Sometimes, I feel like grief is my new normal. It is there, just under the surface, kept at bay only by a conscious decision to make it so. It is there when I close myself into the bathroom stall and immediately start to cry even though I hadn't felt it coming. I cry hard for thirty seconds, wipe my eyes, and exit the same as before. No one knows. No one sees. It is there when my six-year-old finds a little pink outfit at Costco and pauses. Whispers quietly, "I want a baby sister." It is there, constant. A lump in my throat that I speak around, swallow down, live with.
Because my daughter is dead.
I expect everyone to get it. Sometimes. Other times I want to be the only person who has ever grieved like this. My sorrow is unfair to everyone because it is not predictable. It is fine for three weeks and then all messed up for five days straight. It is fluid. Raging waters. Stagnant. Ever the same. Always different.
Just last week, someone asked me about her. I said that it had been three months to the day since she'd been born still.
But it hadn't.
It was four. Four months. Not three. Inexplicably, this made me feel like a terrible mother. How did I not even know how much time had passed since January 19th? A lifetime? Five minutes? Three months? Four?
I sensed when it was time to stop talking, when people had heard enough, when I was expected--by most--to begin to pretend that everything was fine. It was long before I wanted to stop talking and long before anything was fine.
I smile. Sometimes because there is so much joy in life, so much happiness and so much to smile about. Sometimes because smiling is the only thing holding back the damage.
I did not know her. I mourn a dream. Still. Because I did not know her, I have just one memory of my girl. A fuzzy pink blanket with a kitten on it. Her small body in my arms. That day, I willingly gave her back to the funeral home. I stood and, ever so gently--terrified she would break--gave her away. Why didn't I simply hold her forever? Why did I walk away when it was all I had--all I would ever have? I had sensed that it was time. Now, I would do anything to hold that kid just a minute longer.
We were four and we were content. How then did this tiny dream come into our lives and leave such an indelible footprint that we feel lost without her? Why do we feel so incomplete?
I have said many times that we can grieve and hope at the same time. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this is possible and acceptable and right. But I am learning that, more often than not, it depends on the day. Most days I feel the expectant joy of hope. But there are other days when I feel torn up and twisted, wishing only that Kate's story had ended with a beginning.