Grieving My Aunts Sudden Death, Right Before Giving Birth

I received a text message from my mother before I had gotten out of bed, “Call me when you’re up. It’s important.”

I immediately got out of bed, my heart beating faster. I knew something very bad had happened, because there is no way she should ever text me like that otherwise. I tried to prepare my still sleepy mind for terrible news. Somebody I love must be badly hurt, or dead. I just didn’t know who. Part of me did not want to know, but delaying the phone call would not change anything.

I went into the bathroom and quietly called her. There were no typical pleasantries. We both knew there was only one reason for this phone call. There was no way to sugar coat the news, “Aunt Cookie is dead”.

Then, silence on my end. My head swimming with the abrupt finality of those words. Injured, or sick leaves room for hope. Death is unforgiving, leaving no space for second chances.

How? When? What on earth happened?

Not so many details yet. She was at a friend’s house. She overdosed on her medications. No one knows if it was intentional, or accidental.

She was hospitalized recently for suicidal depression. She had battled depression her entire life, but she had lost over 100lbs in recent years and seemed to be doing better. Did she do it intentionally? Then again, she was known to occasionally abuse her medications. In an attempt to get relief from her mental stress, she would take too many benzos or opiates. That is an easy way to accidentally overdose, and given her age and health status, it would be even easier.

Either situation leaves us in sudden grief. A poor decision made in haste, clouded by depression. She is gone. There is no way to bring her back to us. My cousins, and second cousins have lost their mother and grandmother. My mother and aunts have lost their sister. I have lost my aunt.

And I am nearly 40 weeks pregnant.

How do I manage death and new life simultaneously? How does my family embrace, and celebrate a new addition; while saying goodbye to another loved one?

And then, the practical concerns that plague those coping with death. The Funeral. The wake. What if I go into labor at the same time as the funeral service? How could I possibly miss it? How could I ask my mother to help me, support me, watch my children during labor if she is supposed to be saying goodbye to her sister?

All of this is sitting inside of me, eating me up.

We describe deep sadness as our “heart breaking”, or “soul crushing”. It is a not just a figure of speech, it literally feels as if my heart is breaking and my soul is being crushed. There is a physical element to emotional pain that is undeniable, and it is with me all day today. I am carrying that heaviness, just as real as my toddler on my hip and heavy baby in my womb.

I didn’t have a way to prepare for this. Life is often interrupted by a series of uncontrollable events. We are really not in control of many things, despite pretending otherwise.

As a believer, this is a time for me to get grounded in the Word. To remember that He is in control, and knows all things. He is our comforter, our healer, and our refuge in times of need. I have to trust in Him, to continue to guide this pregnancy until birth. I have to trust him, even in the face of death and loss. I am reminded of my mortality as well. We are not promised tomorrow, so let’s make the best of today. And remember to tell our loved ones how much we value them in our lives, because you may not have another chance.

Shalom.

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