Photo credit: Steven Wang, Unsplash.com
It still takes my breath away- the silence from the monitor fell upon the entire room, broken by the quiet words “I’m so sorry.” I nodded and streams of tears proceeded. I somehow already knew, but the sting of the news was still so painful. The silence of our mourning was eerie, and our days spent in silence and weeping in the isolated hospital room felt tomb-like. Yet it felt so right to be in that perpetual quiet of our grief- I did not want to confront the real world. Since I could not bring her home, I wished I could hold my sweet Elysia Grace and weep over her cold beautiful body till my own gave out.
Leaving the hospital was incredibly difficult, especially since we had to share an elevator with a couple who were leaving with flowers and pink balloons and a pretty blushing baby girl in a carrier. Walking behind them out the sliding doors, I hyperventilated and had to stop. I was not ready for the noise to come- the questions, the ignorantly blissful world, the insensitive comments, the pain, my own nightly cries and roars for my daughter. It was too much and whenever I could, I hid. The silence and grey of my life and my bedroom was my ultimate comfort.
Related: Neonatal Death; A Silence.
Yet this was only the beginning of my introduction to grief- the loss of our Lissie made every sadness compounded. In fact, it seemed to make me all the more sensitive to everything around me. Does this sound familiar?
You only need to turn on the TV for a few moments, or scroll through the news feed, and so many stories of accidents, death, violence, horror, pain, natural disasters and loss come flooding at you. Countless stories from the farthest reaches of the world, right to our own backyard. Only yesterday my family were sitting by the TV and we were heartbroken to learn of two mothers who had accidentally and tragically reversed their vehicles over their toddlers. And… you know exactly what I’m getting at, don’t you?
Boy, did I feel it deeply! Having lost a child myself, I could put myself too easily into the shoes of those poor mothers who had to say goodbye to their babies. It is the hardest thing in the world to do, and because I had done it before, I re-lived the grief I felt on that very first day with those mothers. It took my breath away all over again. My grief was amplified.
And I’m sure you have experienced it too- you hear a terrible story of loss, whether from your best friend or from a news report from a foreign country- and your heart breaks afresh for those who have to walk this lifelong journey without their loved one… just like you.
Maybe we felt a little bad when we heard these stories before our babies died, but now it makes us respond to these losses with further compassion, making us empathize with them all the more. We are re-sensitized, triggered and burdened with them, carrying their pain in remembrance of our little ones too. We re-experience their deep struggle, we acknowledge it, and embrace it along with our own. Grief, amplified.
But it’s not just the grief that becomes heightened- having lived and walked through such devastation, in time we become all the more aware and receptive to the beauty and small joys there are to experience in life too. Don’t get me wrong- it will never replace or quell the longing and aching we feel for our beloved, but in the same way the glow of a candle radiates so strongly in a pitch black room, small hope and joy can be found when the time is ready to experience it. And joy, too, is amplified.
Moments ago I was hanging the washing out on the clothesline, feeling so heavy for these mothers who are planning the funerals of their darling babies right now while we all make Christmas preparations. While in my mind, life seemed so bleak and heavy, a dragonfly came skidding past and hovered at me for some time. I called out my daughter’s name. With its presence I felt somewhat brighter- dragonflies remind me of my little girl, and I was gently shown that there was still joy to be had in the midst of grief. Who would have thought a common insect- that I would never have given the time of day to pre-Elysia- was going to lift my spirits with every timely sighting someday? Again, does this sound familiar?
Related: Living a Double Life: When Joy is Forever Coupled with Sadness
Maybe it is that beautiful moment by the beach, a breathtaking full moon, a visit from a butterfly, or the sun breaking through the clouds- whether they remind us of our babies or hope. Maybe we appreciate this world and the small, everyday things of life so much more and feel them more deeply because of our time in the grey and the sadness. Maybe our time with death made us greater friends with life? Maybe we gratefully receive these moments that lift our spirits, even briefly, to become a member of the living fully again. Joy, amplified.
No doubt, grief has changed for you since the death of your beautiful little one. But I hope that joy has too. And while it will never undo the past or take away the sorrow of living every day without them, I hope that both grief and joy are making a great loud noise in your life, amplifying and having an impact in your every experience, and making it a legacy worth living.