear. Here, in this journal I told her stories about her dad, her grandparents, and even her dog brother Georgie, who one time howled so loud and long that Nora did a summersault in my belly. Here I would write bed time songs I wanted to sing to her, and here I would talk to her as if I was talking to a new born. I would tell her about the world, the people in it, the wonders of it all, and show her the beauty of it through my eyes, like every parent gets to do when their baby is born.
My therapist recently asked me how I plan on parenting Nora. I looked at her oddly, with a raised eyebrow, and thought to myself, “you must be nuts and a little too touchy feely for me”, but again I shrugged my shoulders and let the answer to the question go unheard and silently by. But, with my letters to Nora, I do parent her. I set aside time to be with her, to be intentional about my words to her. To tell her how much I love her, how much she is missed, and share my life experiences with her. This is parenting, in its most simplistic form. I guess this is how I parent my dead child. This is how I have to parent. This is how I get to parent.
I’ll take what I can get.
~ Still Breathing...Lindsey