Last year, I launched a project called Right Where I Am where I asked other babylost parents to write about right where they were in their grief. And it also was about how wherever you are, it is right. I asked people to only talk about the present moment in their grief, not where they were yesterday, or tomorrow, but how they were feeling today. I asked each person to title their piece with Right Where I Am: followed by the time since their child or children died. Here is last year's post. One hundred and seventy-nine people wrote about right where they were. It was more than profoundly interesting. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, lovely, powerful. A few people asked me if I was going to do it again this year. I hadn't thought about it being an annual thing, (and maybe it won't be,) but I thought that it would be interesting to do it again this year. It feels good to do an inventory, I think. I found it fascinating to read last year's and compare where I was last year to this year. But also just to think about what grief is like for me now, and what I am wrestling with these days. Also know that if you are new to this community, we want to hear your story too. I hope you decide to join in. I know I found many amazing blogs last year, and read the majority of the posts. I tried to comment on them all. I know a few people did too (Catherine W. and Sally, I'm looking at you two.) If you do write, post your link in the Mr. Linky below. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, I'll answer them as soon as I get them.
Last night, I putzed around my house, cleaning things, nibbling on fruit left in a bowl by my children. I turned the television on, sat for a moment, then off it went again. Nothing to watch but a documentary about the ex-Amish that I've already watched. I drew a bath, and poured some patchouli bath salt under the faucet, the pungent smell overwhelming the bathroom. I opened a window so a small breeze blew over me. I moved my seven day votive candle to the rim on the bathtub. I started burning one three weeks ago after I found out our new baby might be dead. I prayed to Mother Mary and lit a candle to her. The baby was dead. I don't blame Mary. I thought I should give prayer a shot even though everyone already knew the baby was gone. And besides Mary is there for grieving mothers, I hear. This is the third consecutive candle. I remember burning candles all night and all day too after Lucia died. The light felt like a physical presence in the room--warm and alive, changing with the conversation. I listened to the local npr station and stayed in the scalding hot water until it grew cold and I was shivering.
I have only cried a few times since I lost this latest pregnancy. A twelve week miscarriage, but she seems to have died weeks earlier, if she ever lived. Some days, I feel too busy to grieve and be sad. And besides, I think, "This baby isn't Lucia." even though I loathe comparison grieving. But this loss reminds me of Lucia's death, not because it was the same. It was completely different, but it reminds me of how much I wanted someone so little who was destined to die. It reminds me of feeling hope and innocence, but then meeting death. I expected death this time. I hate to say it made it easier, but it did. I survived my daughter's thirty-eight week stillbirth, gave birth, lost my friends, lost my way, refound it, made an incredibly large amount of new babylost friends, found something like a spirituality and compassion. I found myself in the wreckage of my daughter's death. Myself strong and capable, weak and full of fault, slain but resurrected. Myself human. All human. I forgive myself for my humanity now, rather than torturing myself over it.
I opened the cabinet to brush my teeth and my gigantic knock-off G-Force digital watch was in there. It was making colors--green to red to blue. It wasn't doing that before the bath. In fact, it has never done that. The darkness enhanced this beautiful show, like the aurora bourealis over the Crest toothpaste. "Hello, my little love," I said, unafraid, "My Lucia, my little Buddha. Mama misses you." I shut the cabinet door.
I allow her to be part of my life now.
That is something new about year three. I invite Lucia into my world. I let myself see signs of her, to remind myself that we are small in this universe. There is dew and moss and the Grand Canyon. And my baby died. It was a minute blip on the radar of the universe; an atomic bomb in our little family. And so, I can allow her to keep coming to us, in whatever way we want, simply because it is comforting. I tell myself it is okay to search out comfort in our world. To pray to something bigger than me. I disallowed prayer in my early grief, because I felt like a hypocrite asking for God's help when I was suffering. I pray for big things that seem small, like patience and gratitude and humility. Year three has given me permission to believe there is something beyond what I can see in my everyday. That maybe Lucia is around me, and I still don't call her an angel.
See, peace in me used to translate in my brain to peace in her death. I think I integrated her death in such a way now that I understand I can have healing, comfort, hope, love, happiness, serenity and peace and it doesn't mean that I am healed, or comforted from her death. It means that it can still piss me off that she died. I am still sad when I focus on it, but I choose to focus on the joy that she lived at all. It seems miraculous that anyone lives. We are so vulnerable and delicate. Creatures built for death. Lucia taught me that. She taught me about impermanence. I am grateful for the lesson.
I reread my post from last year, and I can see the growth of that peace. Things and people can still upset me. The crazy chatter in my brain still sounds like Ornette Coleman, but it is quieter. It is a constant upkeep to remain in a state of gratitude, but I want that serenity. This miscarriage, not yet even a month old notwithstanding. We grieve this new loss in a new way. The children particularly, but we also feel happy. We seize the happiness when it comes, because we lived with happiness guilt, and it is a pointless, ridiculous guilt. To be happy and grieve is a dichotomy we have become very comfortable with. I think most babylost families live in that place of continual happy-sad.
Honestly, my biggest grief-related issue right now is this space. I fear that I do my readers a disservice. Women and men who find me after they have just lost a child. Who have grieved for a day, two weeks, three months, for six months, for a year, for ten. Perhaps my grief resonates, and it is true grief. But I edit my grief. I massage the words. I clean it up, make an analogy. After a long, winding life, I kill the analogy, then I resurrect it and make a holiday in its name.
I want to tell the people who read here that I write and edit and think and cajole and explicate and outline and rewrite and giggle. But I don't cry much. Does that matter? Does it matter that I don't cry? Does it matter that I run into the office after dishes, the linen towel still tucked into my jeans, as I wipe my hands dry, and type something about being eviscerated because Lucia died, or write something about the moon, and then go do the dishes again without shedding a tear?
Mired-in-grief is not what three years, five months and one day from Lucia's death looks like for me. Three years isn't all grieving for me. In fact, it isn't grieving at all. Not in that active-not-being-able-to-breathe way. It is not grieving in that I-cannot-live-with-this-knowledge-and-I-cannot-die-because-of-it way. It is not the grieving in that not-being-able-to-function-or-answer-the-phone-or-go-for-a-walk way or the I-can't-get-out-of-bed way. It is the hear-a-pregnant-lady-say-'what's-the-worst-that-can-happen'-and-know grief. Grief became so apart of who I am that it changed almost nothing. Or rather it changed everything about me except me. Or rather, maybe I should say, everything stayed the same but me. I don't know. I feel like a new species--a griefasaurus. I have this life now. It is the only life I can imagine, and it involves Lucia dead. And it isn't a sad life. Bloody fucking hell, I miss her. I miss what our life almost was, and didn't get to be. But I have a beautiful life. A happy family. Joy and running and laughter and Lucia is dead.
Grief now is a moment of my week. In the first year, I'll be honest, a moment without grief felt like a victory. That was the moment I wrote about on my blog, now grief is the moment I write about. But then, because I write a blog about grief, and I write here every week, or twice a week, I write that moment down. I massage it, cajole, edit, kill the analogy, you know, like I said before. And since I write about grief here a few times a week, it seems like I am always grieving, crying, catching my breath, thinking of clever analogies for death and grief and authenticity. That is why I fear it is a disservice to keep writing.
But the truth is I need to write to her, about her. About nature and God and how it intersects with grief. I feel like I am learning so much now. And it is different than learning to live without her. I know how to do that. I wrote about that for two years. I wrote about it because I was learning how to live without my daughter, and how to live without the friends I thought I had, or the safety I thought was afforded me, or that kind, compassionate person I thought I was (apparently, I wasn't that kind or compassionate.) Now it is learning that because she died, the world became more beautiful, because I have hell to compare the world to. I am alive. I have two living children. I don't take any moment of my life for granted. I know the other way.
I wake up and meditate and pray and drink coffee and play and breakfast/lunch/dinner. And I don't grieve in there, not in the way grief was. It was a full-body, all-encompassing physical affliction. It was active. It was debilitating. Keening was a contact sport. Her death is part of the fabric of my life now. It happened. I wove it in, beaded it. It isn't still happening, though it was still happening for the first eighteen months. (Does it help to know there was an end to the active grief? Does it help to know it lasted for 18 months for me? And random days now?) Now, she is just in everything I do, a part of it all, and also, I don't mention her to the earth people. Well, not much. That is one thing that has changed too this year. I don't say that I have three children anymore.
I feel like I have to confess that. That seemed horrifying to me after she died. To deny her to strangers, or even family I haven't seen. But I realize now that it isn't denying her. I just say two, because Lucia isn't an anecdote. She isn't casual conversation. She is my love, not my statement, or my eff you to a society who can't deal with daughter-death. And I still miss her.
Now, it's your turn. Where are you in your grief? Emotionally. Physically. Psychically. Spiritually. You can compare your journey from last year's post (don't forget to link last year's post to this years.) Title your post, "Right Where I Am 2012:(Time since your child's death)" then come back here and link your blog post on the Mr. Linky below. Click other participants and read about right where they are. Comment if you can. Just a thank you for telling me about right where you are. If you don't want to write a full post, why not just comment here and tell me the time since your loss(es) and anything else you want to share. If you do not have a blog and are a regular reader, you can post your essay on this very blog as a guest writer. Send me an email at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. Spread the word around the community by linking back to this post, so people can find out what grief is like on all stops on the road.