Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Shape it Takes

Today is four months since Evie died. Our grief counselor says that we're appropriately moving ahead through the stages of grief. Yet there are days like today when the wound hurts as much as it ever has, but it is different. My stages of grief have a different feel to them as time goes on, but the extent of the pain seems to heal oh so slowly. We've been able to put on a good face most of the time, but the truth is that we are still incredibly wounded.

In the first weeks after Evangeline died, I can't really remember what it all felt like. I'm sure it was horrific, but perhaps as a coping mechanism my mind is protecting me from those memories. What I can remember was the fear. The first 6-8 weeks of our grief were compounded by a kind of Post-traumatic stress disorder. Both Nicole and I would have flashbacks to the frightening episodes at the hospital. Sounds and images haunted us. Fortunately we're both struggling less with those experiences.

In more recent months, the pain has become a kind of enduring ache. The overwhelming feeling is that something is missing. Every moment and event of the day is a reminder that she's not here. For the first three months I had very few dreams with Evie in them. In recent weeks, I've dreamt about her more--but they all end the same. I dream she is still alive, but the moment I realize its only a dream I wake up. All kinds of things will everyday remind me of what I've lost.

There are some sensitive souls out there who are mindful of us still, especially as we find ourselves around other babies. Yes, it is hard to see you laughing and enjoying your child, but we can't be tip-toed around forever. This is the way life is right now. We don't hate you or your babies for your happiness--except sometimes the jealousy is enough to make us angry. Its not because of you. Its the anger in me. We don't expect people to tip-toe around us. All I ask is that you never forget how lucky you are.

The greatest fear we face is the fear of forgetting. As life goes on and we continue to become more normal, how will we still honor the life of our daughter? Its a dilemma that I couldn't have expected when we first began this journey: Feeling normal and feeling good feels bad. I feel guilty about many of the things I enjoy now. Nicole and I might share a nice evening out and have fun, but in the back of my mind I think, "the only reason we can go out is because our daughter is no longer in the hospital." It feels bad to feel good.

So when people ask, "how are you doing?" I don't often have the energy to say what I've just said. We're doing okay. We make slow progress in healing, but it is progress and it is healing. We are most of the time able to put on a good face, and our lives function nearly normally again (not quite 100%). We're not stronger or weaker than most people. There are still a lot of bad days. There are some good days. Its very hard, not much easier than it has been.

Thats the shape it takes.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for inviting us in.

Devyn C said...

Evie has not been forgotten. Everytime I hold a baby I remember your beautiful baby girl and wish I was holding her again. Thanks for your honesty.

Patty said...

Dear Matt and Nicole,

In the first days and then weeks that I knew about Evie's condition, it would make me angry to nurse my baby. I didn't want to look at her sometimes because every time I did, I thought of Evie and how it wasn't fair. Sometime she is still a reminder to me of your daughter, and I say a prayer of thanksgiving, simultaneously questioning that prayer, questioning God.

I am honored and touched every time either of you comment on, talk about, listen to me talk about, or are around our kids. I can only imagine how hard it is or can be. And though I don't remember your Evie as often as you do, know that she is thought of often. (Something made me think of her today.)

As weird as this may (or may not) sound, the Orthodox also pray for the souls of their departed loved ones. We have a list of family names that we pray for regularly and submit a few times a year at various services for the departed. Evie Marie is and always will be on that list. She was prayed for a few weeks ago at the beginning of Lent.

Thank you for your reflections here. As the Orthodox aptly say, "May her memory be eternal."

We love you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Matt & Nicole for letting us into your lives in such a special yet vulnerable way through this blog.

I entered a quilt shop last week and found myself in the back corner cubby of the shop in a section of baby quilts and clothes. Not realizing as I circled the shop that they even had a children's section, I was totally taken off guard as the waves of grief again swept over me. I had to leave the shop.

Thanks for sharing so sensitively because your honesty helps me know I am not alone in this struggle.

Mom "K"

Nicole said...


Thank you for your kind words! And thank you for the prayers.

You are right, it can be hard in a conflicting way to be with your children. Since we love them and they are so cute they bring us joy, but then we grieve that our daughter will not be their playmate (at least not in this lifetime) as we had always hoped she would be. So yes, it is hard to be with babies, but still worthwhile (because they are our little friends too!).

Matt said...

I always thought it was a little cliche when people would try to comfort another by saying, "you're not alone." But now, being on the other side of it, I do realize how important it is to feel the companionship of others.

You're right, mom. We don't go it alone and that does make a difference.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank 'Mom K' for posting her thoughts. I, too, have moments when sadness and grief overwhelm me. One example: I usually lead worship for our Sunday morning service. A couple of weeks ago the closing song was 'Because He Lives'. I couldn't get through the second verse, which starts with 'How sweet to hold a newborn baby'. Even writing those words here brings tears to my eyes. Matt & Nicole, please be aware that we, as Evie's grandparents, are grieving with you and uphold you in prayer everyday.

Dad 'G'

Nicole said...


We know that you grieve for us and also for yourselves. Interesting that you quote the words "how sweet to hold a newborn baby" from that hymn because that is the part that I grieve the most when I think of how unfair it was for you, mom, and the Kennedys. None of you even got to hold her, and that's a sweet experience that every grandparent deserves to have. It's legitimate for her grandparents to mourn, because you love her very much and life just wasn't fair to her.

I hope as we're "thawing out" after a long winter that the changing season will a little more happiness for all of us!

Anonymous said...

A couple of months ago, we had Bruce Mitton speaking in our church. He has 9 children. There is one especially that just warms my heart just looking at her, since she smiles at everyone. After the service, I was looking at their baby, and Linda, the mother, asked if I wanted to hold her. In some ways, I did, and in some ways I did not want to....since I was aching so much. But I did hold her, and I think Linda knew it was therapuedic for me. Then she told me how she had lost a baby boy to a heart defect. She knew the pain I was going through. And even tho, she has 9 beautiful children, she will always grieve for that child. But the Lord and support from friends, does help you through that grieving process.

Thank you for sharing, Matt, Nicole, Norma, Marv, Patty. We all truly loved little Evie and continue to.

Mom G

Anonymous said...

Thank you Devyn for being such a good friend to Matt and Nicole. Thanks also for helping with Brett while we were there. That meant alot to us.


Jane said...

Matt and Nicole,

Thank you for your honesty. I too have struggled with jealousy over "what should have been".

Just want you to know that I'm still checking in. Praying for you both. Holding up little Evie in my prayers along with all the other heart angels who have touched my life since Ramona's diagnosis.

I wish I could offer some words of comfort or wisdom, but as usual, I am at a loss...

Jane (

Quebecca said...

Matt & Nicole,

Thank you for your honesty. It is important for those of us who are your friends to know how to pray for you.

I pray that your hearts would continue to be healed, and that through this terrible situation, God's glory will continue to be revealed.

Rebecca N.

Lefdawg said...

Becky said it perfectly! I want to DIDDO!

Please know I'm always thinking and praying for you both and Evie as well. We as Catholics believe that even though one may pass into the Eternal Kingdom, they can be up there praying for us down here. I'm sure Evie is thinking and praying for you both...ALWAYS! May your healing continue by God's grace.

Love you guys!


Kati said...

I can relate too well to the feelings you are describing. Bruce and I have made a conscious effort to try to enjoy each other's company, but in the back of our minds, we're always thinking about how much is missing from our lives.

As we get further from the date, I'm terrified of losing memories and am suddenly jolted by a sight, smell, or sound, into something that reminds us profoundly of Seamus. While the adage of time healing sometimes comes as a comfort, I often find myself horrified at how fast time is pulling Bruce and I away from our last moments with him.

I think of you guys often.