On the Cliff
And then the faucet burst. The ground cracked open again. We slipped. And now we’re both hanging on to the side of the cliff. Rocks keep falling into the abyss around us. We don’t want to fall because we know how hard it is to crawl back out. But it’s hard. And it hurts. And we want to help each other. But we can’t. We’re too busy fighting for ourselves. One of us has to stay out of the pit or it seems like there’s no hope.
I feel helpless, like nothing I do will ever be enough. I blame myself for not seeing the ground widen beneath me. I blame myself for not carrying the needed supplies. The net. The ladder. But I didn’t even really know what to carry. Because it’s different every time. And I feel ridiculous that we made it through those first days after we heard that I wasn’t pregnant, but it’s a broken faucet that sent us off the edge.
And I wonder why something so insignificant is what broke us this time.
But I know it isn’t really about the faucet.
The truth is, we were slipping all along. The accumulation of life kicking us in the shins gradually wore us down, leaving us unsteady. Shuffling through on tired legs. And it was only going to take one small pebble to send us over the edge.
I believed that three years in, I knew how to keep it together. And that when one of us was weak, the other was strong. And I could reach out my hand and hold on to him. We wouldn’t allow each other to fall. But now I’m tired, too. And I’m also dangling from the edge.
We’ll both climb back out. I know we will. But I feel so useless when I can’t help my partner. The person that’s helped me through all those hard nights. The person to whom I’ve thrown a life line before. Joe and I have this thing—we actually reach over and touch the other when one is strong and the other is faltering, as if we can somehow physically give the other some of our strength reserve. But what do we do when we’re both depleted? Nobody teaches this. No one gets a manual when his or her child dies. There’s no “how to” book.
Grief holds a few, dirty, little secrets…the things nobody told us.
People told us that we would grieve differently than our spouses, children and other loved ones. But that’s not the problem.
Those things we can negotiate. We can talk through how many photos are hung. How we should spend the holidays and anniversaries.
The real problem is that we don’t know how to help the other person with his or her grief when we’re desperately trying to help ourselves. We each end up feeling like we’re failing again. Love couldn’t save our child. What makes us think it can save our marriage? Save our sanity? Save our hope?
When my husband and I stood on a beach in Jamaica reciting the vows “For better or for worse…in sickness and in health,’ we never imagined that the “worse” would include returning to the same beach years later to release our daughter’s ashes. But I have to believe that love is actually enough to get us through this part of life too. Our love for Zoey didn’t die when she did. And our love for each other didn’t either.
Our love also remains strong through all of the heartache of infertility. And that has to be enough.
Right now we see each other. We’re already finding the footholds. We’re holding on and gathering strength. And we hope that’s enough to keep a grip until we crawl back up…together.