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30 Things I Learned This Year That I Never Wanted to Learn

30 Things I Learned This Year That I Never Wanted to Learn

I can’t say that I’m sad to say goodbye to 2012.

OK, yes, we did get to take the girls to Disney (something we’ve wanted to do since they were born), and my husband got a much better job. But then there was that “losing your only son” thing that kind of just dominated the year a little bit. Yeah, there was that.

My little man would have been 5 months old today. I’m celebrating the end of a year while mourning the baby that never got to see this year. So I kind of feel like before I go into 2013, I need to get off of my chest some of the things I learned these past (challenging, devastating) few months of 2012. Kind of to clean the slate, if you will, before I tackle the new year. And I have learned a whole lot. Definitely not the lessons I wanted to learn, but lessons nonetheless. I’m going to enter 2013 with a mind and heart open to the gifts God is going to provide, rather than dwelling on the things I’ve lost, but first I’ve got to drop off just a few of the terrible learnings, the incredibly excruciating lessons of 2012.

So here they are, just a few of the things I’ve learned this year, that I never really wanted to learn.


  1. You DON’T want to be given the private room in the NICU.
  2. Although you’re supposed to wash your arms and hands for a full 2 minutes before you walk into the NICU, when you’re the one with the dying baby, you can cheat and only do about 25 seconds and nobody gives you a hard time.
  3. When you’re given disastrous news, your mind blanks out details. You can completely blot out from memory the name of diseases, procedures, and even the faces of doctors with whom you have worked.
  4. You know things aren’t going well if the NICU staff is familiar enough with you that when you want to enter it, you simply pick up the phone and they will buzz you in without you even having to identify yourself. Or, that when you’ve had to ask them to let you out for the umpteenth time, you hear one of the desk staff suggest, “Why don’t we just get them a card, so they can go in and out on their own?”
  5. You can get hospital meals for free when you’re staying in the “rooming in” area outside the NICU.
  6. There’s a free special gift your children receive at the hospital if their sibling is dying. It’s called “grief dolls”.
  7. If your infant has to go to heaven, rocking him and singing to him as he goes is the best way to do it.
  8. You can actually laugh and cry at the same time – like when, in the moments after wailing with grief over her brother passing away, your daughter can suddenly look over at the end table, notice the plate there, and ask, “Can I have a cookie”?
  9. Who knew? Hospice services provide everything from medication for your dying child, to art therapy for your children that have to go on living after one of them is gone.
  10. When you say things like, “We will get to see him in heaven”, 4-year-olds think that means you’re getting in the van to go drive there, and will ask you if they can watch movies on the way. Like, right now. And that will make you cry, because you really do want to get in the van and go drive to see him right now.
  11. Children who have lost a family member do a lot of playing, afterwards, in which their dolls or characters die. On the bright side, the characters usually go to heaven, too.
  12. If the only geneticist in a 100 mile radius is on vacation, you just have to wait until she gets back for test results.
  13. When the genetic testing lab tells you that, even though the insurance company pre-authorized the test, you have to pay for it up front – that means they know more than you do and you’ll never get reimbursed for it.
  14. When your child dies, “big” things such as which casket you put your child in, or the exact spot where he will be buried, often don’t matter to you at all…while “small” things, such as the words “survived by” not being used in the obituary, or every tiny detail about the post-processing of your child’s obituary photo, become of utmost importance.
  15. You can get your baby’s burial plot for free if you buy two adult plots…the 2-for-1 deal is definitely the cheapest way to go.
  16. Embalmers cannot use the circulatory system of an infant for the preparation process because their veins are too small, so the body of an infant does not look as natural as the body of an adult.
  17. There is no definable time in which “your child” suddenly becomes “the body”. But somehow it happens between when you last hold him and when you have to inspect how well the funeral home embalmers did their job.
  18. In times of crisis, the people who think they have a right to come see you shouldn’t be there, and those who don’t feel like they should infringe on you in any way are the very ones you want by your side.
  19. Small acts of kindness, when you’ve experienced a tragedy, aren’t small acts at all, but lifelines that keep you from smashing into the ground.
  20. Baby blankets that wrapped your baby, even when you preserve them as well as you can, don’t keep the scent of your baby well enough after he’s no longer around.
  21. When you’ve lost a child, being around babies becomes scarier than walking alone at night in gang territory.
  22. Even when you think that you’ve cried all of your tears out, you can still find more.
  23. You can’t exactly admonish your child for wanting to keep another family’s newborn when you are wanting to do the same thing.
  24. A Christmas tree on a baby’s grave is not exactly a substitute for spending Christmas with the baby.
  25. No matter how many photos you take of your dying child, they will never be enough.
  26. No matter how many moments you get with your dying child, they will never be enough.
  27. The idea of eternal life gains a whole new significance when you’ve got someone you want so very badly to see after this life.
  28. God can get you through any thing. Anything. If you run to him instead of away from him.
  29. The Lord truly does work good in every situation, but you can’t know this until the situation has been really, really bad.
  30. Sometimes it is only through death that you can get an inkling of just what “abundant life” really is.

I’m looking forward to 2013.



One Response to “30 Things I Learned This Year That I Never Wanted to Learn”

  1. Grant Cockrell says:

    Reading that list just brought it all back for me. I really miss him too!

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