Thursday, September 16, 2010

8 weeks 2 days

Craig recently wrote a blog post that touched on our grief, and it seemed to be helpful to some of our family and friends to see a little about how we are feeling.  Here's your fair warning: If that was a peephole, this is more of a picture window. 

Some days are better than others, of course.  We're having fewer periods of the crippling grief, where all we can do is cry because we long for Ellie to be with us, to hold her in our arms.  Some days I don't cry at all.

Life these days has a ground state of sadness and loss.  I find myself unconsciously doing a mental check, finding that I'm sad, and trying to figure out what's wrong so I can fix it.  Then I become aware of my thoughts and realize again that Ellie's gone, and that there is nothing that I or Craig or anyone else can do to change it.  All I can do is continue to continue on.  

So that's the base state of my emotions.  But there are also periods of intense grief, where I literally cannot stop crying because I miss Ellie so much.  Her absence is incredibly painful.  I find myself reliving the hours around her birth and death amidst other jumbled thoughts and feelings.  The emotional and rational sides of my brain have little discussions: "It's not fair!  Life is not fair and you know that you can't expect it to be." "Why did this have to happen to her and to us?  There's no answer to that question; it happened and now we have to live with it." "I never got to hold her in my arms when she was alive.  I never got to hear her cry.  I never got to feed her or care for her. I won't get to see her grow up.  I know, but that's just the way it is." "How are we going to make it through the evening? The next day? The next week, month, year? We just are.  We just keep moving forward."  

When grief overtakes us so strongly, it's impossible to remember what it feels like to not have the pain crushing us.  But then, after a while, it wanes and fades to a murmur.  And then, the rest of the time, we can't quite remember how it feels to have the knife of grief twisting in our hearts. We know we felt it, and we know we'll feel it again, but it's a little unreal.  

I think it has to be that way.  We couldn't go about our lives, make a living to pay the bills, get through the days and nights, if that debilitating grief was always there.  I think it must be like that for everyone, a survival trait that lets us feel the pain and emptiness of loss in waves, so we can tread water and recover our strength for the next time the water rushes over our heads.

Craig and I are a good team.  We support each other, and after the first couple of weeks have been able to sort of take turns - when all I can do is cry, he is there for me, to hold me and offer strength and comfort just by his presence.  When grief overwhelms him, I do the same for him.  It doesn't make the pain go away, or even really make it even less, but it's somehow a promise that it will pass, and that we'll survive.

And, of course, we talk to each other.  It's been incredibly helpful to be able to talk about the future.  It doesn't diminish our pain, and we know that we will always grieve the loss of our little girl, but sometimes we just need to talk about what we want later on, to remind ourselves that there will be a later on when we won't hurt as much.

Being able to be open and vulnerable with each other about how we're feeling in the moment has also been key.  We can say how we're feeling and know that there is someone else who understands perfectly, who loved Ellie so much and now feels her absence all the time, consciously or unconsciously.

We fold a paper crane together every morning and evening.  It's a quiet space we create for ourselves to think about Ellie.  We usually write a little something to her on the back.  I sign my notes "Mommy" and Craig signs his "Daddy" so that we can remember that we are parents, even though we don't have a child to parent.  And, as Craig mentioned, we also take a walk together every evening to give ourselves space to talk about the past day and about our dreams for the future. 

We also want to make space for others to remember Ellie.  Craig talked about that a little at small group last night, and we decided that we will have a symbol for Ellie present during our meetings.  We'll start with a candle and see how that feels, and maybe stay with that or move to a different symbol.  We know that others are grieving for her, too.  Our pain is different, but that doesn't dismiss the loss that others who love her feel.  We know that, and acknowledge it, and would love to talk to you about her if you want to talk to us about her (though we will certainly tell you if it's a bad time and we need to postpone the conversation for a later time).

Ellie was in my thoughts almost constantly during my pregnancy, especially in the last few months.  She still is.  But I want it to be because she’s still here, not because she’s gone.  I miss her so much.

Our grief is like an inverted mountain, which makes sense since our world was turned upside down.  We started climbing at the peak, the steepest part.  It’s gotten less steep, but we're still climbing.  There are parts that are steeper, parts that are easier.  There are ridges and dips and crevices and scree and beautiful views, like our community which has held us up so well.  Some days are sunny and some are windy and some are stormy, all while climbing the mountain of grief.  Even when we reach the foothills, someday, it will still be there, we know, a constant presence in our lives.  But that’s ok, because Ellie is our daughter, and always will be, even though she’s gone.


Jonathan Reuel said...

Thanks for putting all of that into words. I don't know what it's like, but a window into it is a gift to me for a number of reasons. I have known and will know grief -- seeing your path will not lessen my present or future grief, but it is helpful. The openess and honesty is a gift. Thank you.

isaaclw said...

I can't imagine what's it's like to be a parent, let alone one that has lost their child.

You're in my thoughts.

Unknown said...

I agree with Jonathan. These words are a gift. They're testament to your grief and your lives. You live so gracefully and with such deep love for each other and others around you. That's a gift. And I'm incredibly moved by what you wrote here. Thank you for sharing them.
We keep walking alongside you. And being community as you keep moving forward.

cgm said...

Our community has given so much to us; we wanted to give a little back. It makes me feel vulnerable to give you a glimpse of our lives--we tend to grieve together on our own. Yet we feel it is important to give you that glimpse, to share our experience, to honor Eleanor, to help us all move forward out of the inverted peak.

Unknown said...

I can only imagine how I would feel if something happened to one of my kids. You love them so much. Thanks for the little glimpse of what the two of you are going though. I still pray for you daily.

Eric K said...

Thank you for providing this gift. It is really helpful to read in order to continue to walk with you. It's hard to know what to "do", I am grateful to be able to read your reflections and to continue to connect.