Healing a Heart
By Sara Barry
I let go of my idea of how my baby would be born.
I let go of the notion of holding him to my breast, nurturing him right away.
I let go of holding him on day one. And on day two.
I let go of the idea that babies are born, stay with their mother for a few days in the hospital and go home.
I let go of the idea that babies just breathe, easily and naturally.
I let go of slings and cloth diapers.
I let go of long walks with the stroller and being woken up in the middle of the night by a baby’s cry.
I let go of the ideal of health and the dreams of what we would do. I made new dreams and let go of those too as what seemed possible shifted and shifted and shifted.
I let go of living at home as a family. I let go of being the primary caregiver, turning that roll over to nurses even as I held fiercely to what I could do.
I tried and tried and tried to let go of fear—and expectation. Hope never let go of me.
I sang out his spirit as he died, never mine to hold or let go.
I let go of his body.
Slowly, over time, I let go of stuff. The stuff he never used. The things he and his sisters shared.
I let go little by little, inching my hands looser and looser, of the need to hold onto the sadness, though not the sadness itself. I let go of the need to remind people of Henry, his life, his death, my grief. I simply remembered and loved other people when they did too.
And now, nearly nine years later, what could there be left to let go of?
Last spring, I donated a pair of shoes. Tiny blue powder blue Merrells that had sat on my dresser, reminding me whenever I caught sight of them of the supposed Hemingway story: For sale, Baby shoes, never worn.
Henry never wore those shoes. He wouldn’t have worn them had he been well, had he lived. I didn’t have patience for baby shoes, and yet they sat there. A reminder. Until I passed them on. Never worn. To somebody who does have the patience for baby shoes. To somebody who may have a simple joyful experience of new motherhood or somebody who holds a babyalongside grief.
And just this week, I let go again. Every year since 2008, I have gone to Boston on the first weekend of November. I make my way down familiar streets past the hospital where Henry spent half his life. I enter a hospital owned building of meeting rooms and sigh deeply. The building is filled with grief—some longer sustained than mine, some raw and oozing.
Every year Boston Children’s Hospital holds an event for grieving families. Every year it breaks me open, wrings me out. I’ve gone back again and again. It’s my way to make space, hold that sacred space for Henry and my big emotions before I enter the heavy month of December and the approach of the day he died. This year, I got the invitation and I thought, “I’m going to let this go.”
I thought I was done letting go, but I let go of structure and tradition I had created within my grieving.
In a few short weeks, it will be nine years since I let sang out Henry’s soul and let go of his body. Since then I’ve let go of a lot. With each piece I let go of, I’ve worried that I’d let go of too much, that I’d lose the little I had. Maybe it’s time to let go of that fear too.
How do you hold on to your love, your hopes, your memories when you’ve been forced to let go of so much? What can you choose to let go of?