This was not the planned topic of my post today, but last night my sleep was battered and shredded by my past; and today I am living there. I write this because I know I am not alone in this hellish place and to say to my fellow inmates – it will not pass but it will become bearable.
How do we grasp the reality of loss? How does grief allow us to embrace life but curse every breath we take? Is grief more or less tortuous if you lose a child? A lover? A parent? Does losing more than one child increase your grief by a factor of one per child or is the loss squared or even passed into infinity with the death of each tiny life? When does the pain become a dull ache and you stop the constant bleeding through your eyes, your heart, your skin? How does your mind know every year that this is the month, the week, and the day when your heart was ripped out of your chest? How are you able to listen to those who say, “You have grieved enough, time to get on with your life and let them go?” “He was only an infant”, or “It was just a miscarriage.” Who is the arbiter of how long we grieve? How much we grieve? For whom we grieve?
I find that reality is a complex negotiation between the observers and the observed – that makes reality a unique and individual experience doesn’t it? That makes it possible for the loss to feel as real today as it did over thirty years ago.
March is a difficult month for me. Spring is a painful season that finds me in tears without any observable cause. I have difficulty sleeping. I wake screaming from nightmares. I walk around breathing but only because it is an autonomic response. I eat remorse, I breath sorrow, I hear the cries of my children who are not alive, I see each way my life could have played out – seeking a different course, one where my children live if only I had done something differently. I can still feel the weight of their tiny bodies in my arms, against my breasts, and the iron hand clenching around my heart, squeezing my life out as the heat left their small bodies.
I read a book some years ago by Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking. She wrote it after she had lost both her daughter and then her husband. One person’s experience with grief. I think every story is different. Ms. Didion pours her heart out onto the pages and gives insight into the personal atrocity of finding yourself still alive when your child is dead.
I mourn the loss of my babies but I never regret their lives, no matter how brief their sojourn; that would be to dishonour their presence and the impact they had on the Universe. I have never been able to resolve the guilt. If I had been more careful, if I had chosen another restaurant that day, if I had been more capable physically, if I had been more mature, more knowledgeable, would they be alive today? Women have been having babies since the dawn of time and yet I couldn’t seem to carry one to term, and then when I did, violence took him and his father from me as well.
Is the loss balanced because years later, when my window of opportunity was closing, I gave birth to the most delightful, precious, beautiful creature in the universe? She lived. She flourishes. I am grateful every single day. In the Spring of every year I live in daily terror of losing her.
Last year and this year have been better and yet so much worse because my true love came back into my life. He is a rock of support and understanding when without warning my screams rip apart the night, when I cannot bear to be around his children because they become somehow twisted in my mind and are the child we lost together thirty-five years ago. He holds me while I cry, he reassures me that it will again become bearable, he never says I should be over it by now, he is never jealous that I grieve in part for another man, he tells me over and over that it was not my fault.
I know now it will pass. It passes every year. Some years are worse than others; I don’t know why. I know that each of their spirits continue to exist, if not on this plane of existence then some other. I know that I knew them before and that I shall meet them again. But nonetheless part of my soul remains scoured, hollowed out by loss and seared by sorrow. It is a wound that never heals, a pain that is never gone. It makes me appreciate the joys of my living child. In unguarded moments it takes me with overwhelming terror that something untoward will happen to her; and now that I have the adorable husband back – he has been added to the list of people that I love and could lose.
The joy is worth the fear. The joy is always overpoweringly worth the fear. The fear will recede. The wound will not close but it will recede to a tolerable place – until next year – when it will still be worth it.