Grief is a strange beast. It ebbs and flows; it buries you. Days you can’t breathe for grief, and when it ebbs, you don’t feel relief, you just wonder when it will become too great to bear again.

I know for a long time after Gabriel was gone, I kept thinking: This is not my life. I would wake up at night and listen for the baby. I would wake up in the morning, and before the truth hit me — again — I would think, “Oh, it was a bad dream.” I thought that any moment I would really wake up and find the nightmare over and Gabriel would be with us.

I kept thinking it was a test, a trial. That after we passed — however you pass a test like that — our son would be returned to us. Like God or the universe was playing a prank. A tasteless, crappy prank, but it was easier to believe that than that our Li’l Bean, as we had called him through the pregnancy, was truly gone. Was dead. Was buried in the ground, in a casket smaller than a bassinet. The bassinet that we had had waiting for him.

I had listened to that heartbeat for 37 weeks. How could it have stopped? This was not my life.

Each year, half a million babies are stillborn. Can you believe that number? 500,000! Dan and I were stunned when we met with the perinatologist and he told us that statistic. I mean, we knew it could happen, but that it did happen that often was… surprising, is as good a word as any here.

In half of those half million cases, a cause is never found. Such was the case with Gabriel. There are some theories as to why we lost Gabriel, but at the time, no answers. And nothing that said to us, “Don’t try this again.” No genetic abnormalities; his cord was not wrapped around his neck; no other trauma or reason.

He just died. Before he was ever born.

The grief washed over us. And even as the days and weeks and months went by, even as I didn’t spend as much time literally crying, the grief didn’t leave. Four plus years later, two healthy daughters later, the grief is still here.

I own it now though. I know this is my life. And while I have accepted that, and I take so much joy in my family, I feel Gabriel’s absence every day. I still cry.

And then I go and hold my little girls and my husband, and I let them heal me.