Coping with Loss; A Mother's perspective. Conducted self interview.
|Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with Mrs. Spencer in her parent’s home in rural Arizona. Amid the animals, and pictures I notice a multi framed collage of an infant. To the side, is a light, baby blue square box, which I later learn is her 5 month olds urn. Peggy, and her husband Wayne, lost their son, Michael, to SIDS on March 11, 2010. I hope to learn more about the grief a parent feels, how she is coping, and things she wished to have known before. Here is my interview with Peggy.
What do you remember the most about the 11th?
Oh, the 11th. [She sighs] At the hospital, they took me to a small room, to wait for Michael to arrive. [She pauses, and takes a few moments to collect herself]. This is were things get blurry, and confusing for me to remember accurately. I believe I called my husband, and found him in tears, barely able to make out what he was saying. He said that he found Michael face down, not breathing. He kept repeating, I’m so sorry. I then told him to hang on, that I hadn’t heard anything from the medical staff yet. I would call him. I found out that police detectives where there with him, as well as my mother. I just remember being really numb, I also remember holding my sons lifeless body, not wanting to give him up. I was praying with every stuttering breath, that he would start breathing again. So much is still a blur.
What one thing do you wish people hadn’t said, in the aftermath of your sons death?
Oh dear… [She pauses and gives a small smile] I’m not sure if ONE would be enough. I would suppose the phrase that made me mad would be, “He looked so healthy”, or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” He WAS healthy!!! He was perfect. Yes, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but we can’t handle THIS without Him being there to carry us.
How do you cope, in your day to day life?
I rely on God, on my husband, my family. Sometimes I’m not really sure what gets me through a certain day.
What inspires you to keep living?
My husband. God. My desire to make my life count. To inspire others to love without reservation, without fear.
Have you considered counseling options?
I’m in the process of finding a counselor. Until then, I manage.
How has the relationship with your husband changed, since Michael’s death?
Well, mmm. [Laughs]. We have gotten stronger, closer. At the same time, a certain fragility surrounds us as a couple now. We are the only ones who know how we feel. Being able to look into my best friends eyes, and know that he knows how difficult things are for me, is comforting.
How did you feel when the Medical Examiner declared Michaels death, SIDS?
Well, to be honest, relief. Even though it’s an open ended cause of death, it means that there was nothing we did or didn’t do that caused it. Nothing we could have done would have stopped it.
On the flip side of that, we are left without a definitive answer as to WHY we lost him. I’m not sure a medical team would be able to answer me in a satisfactory way, anyways.
How did you feel about SIDS before?
I thought it was just something to be aware of in the way we’re aware of the weather outside. It’s there, but not really in our life. I wasn’t concerned about it, and sadly, laughed at other mothers who were concerned with it. I thought they were TOO concerned. I would give anything to be the worry wart of a mother I laughed at, and have him here, in my arms.
How do you feel now?
Oh, I feel like I didn’t worry about it ENOUGH. And of course, hind sight is always 50/50. I am reading everything I can get my hands on, regarding SIDS. Not enough awareness is out there about it. Sure, there is the FEAR of it, but not true awareness. Many of the ‘facts’ out there, are indeed, false facts, or at the very least, misrepresented.
You sound like you’re getting involved in advocacy for SIDS. What would you like others to know about SIDS?
There is still a lot of research to be done to really find the cause of SIDS. There are SO many variables that need to be eliminated.
Most of the advice is common sense, and things we followed with Michael. Like, sleep on their backs, in a baby bed with firm mattress, do not over cloth the child, pacifier. I think that really, the best thing a parent can do, is to be AWARE of your child’s sleeping surroundings. Always receive medical care, never smoke around an infant, breastfeed, avoid crowds or people with respiratory infections.
Any closing thoughts?
I miss my son, and when I don’t talk about him, I think about him. A part of me has died with him, and it’s hard to lose a beloved child the way we did. My last memory of Michael was our morning on the 11th. He had woken me up at 5:30am, and we spent our usual time, cuddling together, while I drank coffee and we talked to each other. His smile that morning was the biggest smile. His laugh was full of fun, life and mischief. He was so happy. He didn’t want to sleep, so I woke up my husband, and left them to cuddle in bed while I went to work. The last thing I heard before I closed our apartment door was their voices mingling together. [She closes her eyes, and as tears begin to fall she continues in a softer voice] I went to work, innocent. I never thought such tragedy would fall into my life. Michael was beginning to blossom, his little personality was getting bigger each day. [Shakes head] I live in a bittersweet world now.
After this interview, Peggy brought out her scrapbooks, copies of her blogs and letters written to her and Wayne. The love poured out on them both, has been tremendous. She wished to send her heartfelt thanks, love and appreciation to those who have given of themselves through money, time, labor, and prayers to her and her family.