Shortly after Matthew died I stumbled upon a baby loss mom blog (last updated in 2014) I found particularly memorable for its 2011 project, “Right where I am.” The idea was that this blogger would choose a day to write about where she was with her grief in a given moment, call others to do the same, and then compile the responses for all to browse.
I found perusing said responses helpful – I craved to see what this grief looked like weeks, months, years, later. I needed to answer a burning question – “Am I forever fucked?” And although most writings suggested grief is indeed a life sentence (which I already knew), I found hope in seeing others eventually going onto live what appeared to be happy, fulfilled lives.
So although this project is dormant, I find myself compelled to write my own version of “Right where I am” for several reasons. First, sadly, I semi-frequently receive emails from the newly bereaved, and they ask. And I usually fumble through my responses, so it’d be nice to have something coherent on file. (Not that I’m promising coherence here.)
Second, some I know in real life who follow my blog may not actually know where the hell I am. (I mean, they know where I live, but…) Because, as a friend once pointed out, doing things like listing the shittiest things people said to me last year, awesome as this was, may not actually tell them. And I agree. And I’m assuming these readers might wonder sometimes…
And third, because therapy…
So where am I eight months later? Here goes… (But please keep in mind, there’s probably a reason I naturally gravitate towards writing in the style in which I usually do.)
Life can best be described in one word – complicated. I know because I’ve tried to write this post several times. And so far I’ve failed miserably. I have at least five drafts, each ending abruptly, awkwardly. A friend suggested I just post these. I suggested not only would this be embarrassing it also wouldn’t effectively convey where I am. Because anything I write that’s more than three minutes-old is obsolete as a flip-phone.
This speaks to how quickly thoughts and emotions change these days. I’m probably making myself sound bi-polar or like I need to be locked in a padded room. But, best I can tell, it’s all part of my new normal, to which it’s been difficult to adjust considering my once even-keeled nature.
Eight months has consisted of enough heartache to fill a lifetime. Or one thousand and one lifetimes. And enough tears to fill a large bathtub. Or Lake Michigan.
One moment life seemed perfect, charmed even. The next, our hearts had been violently ripped from our chests, our hopes and dreams and plans dead with Matthew, or busted into one million pieces, tiny shards of glass we’d later collect and attempt to glue back together into the mosaic we call our new life.
Now, things are undeniably better than they were in the earliest days. But I should point out that this is to be expected, because it’s physiologically impossible for any living being to withstand such an intense state of emotional turmoil over the long term. So grief associated with devastating loss is eventually woven into the fabric of our existence. It has to be. For survival purposes.
Sometimes I feel as though I’ve just woken up, and it’s eight months later. Everything’s such a blur, which seems reasonable given all that’s happened in a relatively short time. So much pain. So much devastation. So much change. So much everything.
It’s easier to breathe now than it was in the beginning. The blunt force trauma feelings of it all have softened. Each breath doesn’t hurt as though someone is holding me underwater against my will. I can function. I can complete my job responsibilities well enough. I can smile. I can laugh. I can have fun.
I can indeed feel, and see, that this grief continues to become a part of me. It’s more familiar, less uncomfortable or unwelcome. Rather, it actually is welcome sometimes. I’ve learned that grief comes from a place of intense love. This grief will never go away because my love for Matthew won’t either. And I suspect it will continue to change character an infinite number of times over the course of my life.
I think of Matthew all the time. He’s my first thought when I wake up and my last thought before I fall asleep. I miss him so much. Tears stream down my face just typing this. The longing is intense. I grieve so hard for the future I’ll never have with him.
But I’ve accepted things, I think – not in the sense that I’m okay with what’s happened. I’m not. I never will be. Rather I’ve come to accept that, yes, this happened. No longer do I wake up wondering whether this is truly my life. I do, however, wake up sad that it is.
In the earliest days, I wanted to know when I’d stop crying every single day. I think eight months later I can say I experience days when I don’t cry, although, not lately – the season changes are incredibly hard for me, as they signify the passage of more time without my precious boy. Though, honestly, season changes aside, I still cry most days. It isn’t the old uncontrollable, lying on the floor, hours-long guttural sob fests though. It’s generally a quiet, gentler cry, tears softly rolling down my cheeks.
I’ve mentioned change. Everything is different. I’ve learned that not one relationship or area of life is immune to the aftershock of the earthquake representing a loss of this magnitude. In fact, I’m still feeling the aftershock. There are more secondary losses imminent, that, three months ago, I didn’t even know existed. Each one hurts. But the pain’s dampened, because nothing compares to losing Matthew.
Like I said, no relationship remains unaffected. There are people who’re still too triggering for me to see, ones who said something horrible, ones who said nothing at all, and ones who simply don’t understand. There are family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who fall into each of these categories. There are ones I can say with near certainty I’ll never see again as a result of all that’s happened.
But, on the flipside, which is where I try to direct my focus, many relationships have strengthened. And some new ones have formed. I’m fortunate neither my close family nor my marriage will become yet another casualty of this loss. I’m grateful for the friends who’ve stuck by me (us) – that some of these friends have become best friends, which is probably more of a testament to them than it is to me. Sometimes, honestly, I feel undeserving. And I’m also not sure what I’d do without this tribe of amazing bereaved parents with whom I’ve connected locally, and elsewhere, some of whom are starting to feel a bit like sisters from other misters.
I continue to struggle with feelings of guilt and shame and fear and anxiety and jealousy and anger and hopelessness and worthlessness and post-traumatic stress. Though many of these emotions have lessened in intensity compared to the earliest days. But I still have nightmares – in most of them someone dies (me or a loved one). I don’t think I have the space to touch on any of these issues separately – this post would be 8,700 words, which nobody wants to read. Perhaps at a future time…
I knew before that life wasn’t fair. But now I really know it. And I think about this a lot. The world’s a scarier place now – I know how quickly the walls can cave in. I’m pretty jaded and often feel singled out by the universe. I don’t cry each time I see a baby, rather I think, “Why me? Why us? Why my Matthew?” And I’m sad and pissed and bitter. I wonder if these thoughts and feelings will ever go away. I have tons of deep questions about life – kudos to those who entertain my outward pondering of them.
I’d definitely say I’m forever transformed, and that I have been since July 13, 2015. A part of me died with Matthew. I don’t subscribe to the notion that I’ll come out of all this a better person. I will in some ways, but not in others.
To an outsider, I have a much hardened exterior compared to before. I’m less approachable, more difficult to get to know, intolerant of, or apathetic towards, petty bullshit or seemingly insignificant problems. I’m even more cynical than I used to be. My sense of humor’s darkened. On the flip side, my interior’s softened. I’m more compassionate, a better listener, more charitable. I have a better sense of what’s really important in life. I feel a bit of responsibility to live each day to the fullest for Matthew (not that I currently succeed at this on a regular basis), because he didn’t get this opportunity. I’ve re-adopted a healthier lifestyle. (Though I wasn’t grossly unhealthy before.)
Overall, I’m proud that I’ve survived for this long, and, honestly, I’m a bit surprised by it. I’m shocked anybody survives, actually. It’s so excruciatingly difficult.
I’m pregnant again, and I don’t want to diminish the fact that this probably contributes to me feeling a renewed sense of hope. Although it doesn’t remotely fix things, it provides an undeniable light amidst the darkness, to be certain. So I hope this doesn’t render what I’m about to say incredulous…
But I do want those who might be earlier in their grief journeys to know that hope exists. I’m often floundering. It’s only been eight months. But I see it. I see potential for this to be a devastating, defining chapter rather than my entire book. (Though I fully acknowledge so much is outside my control. So much hangs in the balance, seems up to chance, or luck – it’s terrifying.) But I believe it when others further into this say they’re happy now, though of course they’ll always grieve the loss of their child.
I wanted to die in the earliest days. I was in so much pain I thought something would surely take me in the night. Sometimes these feelings come rushing back in, overtaking me in the form of one of the oft-spoken about “waves of grief.” But most the time, life seems a bit more worthwhile. I see reasons to continue. I’m hanging on more willfully.
These days I think I’m “okay,” more often than not. Though I begrudge this statement, because “okay” means something totally different now compared to what it used to. Or maybe I could better summarize it like this…
I’m walking, but I’m limping along. I’m swimming, but I’m drowning. I experience moments of happiness, but I’m still so heartbroken. I’m active, but I sleep large portions of gorgeous, springtime weekend days away. I feel grateful and blessed for all I have, but I also feel so royally fucked over for what I’ve lost. I’m at peace, but I’m livid, often in a state of tumult. I’m paralyzed by fear, but I’m hopeful. Some of this hope comes from the fact that I couldn’t say much of what I just said only a few short months ago.
See? It’s complicated.
I’m slowly gluing back together those shards of glass, one by one, into the busy-as-hell mosaic pot representing my new life. And I think I’m doing a damn good job, especially considering this clean-lines-loving girl wouldn’t necessarily choose a freaking jagged-edged mosaic as her preferred form of art. And although I know, by definition, a mosaic’s been broken, shattered even, I’m holding onto hope that it can be still be salvaged in some beautiful-disaster sort of way.
I miss Matthew more than I can put into words. But I’m confident I’m better, or at least eventually will be, for him having lived, albeit for such a short amount of time. And even considering my loss of self and all of the secondary losses and my complicated state of being and my overall life some would refer to as “in shambles,” eight months later, I’d trade this new life for nothing other than to have him here with me.