Sonographer: Are you ready for the holidays?
Me: No, not really. I could just skip it.
Sonographer: Just ready to fast forward to not being pregnant anymore?
Me: No….(I pause with hesitation, oh well she asked) Our 5 year old daughter passed away last month.
Sonographer: (after a few seconds of silence) Oh, I’m so sorry
Me: (in my head) Yep….Merry Christmas to me…
So, that was my Thursday morning. How was yours?
There are times I hesitate to share openly with people how I’m really feeling. For starters, it probably means I’m going to cry (or at least start to). It all depends on how I’m feeling at the moment. Ask at your own risk because you’ve been warned.
Six weeks have passed since Layla left us. Some days it feels like six years, other times 6 minutes. In all honesty, the most difficult part is that life goes on all around you. It’s like standing still in the middle of Times Square, feeling the rush of everyone moving around you, but being completely frozen.
C.S. Lewis’ book A Grief Observed was made into a movie called The Shadowlands in 1993. There’s a scene in which Jack (who recently lost his wife) sees his friend Harry for the first time:
Harry: [Jack makes his first public appearance after Joy’s death] Well done, Jack. Life must go on.
Jack: I don’t know whether it must, Harry, but it certainly does.
Yes, Jack…you’re right. The grieving person just gets carried away in the current of life while everyone else seems to go back to life-as-usual. How is this possible? Don’t they know we lost our little girl only 6 weeks ago? I get it. It’s an unimaginable situation for every parent out there. One that you don’t dare linger on or else risk being pulled into the darkness. But that is where we live now – in the ruins of a life that doesn’t exist. On the outside, it still looks fairly put together where you wouldn’t quite pick us out of a crowd as parents who lost a child. It’s more like the tiny closet in your house that you pray no stranger ever opens because the contents inside are perched so precariously it will all come crashing out with one false move (or sneeze).
The mess is what scares people. Our grief counselor recently commented that “people don’t like mess”. Once the card has been sent, the memorial complete and the hug given there’s a comfort in putting “all that” behind you. Or, for some people, it’s better to pretend it didn’t happen at all and ignore the situation altogether (thankfully those people have been few and far between for us). I am also overwhelmingly grateful for the people who continue to be present in our lives. For those that text, email and message just to check in or to let us know they’re thinking about us. There’s a FaceBook group specifically for bereaved parents due to childhood cancer (and trust me when I say it’s the saddest place on the internet), so I see family’s that lack for support. It’s heartbreaking to see them struggle, standing in the ruins alone. Not to mention the marriages that fall apart because one (or both) parents can’t handle picking up the mess when the closet door pops open. Ours falls open all the time and I know God gave me the perfect partner who just lets the mess sit there for as long it needs to.
I know all of this is a little deep for Christmas Eve Eve, but the closet door is open today and I don’t have the energy to kick all the junk back inside. So come inside, and watch your step. This is just what it looks like now. Welcome to our mess…we know you’ll still want to visit.