So this is grief.
So THIS is grief:
Watching the sky light up with the fire from dozens of hot air balloons. I smile as the giggles of my girls fill my ears. Then my eye catches the sight of the couple next to me swaddling their newborn baby on their picnic blanket. Elliot would be about that big now. Tears behind my eyes. Elliot should be here! Or, grief is being at library storytime with my girls, when the lady next to me starts nursing her baby. What is she doing? Doesn’t she know my baby is dead?? Um, no. Of course she doesn’t. The world didn’t stop when Elliot died. But grief sure thinks it should’ve.
So this is grief:
Smiling as I look at Valerie sleeping in her car seat. I notice her perfect little mouth that looks just like Elliot’s mouth, and picture how he would look so much like her, but with his dark hair. And my pulse races and my brain reels and my body panics that I will never, never, never see him asleep in his car seat.
So this is grief:
Three months to the day from when that picture on the wall was taken, all those pictures of me holding Elliot as he sleeps. Forever sleeps. He really just looks like he’s sleeping. Remembering with crystal clarity, and yet with almost no clear memory at all, the 30-minute chaos of Elliot going from living to dying to died. And the UNBELIEVABLE feeling of it all. Shock. Horror. Wishing, somehow, there was a miracle. A way to wake him up. Oh, come back to me, my baby!
Oh. So this, THIS is grief. Shouting grief:
The song, the only song I can find that matches the intensity of my heart, and I turn it up in the car (or truck or van) and SCREAM to get the pain out. Because the loss of my little boy deserves a really good scream now and then. Don’t worry; I only scream when I’m alone. I’d love to know what the person in the car next to me thinks.
I see. This, too, is grief. Draining grief:
The fatigue precedes the grief, like a harbinger. My limbs become spaghetti, my thoughts become fuzzy, and I can’t stop yawning. Maybe I didn’t sleep well. I should know better by now. My body’s energy channels into my eyes, and they begin to spill hot tears as some particular memory plays out. I remember, I remember…his tiny little hand wrapped around my finger. The spot on my belly where his feet demanded my attention. The dances he did on the ultrasound screen. The tha-thump of his heartbeat. The doctor saying there was no heartbeat. I remember. And no energy returns to my body until I cry it out.
Oh, hello to this grief that finds me most days. Distracting grief:
I get the girls down for their nap as quickly as I can. That cookie dough ice cream in the freezer (people who bring ice cream are so nice) calls my name. I scoop out WAY more than the ½ cup serving proposed, change into comfy pants to make room for the ice cream, and snuggle in front of the TV. I don’t even like this Netflix show, but all I need is a distraction for 42 minutes. I want to forget life, just for 42 minutes.
Hmm. This one is interesting. Busy grief:
Do. Not. Get. In. My. Way. I am CLEANING, darn it! Or organizing, or planning, or driving to and fro. Or rearranging furniture. Ah-ha. I think I’m feeling better. I feel so important with my many things to do. The busy likes to make me think the grief is on vacation.
This, most definitely, is grief. Guilty grief.
Why did I ever leave his side? Did he really know I loved him? WHY DID I TAKE THAT NAP?!?!? I did this. It’s my fault. It was my broken body. I shouldn’t have vacuumed that day. Should not have picked up Valerie that other time. I should’ve kept my feet up more. Or less. I don’t know!!
Guilty grief is very loud. And no. Saying, “It wasn’t your fault,” does not make the guilty grief go away. But thanks, anyway, for saying it.
Sometimes I run from the next grief, but I shouldn’t. It takes a lot of energy, but it yields great rewards. Community grief:
It’s the friend who comes over for a play date and looks at the scrapbook other friends made of Elliot’s life. And she cries. Cries! With me and for me and for the loss of a baby that she, too, loved. It’s another friend who meets me at Elliot’s grave and walks with me there, listening to all my impossible questions about God and not judging me for them. It’s my church family, who spends the Sunday morning after Elliot’s death writing cards to my husband and me. It’s my friends who bring a meal. That act of service validates that our family is in something deep and crappy, and that it can be darn hard to pull myself together long enough to make food. So, thank you for the meals. It’s the Facebook groups I am a part of where we just cry it all out on the group newsfeed and say, “Amen to that. I understand.” And it’s the dozens and dozens of stories written by other mommies who’ve lost babies, who feel like the only women in the world I have anything in common with right now. It’s my mother-in-law who hugs me hard every time she sees me because she just knows. It’s my friend who buys me coffee and asks about and listens to every detail of Elliot’s death. She was brave enough to ask. And I so desperately needed to tell. It’s my dad who puts a blue bird on his grave. It’s my far-away friends who let me write and text the most random and sometimes disturbing thoughts from this horrendous journey. It’s my husband, who listens to me cry the exact same words over and over again. Who answers my irrational fear question, “We won’t ever forget him, honey, will we?” with a comforting, “No, we will never forget him.” It’s the friends who in a year or five years or ten years will still understand if I cry, who never expect me to “get over it,” who will just be there to listen and love. These are the friends who will remain. I am blessed to have MANY.
This one is some serious grief. The hardest grief. The most confusing grief. The most comforting grief. The most angering grief. The most loving grief.
The God grief.
I am confident God can follow conversations that bounce around like pinballs. He’d have to, to keep up with a train of thought like this:
What were you THINKING?!?! Why did he die?!?!? Oh, Lord, I am so, so sad. He’s my son. Thank you for his life. He’s the most beautiful gift you’ve ever given me. Some way, any way, use this loss in my life for your plan, bring beauty from these ashes….BUT WHAT HAPPENED?!?!? (Deep breath.) I know you see what I can’t see, Jesus. I trust that in Heaven we’ll be reunited and I’ll understand. But for now, this is just STUPID!!! Seriously? Seriously? Are you even there, God? Forgive me, Lord. It’s just so hard. MY BABY IS IN THE GROUND! THAT’S JUST DUMB! But He’s at peace in You, isn’t He, Lord? I trust he is….
And on and on it goes.
It helps. Some.
Then there is an unexpected grief. Beautiful grief:
I kneel at his grave, running the long grass through my fingers to touch ANYTHING that is close to him. There are those hot tears again, watering the grass, and I whisper a million things to my baby, to the body below and the soul above. I tell him his mommy is so proud of him. His sisters miss him so much. His daddy will never be the same. I tell him, “Your mommy is only so sad because I love you so much.” I don’t want him to think he did anything wrong. I grieve because I love him so much.
Grief exists because of love. There is something beautiful in that.
So this is grief. Three-month grief. It’s different than it was at three days or three weeks or will be at three years. My nice counselor shows me a drawing of spirals, tightly wound together. “You’ve heard of the stages of grief,” she says. I mentally try to remember them….something like shock, anger, depression-but it ends with acceptance, right? She goes on. “What you may not have heard is that your brain circles through the stages of grief over and over again.” I gulp. That doesn’t sound like fun.
But she explains, as she draws the tight little spirals. “Right now, you are experiencing the stages of grief one on top of another.” Then she slows her hand and spreads out the spirals, making each circle bigger. “Eventually, you will experience those stages, those waves of grief, more spread out and with less intensity. But the grief will always be there in some form.”
Grief will always be here. Hmm. It does make sense. Because love will always be here.
So this, all this, is my grief. It somehow has to be a part of me, and yet not all of me. It can’t be pushed away and ignored, and it can’t be given free reign to rule forever. I think God can use it to be a friend, but the enemy wants to hijack it-to dismantle me, make me unrecognizable.
I don’t think Elliot would want that. I think he would want God to use it to make his mommy beautiful. Sometimes very sad, other times very angry, but beautiful in God’s sight.
This is grief on September 3, 2017. A night of remembering. Of missing him. But mostly, I hope, of love.