“The earth will never be the same again
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in the pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
A Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies would have lied.
How shall we sing our love’s song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
Every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light
I believe it when other people tell me that this is going to get easier. On some level, at least, deep in my brain, there is an understanding that that is the truth: This will get easier.
But then what does that mean?
What does it mean if I wake up and my first thought is not of my son and my world doesn’t cave in again? What does it mean if grief releases my brain and I remember what foods have vitamin B12 in them or what the causes a knot in a muscle and I can talk to my clients again like an intelligent, knowledgeable human? What does it mean when I no longer experience seething hatred or engulfing jealousy or intense longing towards other mothers carrying their newborns? What does it mean if I go through a whole day and don’t cry or, some day, don’t even think of him?
How else do I love this child that I knew only for a short time? How else do express my love for him but through tears and anguish? This is how I know him the best: in grief, in his loss, in his absence, in only what I imagine him to be. Since the moment after he died and I again began my screams of protest, how else do I know my son? I know him only in the memory of his heaviness on my arm and lap, which was heavier than he should have been for he had the extra weight of the unconscious. I know him only in the memory of his smell which was of adhesive tape, vernix, antiseptic hospital odor and the orange oil used to remove the massive amount of tape in his hair and on his body with less irritation. I know him only from the memory of his unnaturally cold body, chilled internally to stall any further organ damage. I know him only from the memory of the sound of his forced, labored yet rhythmic breathing for he made no other sound. I know him only from the memory of the soft skin of his nose and cheek and forehead under my lips, his silky hair under my fingertips and the desperate examining of every inch of him before me eyes, so that I wouldn’t forget.
But I do forget. Already I forget. Just weeks and days after I was with him. My son is nothing anymore but a memory. And for these weeks now since he died, all I know of him is his absence and the lack of all of those things in my life. And the chasm that his absence has left inside me. I know him best my tears and anguish and grief, so those easing feels only like a further separation from him.
If this gets easier, then how do I not leave him behind? How I am not losing him in all over again? I don’t want to be in this grief anymore because it is unbearable. But I don’t want to not be in this grief anymore because then he is lost again. I want to go on with my life and know relief at longer intervals but I can’t imagine going on with my life without him. Which always just brings me back to: I don’t want this to be fucking happening.
And that is the hardest place: When I get to “Why”? Why have you forsaken me? What have I done to deserve this? Why can’t you have left him with me? Why must I live the rest of my years with this hole inside of me? What can I do so that you will give him back to me? And then that leads to the pleading. Like my 3 year old asking for the playground at bedtime or ice cream at dinner. The strength of her conviction, the octave of her pleas, is now me with God. The child knows when the authority will not bend but pleads for mercy in vain anyway.
I do not want to be altered in this way. I suffered depression as a young person and awoke daily to a heavy, relentless cloud of despair and loneliness even when surrounded by joy and people I loved. I wrestled my way out of that. There is no wrestling out of this. This is the yoke that I bear that I cannot stop protesting against.
But apparently, it will get easier.