Here is what we know, the so-called wise men said:
Time is constantly moving, an ebb and flow forward
And you must move with time, always
You must keep going, despite what weighs you down
Despite the pain that strikes you like a snake; despite
The tears that flow from your eyes clenched shut
The aching of your broken heart.
If time is moving, I wonder,
Why am I walking backwards?
Why do my eyes still stare behind me, irises black as night?
I wish to sink to my knees, to let the world consume me
While I hold my baby in my hands,
Breathless, an empty body, yet still so loved
Empty arms that yearn to hold what was promised to me.
Yet I must move forward, the wise men say.
They do not see that I am moving backwards, to a time where I was once whole
To a time where there was light.
At times I feel my grief is insignificant. As if I am at the bottom of an astral lake, its murky depths gaseous stars in place of waves—the barometric, crushing pressure overwhelming. It squeezes my chest, filling my lungs to choking capacity. Ears ringing, my mouth opens wide: a black hole with empty vibrations.
My scream is lost in the universe.
My pain is a flickering star, a tiny pinprick of light in a vast darkness. It extinguishes as quickly as it ignites, an afterthought at the speed of light. It is insignificant.
I feel insignificant.
My son feels insignificant.
The cycle of life is inevitable.
The constant shifting and changing of our surroundings each year: a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, is the natural process of all living things.
Greenery dies, razed by bitter cold, rising anew as tiny buds of hope from the black earth. Animals herd their offspring, birthing them in masses, before dying of old age; sickness; natural disasters. That inevitable hope of new life pervades every being, human or non-human. I have ruminated spring’s changes, nature’s ongoing rebirth. The greening earth reflects my grief, transforming to something foreign; a faint light in the ephemeral dark of my arctic soul. Within my body, a separate rebirth occurs: the growing of a tiny bud.
At this revelation, disbelief wracked me, yet I had to remind myself—time is moving forwards, as always, a constant movement, a constant growth, even if you don’t feel it, even if your grief traps you.
Today I cling to the shadow of my firstborn son, eclipsing my budding hopes and dreams, muting any kind of rising color in my life with a sheet of gray. I wonder, as I clutch my growing belly, at Riyad’s tiny little life, ended too abruptly beneath the earth.
This is when I want to move backwards.
When I want to fight any supposed “good intentioned” advice, tell everyone they simply do not understand. When I want to go back in time, pluck my son from the arms of death, herding him to the here and now: a relatively happy, fearful, cautiously hopeful present.
The circle of life moves forward, yet it will always be a half-circle. It is hindered by the terrors of what-if, ongoing nightmares that will never cease. And it is missing him. Always missing him. I fight to keep Riyad’s presence permanent in this world, despite the constant shifting sands of time.
Although everything in life is so fleeting, so fragile—the life of a tadpole, the existence of a gaseous star in space— my son’s memory remains permanent. His mark on this world remains permanent, even if it feels brief. Insignificant.
It transformed me forever. I am not the same person that I was before he lived and died. I never want to be again.
At times, people may think me bitter: I call it righteous anger, white hot and smoldering.
At times, people may think me depressed: I wear my tears with pride, my pain a badge of honor for having known love. At times, people may think me jealous of others: I am no longer naive. I know horrible things can strike us at any moment, and this I do not take for granted. At times, people may think me weak: Yet I rise from the wounds of my past, while they utter that they cannot imagine.
I hold his memory fiercely to my soul. I will not stop remembering him, even as the little bud of hope within me grows, as the sun rises and sets, as new things come and the old things go. My love for him, my grief for him, is forever. And my grief is massive, encompassing, just as vast as the universe. It is timeless, a wormhole that sucks you in by your ankles, a quicksand that can trap you forever in its grip.
Despite what changes occur in life that is where part of me always will be; where other mothers are. They have their own pain, shining like flickering fires, united momentarily in a blazing inferno in the vast emptiness of the universe.
My limbs are pointed like a compass, reaching out to others who feel this aching, overwhelming pain. A galaxy of broken mothers, a celestial chain across time. Our grief maps out the existence of our children, forever loved, forever remembered. Despite life’s changes.
As one half of the world wakes up into spring, tell us how you feel about nature—things growing and greening, sprouting up. Soft breezes and renewal. Is spring a comfort? Or something else? And tell us how you feel about the nature of grief, as the moment of loss recedes into your past. Is anything in you growing and greening, yet? What is sprouting up?