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Scars of the Heart

Take my heart out and you will see the scar.  From top to bottom, jagged across the middle, the scar is still raw and pink.

But against all odds, my heart is nearly whole.  Lu and I took the time to stitch the other's back together with words and love and patience and time.

Pass by pass, stitch by stitch she sealed and healed my rendered soul, my tattered heart, and helped me learn how to walk and speak and think again.

I thought I was going to die in the days after he did.  I thought we would be demolished by the unfathomable grief and lacerating sadness.

Yet somehow, now, eight years out from the day I married Lu, I can somehow still think that I am lucky to have her in my life.  Lucky that we have our amazing son Zephyr.  Lucky that we found a way to rediscover laughter, to allow light to re-enter our darkened world.  We are lucky to be together despite our terrible loss.

I married her because she was beautiful and sweet, patient and spontaneous, because she was steadfast, honest, brilliant and true.  What I didn't know then is that she was one of the strongest and most determined people I would ever know.  Her strength of will and incredible outlook on life were absolutely pivotal in our ability to stay together and stay in love when everything around us shattered and disintegrated on the day he died.

She healed my heart with her gorgeous, liquid eyes, and I held her tight through terrible days when not one single thing in the world made a speck of sense.

But the scar remains and always will, and if you look closely enough you will see that it is only nearly whole.  There is still and always a space, a void, an endless abyss in the shape of my son Silas.  It looks minuscule from a distance, but don't be fooled.

That fleck of darkness on the surface of my pulsing heart expands wider and wider the closer you get until the obsidian midnight rift is all-encompassing, swallowing the field of vision until we pass within, into the endless shadow of my limitless grief.

I don't want that hole closed.

I don't want to give away the pain of his absence.

I don't want to ever be so healed that I cannot feel him in me, in us, in our sense of the world.

When Silas died I had no idea what it was like to have a son.  I was hurled into a shadow world of counter-factuals, of impossible ignorance.  I thought Silas was going to teach me how to be a dad, but instead I learned how to grieve and not die from it.  With Zephyr so vivid and alive right before my very eyes, everything I was denied is being revealed, but the weight of losing Silas makes me ballistic with fear sometimes.  I panic at the slightest thought of anything happening to Zephyr, ever, for any reason at all.  Yet just as I refused to let grief define and destroy me, so too do I deny the power of fear to stop me from reveling in Zeph's every breath.

Lu is an amazing mom, and I am thrilled to share this life with her.  I cannot believe to this day that I can feel this good, after so many years of terrible sadness.  The strangest part, though, is how that still-present sadness mixes with the happiness I feel when I spend the day with Zeph, or watch him curled up and nursing in Lu's lap, or hearing him shouting "Dada!" when I get home from work.

The echo of his shout is the silence from Silas and the  knowing look in Lu's eyes.  She hears what I don't either.

I love them all fiercely, the two here with me, and the one we can only share in our sewn-up and scarred hearts.  This is our family and it will always be so: drenched in light and love and happiness and shadowed by our loss that we can never fully comprehend.


What do your metaphysical scars look and feel like?  How have you and your partner navigated the treacherous landscape of your life together after losing your child or children?  How do your living children affect the memory of what you have lost?

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Reader Comments (12)

Chris, you are a brilliant writer. I read somewhere that art is organized chaos, and you, my friend, are an artist. I wish I could express myself the way you do. Thank you for a beautiful post. We have just adopted a daughter, a couple of weeks ago. This is 3.5 years post loss, and after multiple IVF rounds. Oh how salty sweet it is. I miss our little Anna with every heartbeat, but cannot believe I have another chance with this new little life. My husband has been my rock as well. Patience. Time. Love. What a long strange trip.
February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
Beautiful, Chris. Just beautiful. My metaphysical scars turned physical, I think. I have some torn abdominal muscles from carrying three babies in three years, and the extra weight, the bags under my eyes, and then recovery. My husband and I had a very difficult time navigating the early years of grief. I am in shock that we survived at all. I didn't want to survive, honestly. I wanted to implode. I self-sabotage in those arenas of my life where it is too emotional difficult. I do think getting into recovery and dealing with the emotional crap underneath it all helped us as a couple. But I always want to tell people that it got worse before it got better, and now, I feel we are better. It feels like we have been married for fifty years, though its only been six. Our living children help us prioritize our marriage. Even if we can't quite find the strength to do it for ourselves we work on it for them. Maybe too much information, but thanks for giving me a reason to think about this today.
February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngie
'she hears what i don't either'

yes, i understand this very well. it sounds like a riddle- a riddle only the bereaved can know the answer to.

our scars look like shrapnel- they are everywhere and anywhere, sometimes hidden and then exposed with suprise and discouragement. we have learned, and are still learning, about how to deal with them. some are healed completely with acceptance, some itch and sting with no relief in sight.

and yes, while i thank my lucky stars each and every day that i am now able to parent a living child, that life itself makes my scars itch and burn. what would have been, what could have been, walking and talking right in front of me. he looks like his sister, and wears his brother's clothes.

i have to say, we don't navigate all that well. at first we did, we were on the same page. but as time passed, and we settled into grief much differently, so did our ability to cope and communicate about what happened with eachother. the marriage has taken some serious hits. sometimes it feels like the only thing holding us together is the memory of our daughter and son. not all the time, but, you know, it has not been easy.
February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterss
Beautiful writing. And thank you for showing us that there is indeed...HOPE.
February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
I know the struggles of parenting angel children. I lost my twin angels in December of 2012, just under 7 weeks ago. I had one beautiful daughter with me for 16 hours and another beautiful daughter with me for 8 days. One day I hop to have earthly children as siblings to my angels. Only IVF can make that possible, but I still hold on to hope. *Hugs*
February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKastreet
I was alone with A and I am now alone with his baby sister. By choice and endless fertility treatments (which was a grief in itself...). When he died I wanted to - like Angie put it - selfimplode and just siece to exist. How could 15 rounds of IUI's, IVF's and ED's give me a gravestone? I hated God for that. I saw myself AS the tragedy I was struck by. And I slowly learned how to navigate through that new landscape of my life. I learned how to mother a dead child still not knowing how to mother a living one. Second treatment after A I became pregnant with E. And carried her to term. In some ways I was way calmer during the "parallell-time" - as soon as she grew past him inside I went totally frantic. Never ever believing she would make it. Two days before my duedate I realized whatever happened I was going to give birth again and this time the child might need me not to take all the drugs I had last time around. So. For two days I read non-stop about birthing, returning the book to the library hours before it all started. And she was born. Not without trouble, but alive and within hours well. And I was hit with the all famous blues. But not so much over her as for her showing me all the things A never got to be and have and give. She still shows me that. I am in all senses a lucky mother, a happy one and I am starstruck by her smile and life and all she can do. But as a little ghost I can now clearly see what I missed out on with my son, what he missed out on. In a lot of ways the grief for him started over when she arrived. Or not really over, but started different. Not until she came did I learn exactly how great my loss with him was. And he is never ever going to become all she is now.
February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFC
as always i am touched by your words and thoughts. this time how eloquently you speak about my beautiful nephews and my sister. xo
February 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjaimie
My living children are older than our Theo and we watch them together and feel the gap and the ache of there not being a little one for them all to dote on. We are united in our grief and in our terror at the thought of losing another. I love your words about not letting fear stop you revelling in Zephyr, we try to achieve that too. Who knew it was possible to feel so much joy and such great grief simultaneously?

The poem below is be we read at Theo's funeral which also speaks of scars on the heart.

the broken heart.

If your heart is broken,
do not wrap it in bandages
but leave it wide open
to the weather.
Let the sun warm it,
let the rain wash it,
and let the wind plant it
with seeds of new growth.
Before you know it,
your poor broken heart
will have grown a garden
of glorious flowers.
People will visit it,
birds will sing in it
and the wind will bear its seeds
to other broken hearts.

by Joy Cowley
February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNZ Anna
You brought tears to my eyes... and this does not happens nearly as much as it once did. Beautiful. Moving. I love every word.
February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Oh God, I am crushed by the waves of emotion, and it is a good feeling, though it hurts like no hell ever could.
To Chris; I agree, I do not want to give away her absence. I don't want to stop feeling the pain. Our Tess has been gone for 19 months, she had two siblings die before they could be named, and a living, breathing sister who wants nothing more on earth than to have a baby to love.
I know that without our daughter Jason and I would not have survived. NOt because we don't love each other fiercely, but because, after the "honeymoon phase" of our mutual grief ended, we became frustrated with each other and our own needs. Our daughter forced me out of bed every day, she forced me to pack lunches and go to dance class. She forced me out into the world, when I would have retreated so much further into my own head.
Now Jason and I are able to communicate better than ever before. We are learning that we don't always understand each other, and that is okay. We are now in the early stages of adoption, because we need to. Because I can't go through it again. Because, while we can't replace our baby, we can give all of that love to a child who needs it just as much.
To ss; You said what I could not; not even to myself. He looks like his sister. Our Tess looks nothing like her sister in my mind, but she wears her clothes. She follows her around trying to be as big as she is. She idolizes her...but Grace looks like me, and Tess looks like her Daddy.
Thank you, all of you, for voicing so beautifully and honestly what it is like. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone...that we are not alone. Thank you for always allowing me to cry without apology.
February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoy
What more could a Grandfather and Father ask for from a sensitive overwhelming
expression of Love about his daughter and 2 grandsons....one living and one always remembered.
We Love you Chris and greatly appreciate your feelings!!!

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
I love this so much Chris. "The echo of his shout is the silence from Silas and the knowing look in Lu's eyes. She hears what I don't either." - totally. My three children were all born in the same room. Two of them screaming, one silent.

As Angie said, my metaphysical scars have also turned physical. My back became a disaster, probably from the hunching. The stress from the loss made me old. My hair went white, and the lines around my eyes deepened in year's time. I would think someone was crazy, saying grief could do that, but well, it did.
February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKenny

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