By Oana Papaconstantinou
In July 2014 our precious baby son, Georgie, aged only five and a half months, died of acute myeloid leukemia.
In the months that followed his death we experienced, as parents, the worst pain a human being can endure, and we coped with it as well as we would have been expected to. We raged. We cursed. We questioned God’s goodness and His very existence, and we cried a lot.
Those first months were, looking back now, mere and raw survival. We mechanically performed the daily tasks of looking after ourselves and Emma, Georgie’s surviving sibling, but everything tasted metallic, physically and metaphorically. Joy became a nemesis, as longing for it seemed to mean denying the very source of our sorrow and grief.
I do not recall the exact moment when I started to want to feel joy again. My grief ebbed and flowed furiously over the course of those months but slowly and ever so timidly, the realization came that grief did not exclude joy. That grief and joy could coexist in my heart, like two competitive yet very close siblings.
I grabbed onto joy every single time it shyly made an appearance. Every time Emma made me smile, every time a baby looked me in the eye, every time someone mentioned my lost son, I sucked my breath in and held onto that feeling of joy, for the few seconds it would lasted.
I had meanwhile realized that feeling joy did not mean I was betraying my son. On the contrary, being happy once again honored a soul which had been only smiles and happiness and love, all his short existence on earth.
The joy “muscle”, which had become atrophied with misuse, started to get stronger and seeking joybecame a daily exercise. I sought joy in the most trivial of things: in a bunch of flowers on the window sill, in ice cream had in the park with Emma, in watching the clouds pass us by, in the sound of the rain, in the morning song of the birds.
Loss trauma can be compared to the devastation of forest fires. The sheer force of the fire appears to leave nothing but char behind. In fact, science has proven that fires release the seeds of growth, which could have been waiting to germinate for decades, and ashes carry in themselves minerals that are essential to new growth.
The precious residue left behind by tragedy and loss contains in itself the very material that new life requires. And it is new life I consciously and ferociously have come to seek.
In coming alive again, I hope that my sorrow will grow into something beautiful and that it will bring hope to other bereaved parents. In choosing to dig out of the ashes and the debris, I hope to give courage to you.
If my son’s life has taught me anything at all, it is to recognize and acknowledge pain and do my very best to alleviate it in my fellow human being; to mother the needy; to love the unlovable; to accept without prejudice or judgement.
I now find joy in showing others that surviving and thriving into someone new after loss is possible.
I am here to prove it.
Oana Papaconstantinou is a mum of 2 children who blogs at Mama’s Haven. Oana has had the life-altering experience of child loss, when Georgie, her 5 months baby boy died on leukaemia in July 2014. She has now made it her blog’s mission to support people who have been equally affected by grief. She is on Twitter and Instagram.