Originally written in 2013 for Still Standing Magazine:
Early after losing our son Aiden at 19 days old, I remember feeling very angry when I would hear ‘time heals all wounds’ or similar sentiments. I remember thinking, no amount of time will ever heal my broken heart. My child has died, his short life was filled with pain, suffering, surgery and hospitals. There was nothing I could do to make any of it better, nothing I could do to save him from it, nothing I could do to change the fact that he died. No amount of time will ever heal the pain I feel.
The Wound Remains
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
― Rose Kennedy
But now almost four years away from the time we had with him, I realize that time does change things. Time alone does not heal the wounds, but the wounds do become covered with scar tissue. The pain is not always so raw, intense and agonizing. The pain changes, softens a bit. This is not to say that every day gets a little bit easier, as if grief progresses in a linear fashion. Moments of intense grief can sneak up on you at any moment, even years later. However, the pain and grief I feel today are much different from the pain and grief I felt at the beginning.
My heart literally felt broken after losing Aiden, but slowly it has been stitched back together. The thread that stitched it back together formed over time and is made of many things. It is made of the things we do to love, remember and honour Aiden. The love and gratefulness we have for our beautiful rainbow baby. The love and support we received from friends, family and strangers alike. My heart will always be scarred and missing the pieces that Aiden took with him to Heaven, but it is no longer as broken as it once was. Time has allowed those threads to sew the pieces of my heart back together in a new, scarred configuration, but together none the less.
From Heartbreak to Remembrance
Every year since we lost Aiden, we have attended The Walk to Remember, a beautiful walk and ceremony dedicated to honouring little lives lost. It is a beautiful and very meaningful day. It too has changed for us over the years we have attended it. The first years were very painful, the pain of losing our child was greater than the beauty of the event. But gradually, the walk has become an opportunity to celebrate our child. An opportunity that isn’t tied up with the pain and grief of other important days, like his birthday or day he died. It is a day completely of its own to celebrate our son, his life and the beautiful, heartbreaking impact he made on our lives.
I don’t think this change is unique to our family. Last year at the walk, I noticed how the event impacted those around us. I noticed the people whose grief was so raw and fresh. I also noticed the people whose day had evolved to become a quiet, but still tearful, celebration of the life of their child.
Time Doesn’t Heal, but the Pain Softens
I recently connected with a young woman who had just delivered her stillborn son. As we talked and she shared her raw, intense grief, it transported me back to a time when my grief had felt that very same way. As I spoke with her, I realized the pain is not always so brutally heartbreaking. The pain is always there, my heart will always hurt for my sweet Aiden, but it softens with time.
I’ve realized that although time does not heal all wounds, time does help. Time helps to soothe the raw, agonizing pain. Time has helped me begin to accept that it’s not fair what happened to Aiden and it never will be, but we did the best we could. We loved our son fiercely and will never stop loving him. Held him every moment we could so he would always feel as much love and comfort as we could give. We brought him home for his final days so he was surrounded only by love and the comforts of home.
Time alone will not allow you to heal. Grief requires a lot of difficult, exhausting and seemingly endless work to begin to process, accept and heal from the loss. But slowly, with time, the unbearable pain lessons, it transforms into something different, something softer. It never leaves you, for losing a child changes every part of you, but it won’t always hurt as much as it does in the beginning. It won’t always be only pain. Slowly over time, there can be moments when love, hope and peaceful remembrance are stronger than the pain. And then the healing can begin.
I wrote these words three years ago, and they are still true for me. Time has softened the pain of losing Aiden. But this year, on what would have been Aiden’s 7th birthday, it strikes me how much pain is still there.
I wrote about the waves of intense grief that can sneak up and blindside you. One of those waves has just hit me. I feel so sad that another year has passed without Aiden. Sad that I don’t know what kind of seven-year-old boy he would have been. So sad to be without him. But through this fresh wave of grief I’m experiencing, I do see that the pain and sadness I’m feeling aren’t the same as it was at the beginning. What was once a sharp, agonizing pain, is now a softer ache in my heart. The wound is still there, the pain is still there, but not as intensely as it once was.
I also know now that the waves of grief ebb and flow. The pain and sadness of this wave of grief doesn’t drown me today as it did in the beginning. I know I must ride out this wave. Let myself feel the pain in order to let it go. And with time this new wave of grief will once again wash back out to sea.