Friday, July 15, 2016

What Ifs and If Onlys

by Alex Hopper


It’s beyond hard not to think about the “What ifs” and “If onlys” after a devastating loss. It may not be the healthiest thing to think about but I think sometimes we just need to let our minds “go there” for a few moments. I think it is better to bring the thoughts to light instead of letting them fester in the dark. 

So here are some of mine:

What if we had tried to start a family sooner? What if it had happened easily for us like it seems to happen for everyone else? What if the pregnancy had been completely normal? What if that ultrasound didn’t show that something was wrong? What if there was no such thing as LUTO? What if the procedure (that was your only chance) had worked like it is supposed to? What if my water didn’t break at 18 weeks?  What if we never heard the terms “fatal fetal diagnosis”, or “incompatible with life”? What if your lungs had developed correctly, despite there being no fluid? What if the steroid injections and bed rest had helped? What if the neonatologist said that intervention would help? What if there was something (anything) that would have helped? What if you had lived?

If only you had lived. If only you had the chance to go to the NICU. If only you could have come home after a long hospital stay (months after birth is infinitely better than never at all). If only we didn’t have to bury our first and only child. If only people could “understand” without having lost a child themselves. If only people didn’t expect a bereaved parent to be back to “normal” after a week. If only there was more compassion and less judgment. If only the rest of the world would grieve along with you. If only others were sensitive to your pain, in spite of their own joy.

And the list could go on forever…..  If you’ve lost a child or someone you dearly love I am sure you could write your own list of infinite what ifs or if onlys - and maybe you should. Write them out or type them up. Then delete the file, or shred it, or burn it…or post it to your blog or share it with a friend (whatever is more healing for you). Show it to everyone or show it to no one. Allow yourself to feel it all and when you’re done give yourself permission to let it go. You will never let go of your love or your grief over whom and what you’ve lost or the memories, but you can let go of the impossible thoughts that only hurt your heart. Instead of thinking about those by-gone what-ifs, try to wonder. Open your mind to wonder who your child would have been and who they would want you to be. There will be pain in the wondering as well, but it is a pain mixed with the joy of your child’s life- no matter how brief. Wonder at the love that makes all the pain worth it, because it is a wonderful love.

~ ~ ~

Alex Hopper is a writer in North Carolina. She is married to her beloved, Trent, and mommy to her angel, Cyrus. Cyrus was diagnosis with a fatal birth defect in the womb at 12 weeks. He was carried with love until he was born at 33 weeks on November 25, 2013. He lived for 1 hour and 9 minutes. His life was short, but his legacy lives on.

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