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."
We welcome back Elaina as a guest writer today. Elaina's daughter was discovered to have a fatal defect halfway through her pregnancy: 'I attempt to soothe the aching wound of no rainbow baby by coming up with a list of reasons I may not be alone,' she says. 'Surely, I can’t be alone...'
On that day in July, overcome as I was with the fear of being lost with her, I still had no idea of how lost, how irretrievably lost I would be, in a few hours, and then forever, without her. As I take a breath, a few steps, a turn, and then another in this town and in this life, I am forever paused at the stop sign where my little explorer Raahi last stood with me, and showed me the way.
My eyes are still brown, deep-set like my grandmother’s, and I still have her upper lip, and chin. I never grew more than the five feet I reached in high school. I still prefer to dress in solid colors. Long pants almost year-round, since I still don’t like to shave my legs. I wear sensible shoes, brown or black. I’ve worn the same coat through more than a dozen winters now. So I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking, from afar, that I am the same girl.
Please welcome Megan, our guest writer today. Megan's son Anthony was born in July and died on September 16, 2015. She writes, 'I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy with a rare heart defect whose imperfect heart made my heart whole.'
I'm past my shelter now, rejoining January, already in progress. I'm back with the whole bloody gamut of emotions. I understand that each of them is a reflection of a different facet of my love for my son, and so I own them—this is the way it goes. Though I still wish anxiety would bugger off. The anniversary, the birthday, they are just around the next bend in this road. Ready or not, here they come. But I think I'm ready.
This is a beautiful life, Lydie. It is a life where I have held you in my arms, if only for a few hours. It is a life that carries your name and your spirit. It is a life that holds unimaginable beauty in the warm smile of your brother, in the depths of your sister’s blue eyes, and from the immeasurable love for our Christmas baby.
First lady Jane / wife of the fourteenth president of the United States / did you know Hawthorne called you "that death's head"? / Gloomy, lacking resilience, prone to melancholy and deep depression / I wonder how many took the time to know / the texture of your love and your grief.
Today's guest post is from Jessica Wilson: 'The next time around, treasure each moment. This is all the time you will have with her. Don’t waste it. When it’s gone, it will all feel like a dream and like you lived in an alternate universe. So sing from the rooftops during your next pregnancy, dance like nobody’s watching with her inside of your belly, and let her hear your bellowing laugh. Don’t spend your days scared or fearful. This will be your only time with her and you need to spend every moment loving this baby before she goes. And when she does go—I, my friend, your after self, will be waiting for you to teach you the lessons of pain, love, and what it means to live.'
I dreamed of houses. Houses we forgot we owned so the grass grew up tall, turned prickly and brown. Abandoned houses. Rundown, peeling paint, walls that fell away at a light touch. But wandering through those dream-rooms, some conscious neuron fired, and the realization slowly bloomed: Wait, we already have a house, a cozy life. How did we get here? What now?
I am glad I was born. I am glad I made my parents happy. I am glad I met the love of my life and got to spend my life with him. I feel immensely blessed for giving birth to two beautiful children. I feel immeasurably fortunate to be able to raise one of them. And even on my birthday, and maybe more that day, I am dead for having lost the other one.
No one can live in heightened grief forever but I never expected to find that happiness was possible again. You wouldn't know to look at me now, save for the look in my eyes that I often see in pictures of bereaved mothers, that look you can always glimpse, even when they smile. He changed the ground beneath my feet, my first and beloved little boy.
I try to acknowledge that there will be more times of frustration and doubt, of avoidance and restlessness, of tempers and broken eggs. Most importantly, I try to remind myself that it is ok to not be ok and that I am capable of hope, no matter how fleeting it may seem. And I also try to remind myself that eggs are really cheap.
I am pan-searing salmon with lime and cilantro when he comes to the door on Friday night. My husband ushers him in to see the play kitchen while my surviving son folds paper airplanes. I show the gentleman how everything works—the magnetic closures which are difficult, at first, for little hands, the washer/dryer door that requires a little finesse to close, the sliding pantry door, the timer that ticks and dings, the gallon bags of play food, pans, plates, cutlery, kettle and teacups I've packed up neatly—and as I head back to the salmon, he hands me a wad of cash. Before I know it, he and my husband are on either side of the wooden kitchen, carrying it out of my house forever.