On Deep Pain and Deep Emotions

October 22, 2015

In DC, about a year and a half ago, I grabbed the car keys and our baby-bug-out bag, and headed to the hospital. Our little guy was due any day now, so my wife and I fully expected to either sheepishly return home in an hour if this was a false alarm, or come back in a day or two with our son.

Snake River and Canyon
Photo credit: Snake River Canyon, Twin Falls, Idaho. By Phil Schermeister

A few hours later, as my wife lay crying in a hospital bed, I was out in the cold parking lot. I stood there, staring at the empty car seat. I stood, knowing I wanted to hide it in the trunk so we wouldn’t have to see it, but unable to move, made impotent by the sadness–the burgeoning realization of finality–inherent in that action.

In Idaho, about 45,000 years ago, Box Canyon was formed in a matter of moments. It was carved out by a sudden, cataclysmic flood that didn’t slowly erode the earth as much as it violently shoved car-sized boulders aside, gouging a cut deep into the landscape that fundamentally altered the terrain.

After we learned Simon died, it felt the same way; the joy and happiness and expectations of his coming became a tidal wave of sorrow that deeply cut into the very core of us.

I moved that car seat. And I didn’t so much as “let” the flood of sadness wash over me as it crashed cataclysmically upon me regardless of my wishes. Looking back, we shake our heads in wonder at the striking, almost physical force of the shocks experienced in those early hours. At the suddenness in which our lives transformed from the familiar landscape of before to the nearly unrecognizable collection of debris that has made up the after.

But, to borrow a friend’s metaphor, that deep cut in the landscape can now be filled with more water than before. We who have felt the abysmal pain of loss can take some solace in the new depth of empathy for others, the new gratitude for those loved ones still with us, the new sense of appreciation.

And I hope one day to experience those deeper, positive feelings, even if I feel hollowed out today.

  • Andy Gillette

    Andy Gillette is the father of Simon Alexander Gillette, who was stillborn in February of 2014. He and his wife Genevieve have grown closer through the experience, and find comfort in thinking of their little guy and helping other parents suffering through loss. They are happy to be involved with the Arlington, VA MIS Share support group: Mis Share

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