Empty Arms Bereavement

Your Story In Your Words: Alina and Quinn

My son is dead. These words have gotten easier to say (and type) with time, but sometimes I am still shocked by that simple fact.

Dearest Quinn

On January 17th, 2021, I said goodnight to my 3 months and 26 day old son, Quinn. He was perfectly healthy, delightfully funny, smart as a whip, hitting all his milestones, and the most beautiful person I had ever laid eyes on. The next morning, I went in to wake what should have been my 3 months and 27 day old son, and instead I found his body. He had died peacefully at some point in the night, the cause of death ruled Sudden Unexplained Death of an Infant in Manner Undetermined, or colloquially: SIDS.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, I wanted to be dead. And not only that, but I thought that the pain I was experiencing might actually kill me. It was so excruciating that I would not have been surprised if I had simply keeled over and died myself. Thankfully, both of those feelings lessened with time, but even still, this past year has been punctuated with the lowest lows that I have ever felt in my life. There have been days that I’ve cried longer than I didn’t cry, days where my brain was so foggy that I was unable to drive, work, or even feed myself, nights where I slept not a single minute, hours on end spent in a full-fledged panic attack.

One of the hard things about being a bereaved mother is loneliness. I no longer fit in with the parents of Quinn’s peers, because they have 16 month olds and my child is forever 4 months. I don’t fit in with those who are childless, because I carried a pregnancy, birthed and breastfed a newborn, and now walk around earth in a mom’s body, albeit one with heavy, empty arms. Even among my family and friends who are all grieving the same person — sweet, smart, and sparkly Quinn — no one is grieving the same loss that I am, because I was his mom.

I spent some time reflecting on the past year in anticipation of Quinn’s death anniversary, and I found that there were 9 times that I was truly happy to be alive. Certainly there were many more times where I felt neutral, or even slightly positive, about living, but there were only 9 specific instances I could think of where I felt enough joy that I felt like remaining alive was worth it.

4 of those 9 times I was glad I was alive were in the presence of other loss parents. That is not a coincidence.

Mother and child! Alina + Quinn.

The bond between loss parents is instantaneous and incredibly strong. They understand what it’s like to sit in your child’s permanently empty nursery. To smell their clothes, flip through their blank baby book, and pack away the toys they never touched. To cry when you sneeze because you remember their sneeze. To have a panic attack when a baby cries on TV. To have a warm March day take your breath away because your baby never saw spring. To spend your child’s birthday just making it through the day instead of wiping smashed cake off of greedy little hands. To know that for every holiday dinner for the rest of your life will have an empty seat at the table.

I attended my first Empty Arms meeting a week after Quinn’s sudden death, and I will continue to attend meetings and be a part of this group for as long as it is available to me. I am so grateful for the work they do, and so grateful for each and every loss mom and dad who has reached out with support as I navigate life without my son. Nothing I can do will bring him back, but the community I have built for myself has helped to make life without him bearable.

It would be an honor to be a part of your community if you are also navigating life without your beloved child. You can follow me by listening to my podcast, As Long As I’m Living (available wherever you get your podcasts), and on instagram at @aslongasimlivingpodcast.

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