It is much easier to help and give to others than to accept it. I struggle with this every day. Shortly after Garrett’s passing a very sweet lady contacted us from SIDS Resources. She was willing to offer her help and/or some direction for our recently found broken path. I was very skeptical about talking with someone because I believed I could handle this myself. I call it my independence but my husband calls it being stubborn.
I also tried to avoid any SIDS groups like the plague. I felt that listening to others share their pain in no way, shape or form would help my heart. I agreed to attend a local SIDS support group and Alan agreed to go with me. I think we both said we would go once just to see how it was. I will never forget leaving that meeting and the first thing out of Alan’s mouth was “that is the best I have felt since Garrett’s passing”. For the first time, we had a place to feel comfortable, a place to share our feelings and emotions without being judged and a place where advice was given by people who had walked in our shoes. We saw couples that were 10 years, 15 years, and almost 20 years out from their child passing that were happy, content and their hearts, although never fully healed, where somewhat whole again. It gave us so much hope for the future.
I also found that reading every book I could about SIDS was a must for me. I highly recommend the SIDS Survival guide. I think I read it cover to cover in about 2 hours. It allowed me to fully understand that nothing I did as a mother would have changed the outcome of Garrett’s passing. I believe the guilt that comes with a passing child is excruciating. I remember reliving everything I did during my pregnancy and his 9 weeks here in earth trying to pinpoint something I could have changed. I also tried so hard to find a sign of something I missed that perhaps wasn’t right with him. After reading so much and doing the research that my heart and mind so desperately needed it allowed me to free myself from the guilt and to begin to heal. It also gave me the peace that I needed to move forward and ultimately decide to have subsequent children.
Alan and I knew our hearts and hands needed and wanted more children. We wanted also to give Nolan the gift of a sibling here on earth. We were blessed about 6 months after Garrett’s passing with expecting again. It was the most bittersweet moment of our lives. A dear friend of the family hugged us and said these words to us when he found out we were expecting and they have been such a gift to us. He said “Never a replacement but a beautiful distraction”. Our two subsequent children were not replacements for Garrett or his short life on this earth; they were Nolan and Garrett’s brothers and beautiful blessings that distracted us from the pain deep inside. They filled our arms, home and hearts with even more love. They also reminded us never to take a day for granted; even the sleepless nights.
Our hearts will always have a space where pain and hurt reside for Garrett. We will always wonder who he would be and what role he would have in our family but our hearts also hold the joy of his short life, the love we have for him and the lessons he has taught us about life. He may not be physically with us but he is every day and that has become our new normal.
Kimberly Atnip is mother to Nolan, Garrett, Justin and Michael.