People come and go like leaves on a tree. To try and avoid that loss only makes you avoid true happiness. We die. But as Snoopy always says, on the rest of the days you live... you only die ONE of the days. I always loved that. Grief can be a good thing if you let it in. When you don't argue with it like a drunk husband, much good can come from its stillness. —Jann Arden
Individually, none of them were aware of each other nor would they have been enough. But collectively, they brought their own tools and skills to my huge mess of severed dreams, and thoughtfully stitched together my rough and ragged edges as the months went on. I clung to them carefully, with a gratitude not yet realized, and over time, was able to see their unique contributions to my story.
On the wall in the family room is Lydia’s name—painted, framed and gifted to us—sitting above the small patch of carpet where a little boy eagerly puts on his shoes to go outside, where a little girl shuffles across as she cries out for her mother, and where two parents collapsed nearly two years ago, sitting numbly and staring out into the grey sky of a world that no longer made sense. Above the fireplace mantle, her name carved into stone, her body burned to ash.
This is where my memory begins to fade. Wanting, what I now believe was the protection of my sanity, my mind started uprooting entire events and details of Raahi's hospital stay, as I could not bear to remember the nuances, grief sweeping through me like a forceful mudslide. My memory wanted to forget death, and with it, it had to forget life too.
For a brief moment, I feel a kinship with a nameless stranger who grieved for her child as I grieve for mine, so I stoop down and leave my field daisy at his grave for her—look, someone understands, someone remembers.
I remember exactly how we were sitting on the hospital bed. I remember the color of light coming through the hospital window. I remember A and I looking at each other, our pause of disbelief, and looking back at this idiotic woman who hadn’t gotten the memo. Then saying what I suddenly know I’ll be saying over and over and over: “The baby died.”
Every day, I get out of bed and pretend that I am okay. That it is okay.
But the truth is, it still devastates me, three+ years out. Not a day goes by. Starting kindergarten (and milestones) or even when we're just laughing with our kids, I think of all she is missing out on and all the milestones that should have come between birth and death. I know how quickly bad news can happen and shift everything to black. Sometimes I read other stories here and I think, I could not survive that. And then I remember, I did.
Sitting on the sand a few months ago, staring out at the raging ocean, I wondered: is this a good place to put her ashes, to scatter them in the sea I love so much? Maybe with her name engraved on a bench, overlooking the place where I scatter her? Maybe her name doesn’t belong on a tombstone.
She laughs lightly in that social way. She is older now, and so am I. I don't want to think about how criminally, absurdedly cruel she was to me when my baby died. I don't want to recall, as I'm sitting here across from her, all the forcible bootstrap-pulling. Grief was superceded, upended, re-formed. Grief became compost, making the earth stinky and rich, and from it new things emerged and became green. I feel love, longing, but not upset. Not anymore. I watch her face. My Relic revs his engine and scowls from underneath his toque.
While getting ready for bed tonight, I caught a glimpse of our honeymoon pictures. My husband and I, four years younger, were completely oblivious to what lay ahead. I had no idea about so many things. I didn't know about the joy and beauty that waited for us. I didn't know about the heartache that waited too.
I’ve unpacked my entire belief system. Every day, in some capacity, I examine previously held opinions against a new and more open, unbiased mind. I carefully examine it from all angles, attempt to solve it with something satisfactory, but end up with nothing.
Today, she is a little girl; giving as much as taking from her siblings. Giggling, fighting, and bonding with them in a way that continues to bloom throughout their lives. / And today, like every day, she is gone.
No water for her, I say to myself. No force, no beauty. No fear of nature’s power, no joy at the earth’s beauty. No wonder at the universe’s expanse, no humility in our own smallness. She does not ask us questions, does not giggle at the sprinkling water, and does not rub her face against her father’s wet neck. I almost feel like she is not even in Aahir’s heart, like he has emphasized for almost three years. I realize how absent she is from this sensory experience that one can only participate in by being present.
What is the love particle? At what speed do these particles travel? As they head out to the vast, cold Universe, are they merely our sad SOSes? Perhaps they are also testimonies—a tiny speck was there, yes, all the way down there, and the speck’s mother loves him still.
David’s writing has a way of luring one in. Chapter after chapter, you want more. His story is unique in some aspects, yet I was able to resonate completely. I could see myself walking the Camino de Santiago with David and Lisa, blisters under my feet, understanding their hopes to complete the journey.
We're all so different—from different places, and with different backstories. Different things led to this loss for me than for you. Some of us are ten days out. For others it's been ten years. Post-grief, we've picked up and let go a jumble of subsequent disappointments, joys, achievements, and gauntlets. There's a shorthand to shared experience that crosses everything that would otherwise make us strangers.
I was bombarded by hundreds, maybe thousands, of unsolicited perspectives about his death, his worth, my grief and generally how I was perceived to be doing in the aftermath. I was shocked that so many people in my life felt they had a right to press their opinions upon me—in regard to my dead son! I resented that amidst learning to cope with my loss, I was forced to explain myself, and defend my grief, over and over again.
I want to tell my yoga teacher to shut up about what’s natural, and to stop talking about medical interventions as if they’re all bad. But I forgive her over and over again, each week, because she’s the one who first told me to honor Joseph’s place in my life.
My gut instinct was to turn away from Agnes—along with everyone else—and I didn’t know why. However, at five months along, with the decision to continue the pregnancy, there was little to no room for rational thought, much less self-exploration. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to share her with the world, nor did I want to. It is hard to describe what it’s like to carry a baby you’re afraid to meet.
Despite my consistency of ritual, my album of photos, my constant urge to collect poems and words that help me hold her close—somehow the inertia of life has swept me away and with it my desperate attempts at reasoning. How is it that a tiresome wave of deadlines, emails, forms and files could distract me from my daughter?
The same spring, irritatingly new every year. Life is back on earth. My baby is not back. She was born in spring, three years ago. Life continues. Despite death. Death continues. Despite life.
Nine years later, there’s peace. There really is. People say Time heals and you fantasize about Wile E. Coyote anvils dropping from the sky. What’s-her-name and her however-many Stages of Grief. Denial, begging, anger, acceptance, a neat bow, something-something whatever. Screw you, what’s-your-name. My grief is not linear. But here’s the thing. From a long way up—I’m whispering now—it is, sort of. Grief is not linear. Time doesn’t heal. Not at all. Until it does.
For our last kitchen table discussion in this series, we want to talk about the future. It is probably the most important discussion of the lot. One which will help us stoke the embers in our fire, in just the right way, for the benefit of Glow's readers, new and seasoned. One which will help inform how we preserve the best of what Glow represents, while gently evolving our look, feel, content and the ways in which we are found by weary wanderers in the woods.
I have a writer-friend whose advice to other writers is always, "Do something else if you can. If you can't do anything else, write." So we write. Here we are, writing in public (if sometimes anonymously), hanging out all our laundry—dirty or clean, worn out or new. This week, we wanted to share with you about our experiences being regular contributors at Glow, and talk with you about the intersections of the public and the private—where we meet you, readers.
Our conversation around the table today is about the others: the online landscape populated with resources and refuges each of us have sought in our journey as bereaved parents. Some of these communications have been silent, others vocal and elaborate. But each space, each strand of communication, has had its own value.
Over the next few weeks leading up to Glow’s 8th anniversary, we will be hosting a series of conversations here at the kitchen table. Each week we will reflect on a different aspect of this community: How did we get here? What else is out there that gives us support? What is it about Glow that fills a particular need in our lives? What is it like to write for Glow? What do we hope for Glow's future, and what do readers hope for?
Jo-Anne, our forum moderator, is writing for us today. Her daughter Zia was stillborn on July 16, 2013. She says, "The years have passed and they will continue to do so. The sadness and initial rawness of grief has slowly subsided but there is still sadness there. It comes and it goes. Sometimes its a gentle breeze at other times a tornado ripping my insides. Explaining that isn't difficult, making people understand is. Opinions do not matter so much but how do we change the way society supports newly grieving parents if we cease the fight for significance of life. There truly is no footprint too small."