Trigger warning: child loss
It’s a box that sat untouched for years, tucked inside our basement storage. In between boxes of photos and holiday décor, sat this plastic tub filled with so much hope. But, inside that box tells a story of shattered dreams and heartbreak, a common feeling between grieving parents.
The sheer excitement of preparing for a baby is mixed with gratitude as the gifts begin arriving for your new bundle of joy. Diapers, outfits, a crib and toys; our house quickly filled up five years ago as we prepared for a big change in our lives.
My husband and I were expecting triplets after years of infertility. We had three of everything as we watched my body transform carrying two identical girls and a boy. But our dreams of a picture perfect family were shattered when I went into labor more than four months premature. At 22 weeks gestation, we met our precious triplets. Within two months, two of our babies passed away.
What do you do with all the “stuff?” It’s a gut-wrenching moment for parents who have lost a child. The dreams of a baby sleeping in the nursery are no longer viable, and now you are left with “stuff.” Our gender-neutral nursery sat untouched for months. I couldn’t open the door to the room that held so much hope. Walking by the nursery made my heart physically ache.
A few months after two of my triplets died, friends and family helped me exchange most of the gifts we had received for the babies. With only one survivor, there was no need for three burping pillows or 3 bouncers and swings. Our nursery transformed to welcome one baby home, the chaos of three babies was now only in our dreams. But, there was one box that sat in our basement for nearly two years. I just couldn’t bring myself to go through it.
One day, nearly two years after my triplets were born, I felt ready. I held my breath as I opened that final storage box and went through the contents. The tears and sobs consumed me as I was instantly taken back to years before, when I never imagined that I would become a mother to children in Heaven and earth. Clothes, burp clothes, towels for three babies. Everything was catered for two girls and one boy. As I’ve learned over the years, there is no timeline for grief. There was no one telling me that I needed to go through my children’s belongings. I could have kept that box as it was for decades. But I was finally ready.
After all this time, I was ready to let go. I saved matching outfits I had purchased while I was pregnant, the tags still attached. And I saved a few things from friends, precious gifts that were given to me before our lives were turned upside down. I smiled through the tears as I saved sentimental memories; a baby shower game played during my days of hospital bedrest, a welcome home sign that greeted us when our surviving triplet arrived home after four months in the NICU.
I put the items back into the storage box. These few tangible memories I have of my children will last a lifetime. But I didn’t need the other things. It was time to donate it to someone who could use it.
As I closed the box, I thought back to when the grief was so raw and painful. A piece of my heart will always be with my two children in Heaven. But grief changes over time, and I have changed as well. I was finally ready to let go, to move forward in life.
Letting go of this box was a weight being lifted off my shoulders. It may have been a simple gesture, getting rid of some baby things I know we will never use. But, it means so much more. This emotional task was a reminder of my children, but also a glimmer of hope for the future. I’m going to be OK. Life will be OK. We’re always going to be a family of 5, we’re just lucky to have two angels to guide our way.