Over at Glow in the Woods, they periodically do question & answer sessions with their contributors. Readers are encouraged to join in by answering the questions on their own blogs. I thought I’d join in, not just to up my Nanowrimo word count but also to try to verbalize my new understanding of grief and its place in my life. I warn you, this a long one. I got a little carried away.

The theme with this set of questions was time and how grief may or may not change with the passage of time. I’d like to come back to the questions five months and a year from now, just to see what has changed. Or not changed, as the case may be.


1.
How much time has passed since the death of your child? Do you mark grief in months, weeks, or years? Does it seem to be going fast or slow?

At the moment of this writing, it has been 42 days. A mere six weeks. It feels like a lifetime has passed.

I’m getting to that point where I count the weeks rather than the days. Wednesdays are painful. I suppose there will come a day in the not-too-distant future that I’ll be able to go to months instead of days. I dread the jump to years. It will mean that so much time has passed without Lauren. All those months and milestones she should have met. All those little bits and pieces of toddler life that one notes but sometimes takes for granted that they will happen. We won’t have that. Those first days of school and the birthdays that carry children out of the single digits – they are lost to us. Memories that won’t be made.

2. Do you have an end goal for your grief? How much time do you think that will take?

I can’t think of this grief as something that will end. Perhaps it’s because I’m still so raw with my grief and it stings me still, but it doesn’t feel as though it will ever fade. That’s something that my head understands will happen over time, even though my heart believes that will never come to pass. It’s like being torn in two directions; which way I go depends on how the day is going. It’s a never-ending battle between hope and despair.

Even if we’re talking about a grief that centers on something other than a child, can an end to it actually be calculated? Grief has never seemed finalized to me. The loss continues forever. Years on, you’ll think of this person who is no longer with you – or this pet that you’ve had to part with – and you’ll still feel pain. It might not be a debilitating pain, but it will still be present. Could there ever be a time when you think of a lost loved one and not feel even the smallest amount of sadness about it or a pang of regret? A wish for just one more moment? Now apply that to a child who never had a fair chance at life – how can that grief go away? How is it possible to let go of that forever? How can it have a definite end?

As long as I am alive, I will grieve for her. My mourning may end, long into the future, but my heart will always, at any time, be heavy with grief for her. I will survive and continue to live, but not without that added weight. I’ll carry it forever.

3. Rather than a clear goal, is there a milestone or marker to indicate that you are feeling grief less acutely, i.e. going to a baby shower, listening to a song that made you cry early in grief, etc.?

That’s a little more realistic. Even I know I can’t go my whole life avoiding things that might make me think of Lauren and therefore leave me nothing but a cascade of tears. I will encounter infants and pregnant women and adorable little girls playing with their fathers, and I will have to face all of these things without breaking down completely.

Pregnant women are the first step. I’m terribly jealous of pregnant women. At the same time, I’m also terribly worried for them. What happened to me could happen to them, and that’s not something I would wish upon anyone. I want to be able to look at them without cringing and without wishing that I could be in their place, happy and content and innocent of all that can go wrong with life. I also want to be able to look at them without hating them for not having their innocence lost. That’s the hardest thing for me; I want to be so happy for them, but I can’t stop that staggering envy from coming in and darkening that happiness.

Infants are the next big step. When I can look at an infant and not feel myself falling apart, I’ll know I’ve gone a long way toward accepting Lauren’s absence from my life. It’s not just a matter of being able to look at infants too – being in close proximity of one, or even holding one, will prove to be the greatest milestone. Toddlers have been difficult too, just not to the same extent as infants. I get the feeling that they’ll cause more tears than babies in the next year or two.

And, for me, one of the greater signs that I’ve managed to integrate my grief will be when I can do something or see something and not feel heartbroken that Lauren isn’t here to experience it. That has been one of the harder things to adjust to. I go shopping and want to buy something for her. We go out with family to a park or a get-together, and I wish I had her with me to show her off. Or I wish I could share the experience with her, to introduce her to the wonders of life. It’s the everyday events and the day-to-day life that makes me miss her more and more. When I can wake up in the morning and not feel heartbroken that she’s not there, then I’ll know I’m on the way to feeling her loss a little bit less.

4. How do you view the time you had with your child? Did you have time to bond or develop and image of what this child would be like? How do you feel now about the 9-month gestation period – too long or not enough time?

Too short – of course it was too short. But it was long enough to bond with her and imagine what she would be like when she arrived. I dreamed so many dreams of her; we made so many plans. I could almost see her when I closed my eyes: her face framed by her dark, curly hair (an inheritance from me), her eyes a foggy blue like her father’s, a smile that lit up her face so sweetly. She would have my stubborn spirit but Geordie’s gentleness, his consideration for others. His heart, in other words, that which I love most about him. I knew her, but I was also eager to meet her and know her better. She would be surprising, surpassing my expectations and becoming a person all her own.

I had my hopes for her. A singing voice like Geordie’s mother, melancholic at times and jovial at others. My father’s love for challenges and the willingness to carry on and see them through to the end. A passion for words passed on from Geordie and me and an eagerness to read and learn that would carry her far in life. She would love life – we would teach her that, because it was she who gave us so much to love. She would be my dark and stormy angel, my light-hearted child who brought me both laughter and tears. I learned all these things about her in the time she spent inside me, and still she was a mystery to me. I did not know until she came into existence that I had been waiting my entire life to meet her.

Nine months was not enough time with her. I wanted more time with her – a lifetime with her. But at the same time, I wish the gestation period was shorter because maybe she would be with me now. If she’d come at 37 weeks, she would be alive now. If it was eight months instead of nine, I’d have her here with me. For me, 40 weeks was too many.

And I know that next time, with our rainbow baby, it will be worse. I will have to go through 40 weeks of anxiety and worry and utter dread. Ten months will be far too long, an eternity to wait. Long enough for me to believe that this child will die too. Long enough for me to convince myself that I will never be able to carry a child to term. Long enough for me to love my rainbow child as I loved Lauren, and long enough to dream my dreams. Long enough for me to cherish the time I have with my baby and to learn to appreciate everything that I get from the pregnancy. My 38 weeks with Lauren taught me a number of things, one of which was to take nothing for granted. No matter how long my next pregnancy is and no matter how lost to worry I become, I will remember always that any amount of time is precious time. Short or long, I will savor whatever I amount I’m blessed with.

5. One grief book suggests that it takes 2-5 years to incorporate your grief into your life. Where are you – do you find this to be true?

Six weeks. I’ve got a long way to go yet.

6.       There is a familiar saying that “Time heals all wounds.” Do you think this is true? Or do you subscribe to Edna St. Vincent Milay: “Time does not bring relief, you have all lied.”

Right now, six weeks into my grief, I agree more with the poet than the proverb. It’s early yet, but for now, the grief is never-ending. Or, rather, it seems that it will be never-ending. With more time, the pain may well begin to recede.

This early in the grieving process, I don’t see any problem with feeling this way. The memory of her inside me is still so fresh and raw. I’m only now – six weeks after – able to touch my abdomen and not expect to feel her there. After six weeks, it’s not possible for me to easily let go of my grief, nor do I see any reason to do so.

I’m not in a place right now where I can believe that time heals everything. I can believe that wounds will mend, leaving scars that will last forever. Even that will take a generous amount of time, not merely a matter of months or even years. The loss of a child stretches on and on, past missed milestones and uncelebrated birthdays. Memories will never b3e made, and for each lost moment is another wound added to the original injury.

Is it possible, then, for time to make things worse? Time doesn’t stop for mourning. It is not meant to ease the pains of existence, only to push people continuously forward, forcing them to adapt to this new hurt in their lives, this new pain that will never leave them. Time has mercy for no one, but perhaps that’s the way it should be. We can’t stop living because of grief. Living with it may be painful, but to cease everything and focus only on the pain would drive us mad. Froward is the only way to go, and time pushes us along that way, ever insistent.

That doesn’t make life any easier, but that’s not the point. Healing is possible, after a time, but it may never be complete. And that’s okay.

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