Friday, October 17, 2008

The Plateau

When a couple breaks up, its said that it takes as long as you were ever with that person to get over that person. If you dated for 6 months, it might take 6 months for you to finally get over them. They also say "time heals all wounds". To compare the loss of a child to a break up is a grotesque comparison (though that's obvious, I'll still elaborate later). What I would like to say is that time does not heal all wounds. Some wounds we will carry all our life. That's a lesson I'm learning as today is now 11 months since Evie was born. Its been much longer that Evie's been gone than we ever knew she existed. In just a few weeks an entire year will have passed. While my journey of grief has come along way (I am no where near the place I was in January or March or even June), in some ways I've found that the sense of healing has plateaued somewhat. In fact, pain and grief now show up in new ways and it stings worse than it has. They are fresh wounds.

So what is happening? How could things steadily get better and then not? I think a few things have happened. The first is a simple phenomenon: I have more free time. This spring I was breaking my back trying to finish incomplete work from the fall on top of a full load of spring coursework in addition to an internship. The "busyness" of life was a suitable distraction from the deep grief inside. Then with my new work this summer, I've still filled many hours with work, but its a different kind of work. Its a lot of time spent alone. Its a lot of hours alone in traffic. Its a lot of "body work", and a lot less "mind work". I now have the time for my mind to wander-- and it wanders back to Children's Memorial Hospital. I relive the frightening experiences in unprecedented detail. Images, sounds, smells, and feelings are as clear as day. Memories of these are not as frightening as they once were, but they still hurt.

There is a second phenomenon that is more unique to the premature death of a child. We mourn not only the past but the future. We will mourn the entirety of what Evie's life should have been. We mourn the those life-markers that will not happen: first steps, first words, first birthdays, first day of school... those are all little deaths that we must mourn in the wake of our great loss. While it doesn't bother me to be around the children of my friends, for some reason when I see a stranger with a child about the same age that Evie would be--it feels like a roundhouse kick to the stomach... and to the heart. We grieve the loss we experienced last year, but we continue to grieve the lifetime of joy stolen from us.

We feel anger, sadness, and a bit of "lostness". Still, I've considered this new phase of grief a necessary stage of the journey. Grief is work. Its work that I may have set aside in my busyness this spring, but like all things there is a time to collect on debts. What I'm realizing as I return to the work of grief is that the payoff might not be what I initially expected. Healing might not look the way I think. What I mean is that I now no longer ever expect to be "fully normal" again in this life. Everything is different. Its not unlike a physical injury. Surgery and therapy might return you to function, but it is still likely you'll continue to walk with a limp. The process of grief has and will continue to return me to functional, but I still live and love "with a limp".

As I have always said, writing about these things is not to fish for sympathy. Its merely that there is something cathartic about talking about it. It feels good to tell our story. Thanks for listening.


Lefdawg said...

Thanks for sharing(tears in my eyes)! Just know that I often think of you both and offer you up in my prayers when I do think of you. I pray that God will continue to bless and show you His love even in this tragedy that has happened as you still continue to heal.

Sarah H. said...

Happy 11 month birthday Evie. I often remember the 17th and the 10th of each month with sadness. We continue to grieve with you even though we probably only have a small idea of what it is like for you. We grieve the loss of a friend for our son. I often think that he has one more friend whom he was never able to meet. I'm sure they would have been great friends. We still pray for you and trust God is holding you through this.

Becky said...

We think about you often also. I can't imagine how hard it is for you both, and I don't know what to say. But Ryan and I do think of you a lot. Not that that helps any...I'm so sorry.

Anonymous said...

I only just found your blog (sorry about the late entry ;-).
I feel I have to let you know that I admire the way you share your pain with the rest of us.

Last week I attended the memorial service for a 14 month old girl who passed away. Every time I talk to the mother I feel I am lost for words (because let's be honest: I have no clue what she is or you are going through, the sheer thought of losing one of my children is too painful for me). Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your life and making me understand more.