Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading…
My friend – and she is so much more than a friend. She is my soul sister, my comadre*, my impromptu doula, my daughter’s godmother. My friend, she asked: “Really, how are you?”
I said, “I am fine”. I am well. I am doing very well. Truth is, I’m a highly functioning bereaved mom. Most times, when someone sees me, they just see a gal going about her day.
Oh, wait. Now that you ask, last week…remember that full moon? Yes, well. I was driving back from acupuncture on a single lane windy road, grass and trees on either side of me. Up on the mountain, on my right, I could see an old and dilapidated castle (this is Madrid, after all). And on my left- oh my heart, on my left the moon was rising. The sky was gentle, streaked in powdery blue and soft cotton candy pink. The moon, perfectly round and milky, was slowly making its way up through the sky, veiled in pinks and blues that covered and caressed its soft white roundness. I had to pull over to cry. I took pictures on my phone and cried and oh so hoped I had my baby girl in a car-seat in the back and cried and missed her so much and wondered what it would be like right then with Luna in her car-seat in the back…and I cried.
So even though I’m fine, even though I can see other babies and make dinner and take meetings, sometimes grief rolls over me. It’s not grief, really… it’s more than that. It’s the immense emptiness of not having my daughter. As if trapped inside the darkest cave, I walk desperately and reach out with my arms and can never touch anything. That hits me sometimes.
Other times, it’s gentler. When I’m sitting on the floor with another comadre, she with her 11-month-old girl, me suddenly remembering I thought I would be there with my 9-month-old girl. And my eyes get misty and I do that weird tight lipped smile thing, and I think of her. I kiss the ring that holds a little bit of the ashes from her body and I miss her.
And other times, still, the baby girl that’s not on my chest in her organic un-dyed Cuddly Wrap, but who is love nestled in my heart, sometimes she is a name mentioned not by me, but by yet another comadre that knows what a mother is. A bunch of us were standing around chatting after an event on a recent Saturday afternoon, and a young mom in the group was holding her squirmy little girl. So we did the usual chatter of, “Oh she’s so cute. How old is she? Ooh, congrats.” And my comadre says to me: “Her name is Luna.”
I might have done that tight lip lop sided smile here.
And to the young mom holding her Luna, my friend says about me: “Her daughter’s name is Luna too.” This young mom, who doesn’t know me, says, “Ah.” I mean, big whoop, right? But to me, that gesture, that just saying “her daughter” without having to go into a whole seminar on perinatal death, that was the biggest gift. My daughter was spoken of like any other baby. She is a complete and true little person who is my daughter and has a cute yet widely popular name. And in that gift, in those simple two phrases, so much was given to me.
Sometimes that’s what I need, to have Luna mentioned with no explanation attached. Other times, I need to tell my whole story. Not often, but sometimes, I need to not talk at all. And other days, I need to break down.
How do you answer the harder question? Questions like, “How are you?” Most times I say, “Fine,” and then sort of tilt my head, shrug my shoulders and give a weird little nod. I might be saying, “I am fine, I won’t break, but my daughter died and it hurts.”
*Comadre is an awesome Spanish word that just means co-mother. Not as in life partner, wife, co-parent of our mutual children. But like a mom friend…these radical women we meet as mothers…without whom we might very well become insane during the crazy love and demands mothering.