Breathing New Life into a Torn Soul by Mel Lefebvre

Image Credit: Deeni Simon

The things I have forgotten since losing my son to a fatal genetic disease seem silly to me, like breathing. Who forgets to breathe? Me.

After Henry died, I neglected other basic and simple self-maintenance needs. Showering. Eating. Getting comfort from friends. My baby is dead – why do any of these things matter?

I have performed impressive emotional acrobatics over taking care of myself.

On the one hand, I’m a single-standing female now, with no little life blooming in me. Why do I matter anymore? On the other hand, I could try to have other children, so I should keep myself a healthy vessel for them – just in case. But then again, maybe my womb is cursed and after losing my fist child. Then, relentless hope tries to glimmer through quickly, but not fast enough. I shut the window on it so hard that the glass almost breaks, and the frame splinters. But a broken window can still let in a surprising amount of light and air.

No matter how I try to rationalize the unthinkable. I am still here, and it blows my mind.

It was a while before I could let myself enjoy my old pleasures – coffee, reading, walking. How could I think about things that bring me happiness? But then someone bought me the gift of a 60-minute massage. It was with a precious little old lady in a house by the water. That 100-year-old house was covered in every corner with books, picture frames, dangling stars, mirrors, but not a speck of dust and walls painted light blue like the sky on a sunny afternoon. The home, like the soul who lived there, was open, fresh and inviting.

Preceding my massage was a little interview where we lightly touched on why I was there. And so gently, while pools of tears gathered in my eyes, my grief was accepted and incorporated into our time together.  Then, she reminded me how to breathe.

It had been a long while since I had truly taken a breath. She also drew me back to a special place I like to visit in my mind when I need some peace and repose. Call it my happy place if you will. I close my eyes and visualize a deep, dark forest by a babbling stream where sunlight breaks through the treetops. I feel grounded and safe as I sit by the water on a mossy boulder where I can breathe deeply, cradled in lush green surroundings.  The simple thought of this imaginary place causes my lungs to fill with rejuvenating breath, and makes me feel that even after a scathing visit to hell, I’m okay if I just take the time to breathe. If I’m hesitating to take care of myself, a breath will help me relax and move forward.

The wonderful part about breathing is that my lungs are always ready and waiting. They sit patiently in my chest, allowing me my shallow, short stress-breath until I’m ready to take it a bit further. While the massage was great, the lesson in breathing was far more valuable. In my life, torn to shreds with loss, remembering to breathe fully and deeply is a magic sticky glue that will help me piece together a new normal.

Bio: Mel Lefebvre is a Montreal-based journalist and editor, step-mom, and mother to Henry, her sweet boy who was died before he could take his first breath. Henry was diagnosed at 20 weeks with osteogenesis imperfecta type 2 – the fatal form of brittle bone disease. Mel has been blogging regularly on her healing process and coping with the decisions they made for Henry. She finds comfort in her pets, knitting, going for walks, and making pottery. It’s her hope that through the honest portrayal of her feelings, which are sometimes ugly, other grieving parents can allow themselves to feel normal as they mourn, too. Read more about Mel’s healing journey at

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  1. This is such a touching account of Mel’s journey. I am an avid follower of Mel’s blog and think she is a brave writer. She has used her skills and pain to help others that have gone through a similar pain. This is a touching article, and I am glad I have been reminded to breathe! Thank you Mel.


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