It's been over three years since two of my children took their last breath, 38 months since I rocked my son for the very last time. It's been more than 1,200 days since I delivered my first triplet, only two hours of memories with her alive. Even though it's been years since I was faced with the loss of my children, the grief is still present.
There are some days when a picture or memory will trigger the tears. Then there are days when the grief creeps up unexpectedly, taking a surprise grasp on my heart and soul. I used to be ashamed and embarrassed that the grief is still so raw. Concerned looks from others made me wonder if something was wrong with me. But, the more time that passes, the more I realize that it's normal. Grief is not one size fits all.
The summer of 2013 was filled with beautiful moments of hope, mixed with shattered dreams and heartache. Within two months of delivering my triplets, two of my children passed away. As I tried to remain strong and put on a smile for our lone survivor in the Nicu, I was secretly broken. This was our first pregnancy and these triplets were our only children. I didn't know that a loss could be so excruciating. A few months after my two children passed, I expressed my concern to my therapist: Why was I so lost and broken even months after Parker and Abby died? She reminded me that grief never goes away, it only changes over time. It was a simple comment that was comforting and reassured me that I was normal.
As the years passed by, I learned how to manage my grief. I surrounded myself with supportive friends and family, people who weren't alarmed when the random tears rolled down my face. But, my grief is still put in to question on occasion...and it breaks my heart. I've heard it all in the past three years: "At least you had time with your children, even though it was short." "Try not to dwell on your loss, you are lucky to have a survivor." "You can try for more children." The list goes on. While I know these comments come from a good place, it can be heartbreaking for those of us with children in heaven. There is no expiration date on grief. I will never stop loving my living child, Peyton, so I will never stop loving and grieving her two siblings who died.
Much like we all grieve differently, there is no one experience that is the same. The length of a child's life does not determine the size of the loss. It shouldn't matter whether you carried a child for 12 weeks or full term; each parent is going to mourn the loss in their own way. Children are supposed to outlive their parents, yet so many families face the daunting and unimaginable task of burying their child. It's no wonder that grief can last a lifetime.
There is a stigma in our society that we shouldn't talk about our children who have died. Maybe it makes other people uncomfortable or maybe people don't truly understand unless they, too, experience a pregnancy or child loss. Over time, I've noticed friends distance themselves from me or casually "un-friend" me on social media. I'm okay with that. My surviving triplet Peyton is my shining light, but I'm never going to forget Parker and Abby and I will never stop saying their names. Grief is not one size fits all, so there's no need to fix me. I'm not damaged, I'm simply human and my heart if full of love for children both here on earth and in heaven.
A version of this originally appeared at: http://www.perfectlypeyton.com/2016/10/grief-is-not-one-size-fits-all/
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.