As I sat in the hospital room holding Benjamin’s lifeless body in my arms I truly felt that there could never be any joy for me in the world again. How could there be without him? How could I ever smile again after giving birth to my first child who would never open his eyes, who would never smile back up at me and who would never say “I love you mummy”. As the weeks passed by I faked a few smiles here and there to make other people feel more comfortable but really the emotion of happiness had left my life and had been replaced with a numb emptiness.
I remember very vividly the first day I felt in any way normal after losing Benjamin. It was the day after we received his post mortem results. The results themselves had been something I had been dreading massively. Amongst other things I was afraid that they would tell me that he had died because I had unknowingly done something wrong. When the results came back clear, with no cause of death, I felt a massive relief. The next day I wasn’t quite smiling but I felt like I was walking around with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. You could almost say I had a bounce in my step. As the day progressed, however, an awful guilt started to creep in. How could I feel normal? Benjamin had only died 6 weeks before. Was I starting to forget him already? I felt awful. It felt like I had betrayed him. The darkness soon started to envelope me again and by the time Merv came home from work that evening I was in a bad place. I asked him how his day was in an effort to be normal. To my surprise he revealed that he had actually had quite a good day too and just like me, felt very guilty about it. It made me start to think. Maybe it was ok to feel ok from time to time. Maybe it wasn’t a dirty little secret and instead just a part of the healing process. I had spent so long associating my love for Benjamin with his incredible loss that I had no idea how I would love him whilst trying to live a normal, dare I say it, happy life.
The idea of living a happy life despite having lost Benjamin had never occurred to me. I honestly just thought that I would not be happy again. So when the smiles did start to creep in the guilt was inescapable. The first time it dawned on me that I had actually genuinely smiled was when Merv flashed a lovely smile at me. I asked him what he was so happy about and he replied that he loved seeing me smile again. At that very moment I felt a dagger of guilt through my heart. I hadn’t realised that I was smiling. The happiness had just snuck up on me. It’s very strange to feel guilty about being happy. We’re supposed to be happy in life. It is what most people strive for. So how could it feel so wrong? I know that my little boy would want me to be happy and to smile. But this journey that I am on is such a strange one. Everything is upside down. There is no such thing as normal anymore. Alongside the greatest love is the greatest sadness. Alongside the smiles comes the guilt. It’s just all so complicated.
You face a very important choice after experiencing a traumatic grief like the loss of your child. You can either give up or you can try to live again. So that is where I started when learning how to smile again. I chose to try. I chose life. I chose love. I chose hope. I started to do things I used to enjoy in the hope that it would rekindle my enthusiasm for life. I entered into situations determined to enjoy them. It probably sounds a bit crazy but I worked at smiling and it worked. Each day I try to move forward. This should not be mistaken for moving on nor should it be mistaken for forgetting Benjamin. He is a part of me, impossible to forget. Along with Merv, Benjamin is the love of my life, always in my thoughts and forever in my heart. As time passes the guilt lessens. Sometimes smiles are just smiles, simple and pure. Sometimes they even make me feel like everything will be ok again some day.