We celebrated Easter last weekend, and while I have never held it as one of my favorite holidays, this year, my grief brain and experience felt like they were on trigger overdrive. And in yet another twist of life after loss, I did not expect it, but also probably should not have been so surprised given everything that was brought up by this holiday.

Let me rewind a few years back, specifically to Easter 2017.

We did our first round of IVF that spring and by sheer coincidence, the embryo transfer happened on Easter Sunday. Having grown up Catholic and at the time still finding that faith and religion as a comfort, I thought for sure that it had to mean something. I felt confident that this was it, that everything was lining up, and that we would definitely be pregnant. After the transfer was complete, our doctor even went so far as to make a joke about how if this took, we would have to name our child something religious. A few weeks after that, the test was positive, and I was pregnant for the first time.

If you have followed along on my journey, you probably know the outcome of this story, but a few weeks after getting the positive pregnancy test, I started bleeding. We went to the doctor, and he confirmed that there was a gestational sac, but no baby.

We had lost our beloved Sweet Pea.

While we grieved that weekend (Mother’s Day weekend, to add insult to injury), I held onto this faith and belief that I was still pregnant but kept that completely to myself because I knew anyone else would think I had lost my mind. But, after blood work a few days later saw my numbers rising, we had an ultrasound, and they found Sweet Pea’s heartbeat.  Stunned, we then had to shift to the idea I was actually pregnant, something which caused my friend to say well, it was an Easter transfer, so maybe that’s what happened—you thought one thing for a few days, and then surprise! Unfortunately, that night, I ended up in the ER and fully lost our Sweet Pea. There was no gestational sac, no heartbeat, nothing remaining of our precious first baby.

So, with that history of complicated emotions regarding the holiday, I took on this year’s Easter. Two things really hit me hard this year in particular.

Colette's Easter Basket at her grave - Parenting After Loss: Losses Accumulate on Easter

Author’s Personal Collection/Michelle Valiukenas

The first is a secondary loss that was a big loss for me, and that is my loss of religion and faith.

Before Colette died, I turned to religion as a source of support and understanding, especially when things went wrong. But, in the years since her death, I am too angry, too hurt by a God that allowed this to happen. I have tried to work past it. I even took time to meet one on one with a priest who did make me feel better, but it still remains this loss, this emptiness that I have because what previously provided me comfort now just makes me angry and sad. I felt that very strongly this year.  A religious celebration for a religion that I no longer feel aligned with highlights how very different everything in my world has been over the last five years. It also still has that gaping hole, the part of me where I can say, well, that’s where the religion used to be, but it isn’t there anymore.

The final part that caused me pain and felt triggering was that this was the first Easter where Elliott had some understanding of what was going on.

In the past few years, we have not done activities with him because he didn’t understand. But, this year, we planned an Easter egg hunt for him, and as we were planning and doing it, I could not help but think of my own Easters growing up and particularly the egg hunt.

My sister is four years younger than me and is one of the most competitive people I have ever known. When we were kids, our egg hunts used to be candy based and inside. Basically, my parents would set up candy inside in a small one to two room area, and we would run around and grab all the candy. But, and here is the important part from my perspective, at the end of the race, they would take both of our buckets and throw them all into one container for everyone to eat from.  As such, I never felt the need to get the most candy because I could not see how it would matter at the end.

Not my sister. She would be on the attack, fueled by a need to prove just how much better she was at this game than I was, and I was merely in the way so she needed to defeat me above all else. When I was probably about 12 and she was 8, she pushed me out of the way and grabbed the candy in such a way that a heavy media center started to wobble and very likely would have fallen over onto me had it not been for my dad’s quick moves to push it back towards the wall. It got so bad that when she was in college and my parents and I went down Easter weekend to visit her, she insisted that we do the hunt in the hotel room where we were staying. I officially designated that as the last year we would ever do it after she pushed me, sending me careening over one bed and falling straight onto my back on the floor in between the two beds where my parents and I were staying, and very nearly hitting my head on the nightstand between the beds.

Thinking about all the craziness that those hunts involved made me very sad because Elliott will not have those experiences with a sibling.

He will not know what it is like to be the competitive one or the more laid-back one. He will not get to race to fight his sister for the last egg. He will not get to know his sister or another sibling in the way I have been so fortunate to have. It makes me so sad for him and for us, that we do not get to see that interaction and relationship develop.

Elliott's Easter Egg Hunt - Parenting After Loss: Losses Accumulate on Easter

Author’s Personal Collection/Michelle Valiukenas

Add to it that we did the hunt once my family had come over, and my sister, being the amazing aunt that she is, was walking with Elliott and trying to help him find and pick up eggs. It makes me even sadder and angrier that life has dealt us the cards it has. I so wish that when we planned these hunts this year and going forward, that we would have to be planning for two children who may be fighting each other or be in cahoots together or otherwise finding ways together to cause us more stress as parents.

I know that Elliott will be given so many things as a result of our actions, but it definitely makes me sad and angry that we have not been able to provide him with that sibling or siblings. It is just one more loss in the world we navigate as loss parents. And it is one more thing to add to the pile of reasons why being a loss parent sucks, plain and simple.

More on this topic:

Share this story!