Monday, July 24, 2017

This Side of Grief

Before I say anything else, I want to preface all of this by saying that I know, by the grace of the detachment of time, that everyone meant well. I know that people were speaking to me from a place of utmost compassion and love. I appreciate the way that many of my friends reached out to me and gave me support, encouragement, and permission to be authentic. All of that needs to be recognized, thanked and celebrated.

I have an analytical mind. I'm organized and administrative despite my detestation of math, science, and pocket protectors. In spite of my penchant for the arts and my flair for the dramatic, I need everything to fit into appropriate boxes. Everything has a space and a home. Perhaps this is why I escaped into a place where grief was categorized and shoved into a sort of child loss flow chart.

I knew at the time that this was horrendously misguided but I couldn't stop the distraught thought process. I somehow needed to place grief against grief in some sort of fight to the death. I still don't know why this comparison felt vital to my existence.

In that intense Anger stage of Grief I wanted to say to everyone, "This is the worst thing I've ever felt. My baby died inside a womb that wasn't mine ONLY EIGHT WEEKS BEFORE HER DUE DATE! I held a pink blanket wrapped refrigerator bag at the funeral home! I drove my daughter inside of her casket in the back of my van to the cemetery!" Find me someone else who has done that. THAT woman I want to have a cup of coffee with. THAT woman has something in common with me. I felt all alone because my situation was uniquely mine.

In the many months since, I have purposed in my heart not to compare pain with an actively grieving woman. I will not feel the weight of her grief because it is uniquely hers. We can talk later, when the pain is not acute. Of course, if she asks, I will share. But I will not place my grief on top of hers, unsolicited.

Two and a half years after the fact, I'm not gasping for breath in the survival state of grief and I have come to recognize that It destroys people in different ways. It cannot be quantified. No one life matters more. No one human's existence is any less or any more important. No one mother's grief is bigger or better or more deserved than another's. I'm willing to bet good money that every mother, in the smack center of grief (and, maybe, forever), feels like hers is the absolute worst pain that ever there was. I realized that I was comforted most by hearing someone saying, "I cannot imagine your pain." Even if she believed she could. Even if circumstances were seemingly identical. Even if she believed hers to be much, much worse. Maybe if more people said, "Your pain is unbearable. It is the worst pain there ever was," the one grieving could honestly and wholeheartedly say, "Thank you. Thank you for seeing me and meeting me exactly where I am, swimming in the most pain I've ever experienced."

I would like to say that I've come out on the other side of grief. It simply isn't true and I'd be lying to pretend it so. There's a family at our school whose little boy is the exact age that my little girl should be. Their due dates were about a week apart. We ran into them at the pool a few weeks ago. I can still barely look at him. My brain fights my heart because I'd like to think that I'm not stupid. That little boy is not my girl. But my heart knows that his life reminds me of hers. It is not his fault that he makes me want to cry. The waves of grief ebb and flow and rush more slowly in the passing of years. But I do not think it is something we can walk through and come out on the other side. I think it attaches itself to our bodies, like a tattoo we cannot erase. It becomes a part of us. Forever.

It creeps in, like ink through skin, to the very fiber of our existence, so that when someone hurts, we long to tell our own story, to breathe life back into the corpse. As time goes on, tell their stories. For all the love in all the world, remind people that you had a child who is gone. Write. Share. Speak. Weave that One throughout your narrative because her life mattered. Because his soul still exists. But also, consider taking a moment to step outside of pain and whisper to the one who is surviving in the acute stage of grief, "I cannot imagine."

Because I think we can all agree that the weight of a little life lost is simply, unimaginable.

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