Why is it that some days are ok, but others just, well, suck? I can go a couple of days without crying or being overwhelmed by sorrow. Granted, I don’t think much about what’s happened to us on those days, but still. Then I have a day like yesterday where the very stores I entered made me want to cry. We ran some errands with the whole family and I was filled with memories of being in the one store, carrying Samantha. It was shortly before she got sick, one of the first times we had her out in public. She was so tiny and everyone kept coming up and remarking over her. And yesterday my arms felt so empty. I think I cried two or three times in the middle of a department store, not because of memories there but because I was so filled with awareness of our loss. And the evening wasn’t much better once we got home.
Grief is such a surprising thing. You expect it to knock you down and keep you there, and it does sometimes. But it doesn’t just sit on top of you. It relents for a time. You get a chance to breathe again. You maybe convince yourself that life is normal. Then BAM! out of nowhere grief slams into you and you can’t figure out how you ever felt normal even for a moment. When I feel my grief, it is all-consuming. It feels unending. And yet there are these glimpses of peace in the midst of it.
I’ve been doing a little reading into the stages of grief. I know there’s debate about them in academia, but whatever. It doesn’t make a difference in my reality right now. These are the stages as I currently know them: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I have always read that you don’t experience them in order or necessarily move through one and never come back to it. Bouncing around is normal, I guess. Must be comforting for someone, but at least I don’t have to worry that I’m crazy. Here’s how/when I’ve been experiencing them:
1. Denial. Oh, this one is a doozy. Because we only had our little girl for a short while, Denial presents itself most often to me in the form of feeling like I never had a child. Not that I deny her existence necessarily, but that it’s easy for me to think, “was it all a dream?” Sometimes it’s in the form of thoughts like, “it CAN’T be true.” I can’t sit here long, though.
2. Anger. This one has come up a few times. I find myself angry that other pregnant women don’t have the worries I had (even though maybe they do). Travis and I can get angry at each other, too. I get angry with other people for stupid things that I used to shrug off. And I yell a lot at stupid drivers.
3. Bargaining. I don’t tend to land here really. It’s hard for me after spending so much time studying theology and even training to be a Stephen Minister. I know that bargaining won’t change anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever think of it, but it’s rare. The most specific instance of this was actually the day she had her last MRI. I was busy cleaning out our room at HealthBridge since we wouldn’t be returning, and telling myself that if Travis and I just prayed over our daughter together, the MRI would be fine.
4. Depression. I practically live here these days. Sometimes it’s hard for me to DO anything. I have no motivation. Or I cry for a long time. The no-motivation is most common during the day, while the crying tends to come at night. And oh, the not sleeping. I’m good at not sleeping.
5. Acceptance. I think I landed here after we took Samantha home. I had to in a lot of ways to be able to function. So many people kept telling us our faith was strong, we were strong. Maybe we were, but it wasn’t from us. I know God gave us the gift of being (mostly) clear-headed during that time so we could make the most of every second.
I have no regrets from this summer. Not one. The length of her time with us was so much longer than I could have imagined when we brought her home. I still believe that God’s hand guided the timing of her death. It was perfect – she reached four months, but did not die on another day so I won’t be dealing with multiple sad dates. She died shortly before her godparents (all of them, two couples) had scheduled a lot of travel, some of which may have had to be rescheduled or perhaps even some couldn’t have been with us for the funeral. And we were able to go to my dad’s retirement party.
Do I wish she would have lived longer? Of course. But she wasn’t going to live much longer anyway. My grief is tied less to her death and more to her getting sick in the first place, which changed everything. I guess that’s surprising too. But maybe, for me at least, knowing she would die removed the sting from her actual death.