I never expected to find a lot of the things I’ve encountered in the path that I have travelled in my life. I might describe myself as a free spirit, but with a bit more attention to the steps necessary to get there. My dad has always said that I like my “ducks in a row”; and my husband and I probably connected initially on a big energy excitement level, but ultimately I became the “details person” out of default. It’s ok with me because I like to have control of the details, so maybe I’m a contradictory control-freak-free spirit. Hah. People also describe me as both soft spoken, but perhaps strongly opinionated or possessing leadership qualities. Lastly, although I really hate the spotlight, I am comfortable writing and sharing about myself and my experiences, as terrible and nightmarish of an experience as it is.
A little background: I wanted to be a child psychologist, so naturally I majored in psychology….worthless major that it is in terms of undergraduate study. I realized quickly that it qualified me for few jobs and even fewer that paid actual money. I did manage to get a paid position straight out of college, and although it wasn’t the best setup for me; it did introduce me to a world I never knew existed. In a sense, it was exactly what I had always wanted to do as my vision of child psychology, and I took a lot of steps to become trained and more skilled to do the work. I worked with families who had babies and toddlers who often had complicated medical histories and severe disabilities. It’s heavy work, carrying the weight of other’s tragic circumstances. So heavy in fact, that it can be isolating and lonely if you don’t build networks and supports in for yourself.
I’ve attended babies’ funerals and been the helpless person who had tears in my eyes and no adequate words to express how much I cared for the child and their family. There are never any words. There are actions, and sometimes I regrettably did not adequately express all the feelings in my heart for those families, but I have never forgotten them. I think that those actions are what diffuses some of the pain, like a ripple in a pond….I learned that through the support of my colleagues and mentors. I also noticed that my bond was strongest with the parents who let me share in the recognition of their child’s strength, perseverance and personality.
I would say that my professional experience and education give me insight, but by no means prepare me to face what we are going through. I am not sure if I ever placed myself exactly in any of their shoes, but how could you possibly know what someone else feels like? I never knew their whole stories. I usually came in later; and what is kind of miraculous and human about it is that they were almost never living in the past. Most of the families I helped were very much in the present moment and even celebrating their tiny wins. It’s not about “fixing it” for someone, it’s about being there.
Sometimes all you can do is show up, support and listen if they want to talk. I don’t always want to talk, but I also don’t want to be ignored either. Everything is not normal, and it’s not really okay either. We will go on because that is what you do when you love and are loved. Please be patient with us while we fight for our sanity and allow for pieces of our hearts to break.