In the months of January and February, the light ever so slowly creeps back into the afternoon. People notice one minute at a time as the light rises into the evening.
This is grief. Our light creeps in gradually, and the darkness still returns. In those early days, weeks and months, the light hardly seems present at all.
Ten years without looks something like this:
Without a child. Without my child. Without my daughter. Without Grace.
In many ways, it becomes incomprehensible. How exactly does one live without their daughter? How does one move forward not just through one day but through all the years?
It is of course not something that is done by choice. For if we could, I imagine all of us would stop the darkness from falling at all. To imagine a life without this grief, it is a kind of fantasy that I can only imagine because I see it in the faces of other parents.
Ten years without, and I continue to be amazed at how quickly it all can come back when I pause to think about it.
I know I've written about this before but now it feels even more, like my understanding has deepened. In the movie "Rabbit Hole" there is a brief scene that describes perfectly how this year has felt to me so far:
Becca: Does it ever go away?
Nat: No, I don't think it does. Not for me, it hasn't -- has gone on for eleven years. But it changes though.
Nat: I don't know...the weight of it, I guess. At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and...carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you...you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and--there it is. Oh right, that. Which could be awful--not all the time. It's kinda...not that you'd like it exactly, but it's what you've got instead of your son. So you carry it around. And it doesn't go away which is...
Becca: Which is what?
Nat: Fine, actually.
It is what I have...this brick...instead of this daughter and well, I have so many other things. I have the grief of others I carry with me, their beautiful children, their beautiful stories and memories. And I love that I know so many others who understand this deep grief. I love that I can carry their children with me despite the deep sorrow that is conveyed.
I have my living children who I love with such deep ferocity, the sort that I am certain they can never really understand, for how could one understand a love with such depth?
And now I wonder sometimes, what empty would feel like without this hole in my heart? For it is not an emptiness as much as a weight, and a cracking open of the heart in ways that I can never fully reveal because I hardly understand it at all my own self.
There is still so much misunderstood about grief, about stillbirth, about this kind of loss. But I have hope when I think of how far we've come in other areas, that perhaps, one day we will have the kind of understanding we wish for.
Another grieving parents says it so beautifully that when I hear him speak of it, the tears just fall without pause:
“I’d just like you to imagine being catapulted from the joyous anticipation of a baby’s birth to the despair and devastation of a stillbirth. I’d just like you to imagine your partner ashen white, trembling in shock, rocking a dead baby in her arms. I’d just like to imagine having to tell friends, families, grandparents, that there is no baby. I don’t have to imagine all that ….”
Imagine this: there are those who live in this place and time without having lost a child. Are you one such parent? At times, I have such overwhelming jealousy for those kind of people that I think if I shared it, it would feel wrong. I would lose friendships. I would be seen as outside of the realm of 'acceptable' but truth sometimes is more than we really want to understand.
And if you want to know the truth then know this:
Not one day, after so many years goes by that I do not think about Grace. Not one single day.
In many ways my grief grows just as each day my love grows for my other children. Each day as I watch them grow, I am amazed at the strength and beauty of their lives and I am amazed at the lovely adults they are growing in to. But with that realization, comes a depth of grief that I cannot explain. Love grows over time and grief does not diminish. Like love, it grows and changes.
Ten years without. And still so much for all of us to learn and understand.