By Melanie Roger

I never thought of my life in chunks of time like “a decade”, not until this year anyways. 

When I first left the hospital, empty handed and barely 20 years old, I didn’t know how I would survive the next days ahead of me, let alone weeks, years or decades. I couldn’t wrap my head around a time when I would be able to say that I have lived a decade without my son. And while a decade is a long period of time, it feels like the shortest one I’ve ever lived. 

As I watch my younger son grow, I feel the weight of his first decade in small, slow chunks of time. And as I think about the one I have just lived without my oldest son, I think about how quick and rapid changing it all was. From learning how to navigate life as a mother without her baby, to picking myself up off the floor of random bathrooms that I’d hide in as I had an unexpected meltdown in public, or even figuring out how to answer the crippling question of “how many kids do you have?”.

Photo Credit: Brienne Kristen

I’ve heard it all in the last 10 years. Every cliche phrase you can think of. Every hurtful one and every helpful one as well and if I were to give any advice to myself as I walked out of that hospital door, 10 years ago, I would tell myself the same affirmations I tell my toddler today… 

You are strong. Not because you have to be, but because you can be, if you want to. 

You are brave. Not because you got out of bed tomorrow but because you tried today and because you chose to on some days and decided not to on other days. 

You are beautiful. Even when you look at your body and feel like it failed you, it’s still beautiful and perfect because it gave you love. Endless and beautiful love. But you don’t have to think this today or even tomorrow. 

You are smart. Smart because you did whatever you felt the need to do during these dark times of your grief. Who knows if they’re the right decisions, but they’re the right ones today. 

You are kind. Not because you didn’t bite the head off of the lady who told you the one thing you didn’t want to hear, but because you even acknowledged that other people outside of your world exist. 

You are you. The best you. No matter what you think or feel of yourself today, you are you and YOU are going to get yourself through the dark days that will come for the rest of your life. You don’t have to handle this perfectly or even beautifully or how everyone else wants you to, and that’s completely acceptable. 

Happy Birthday my beautiful Bennett Ian. Thank you for making me a mom, and allowing me to find the ability to give to others in your memory.

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