It was a weekend like any other; our calendar was packed with play dates, parties, and the crowning event, the Superbowl. I felt a little drained from the busy workweek but still happy to spend time with my family.

Saturday came around and I found that, for some reason, I was hanging on by a thread. I needed time to be alone, time to visit Leo’s grave, but with an exclusively breast fed baby, I needed to stay near home. I was feeling like life had dealt me a really unfair hand. I was sad, angry, and bitter, and I knew that, unfair as it may feel, losing Leo is a part of my life whether I like it or not.

I didn’t attend any of our scheduled events on Saturday. I just couldn’t be in public, not even with close friends. My son is dead; I should have a 22 month-old boy. I should be done breastfeeding. I need freedom! My heart was crying out in anguish to be free from grief, free from having to pull myself together every day, free from doubting that the human body was actually built to last. I needed to be free from demands for milk, from laundry, from being strong for my husband, from his needs.

I cried. I cried tears of sadness, of frustration, of anger. I let them all out and I let go of trying to steer my life in this direction or that. I ended up having a pretty decent day because my husband and kids made it so and because I allowed them to step in and carry me. They took me to visit Leo and let me have some time alone. When baby started crying, they came back so I could give her the love and nourishment that she needed.

I woke up Sunday morning with the strangest feeling. I felt okay. Not okay as in “so-so” but okay as in “reconciled”. I was awash with understanding and peace. My son was dead but I was going to be okay! I felt okay for the first time since he passed. One day I’m hanging on by a thread and the next I feel good, hopeful, healed.

We went about our normal Sunday routine. Breakfast, church, playing outside in the yard, laundry, and I felt pretty happy. I have this beautiful rainbow baby girl, two beautiful sunshine girls, and of course, an angel up in Heaven. We set out to watch the Super Bowl and the girls and I were excitedly watching commercials, waiting for Katy Perry’s half time show. And then, in the midst of my family time, in the middle of my living room, played a commercial that I will not soon forget.

A sweet little boy muses about all of the things he will never get to do. Why not? Because he’s dead.

Did you hear that? What? He’s what? What kind of commercial is that!? Rewind. That’s right. We didn’t hear it wrong. Nationwide wants to remind all of the viewers of the 49th Super Bowl that “The #1 cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents.”

image

Valid point. But the delivery? Painful.

This hit home hard. You see, I struggle everyday to remind myself or to give comfort to my husband that SIDS was not our fault. I know that approximately 2,500 babies die of SIDS each year in the U.S. Facts are facts. My son’s death was not a preventable accident, and I’m not saying that Nationwide implied that SIDS deaths are accidental. What I am saying is that I try to avoid the “would have, could have” thoughts and comments that flood me every day. What did my son miss out on? What did we miss out on? Quite a lot. But thinking about that and talking about that is a non-starter. It’s the fast track to depression. What was the intent of this commercial?

I have to thank God that the Superbowl was on Sunday, the day that I felt okay, and not Saturday, the day that I was hanging by a thread because Nationwide Insurance threw me a major curve ball. I’m still not so sure what I’m supposed to do with it. All I can say is that it was a really insensitive commercial and you know what they are going to miss out on? A lot of business!

As I watch my rainbow sleep tonight, lights blinking faithfully on her apnea monitor, I wonder what I might miss out on with her when she dies too. I push those nasty thoughts out of my head and say a quick prayer for trust. I need to believe that my son’s death was an anomaly; he was the exception, not the rule.

Commercials like this one don’t do a lot to move people to healthy conversations about childhood death or grief. It’s okay to talk about my son! I want you to, really! It doesn’t hurt me or bring up old wounds. I don’t really want to hear what you think he would be doing if he was alive, because that isn’t possible. But I do want to hear what you remember of him, how you honor him, that you still look at his photograph.

Today, I chose to not let this ignorant commercial rob me of any of the joy that I set out to share with my girls and husband and I also forgave myself for the anger and bitterness I felt on Saturday. Being a bereaved parent and trying to raise another child after a loss is really a lot of work. It is important that we are gentle with ourselves, even when the world is not.

Share this story!