Losing our little ones is like being in the direct path of a violent and destructive storm. Sometimes, it’s a hurricane, forecast in advance and long-lasting. Other times, it’s a tornado that appears out of the blue, wreaks its havoc, and then is gone. Either way, it’s unavoidable, and we are left, shattered, dealing with the aftermath.
Our situation was a bit of both – we had a little warning before one daughter died, but her twin sister was gone quite suddenly, months later when we thought we were in the clear. After the storms had passed, I sat for what felt like an eternity, head in hands, trying to process what had just happened. Numb with the shock of it, I looked at broken pieces of myself scattered about and tried to make sense of what they once were. Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again. Who could survive this? How was I supposed to go on? It was utterly devastating. I wanted to take my family and move us all underground into a shelter where nothing could hurt us again.
When feeling finally returned, it was unwelcome. I missed the numbness a little, for the pain came down on me like a massive weight upon my shoulders and chest, growing heavier each week, crushing the very air and life out of me. I wanted to curl myself up into a ball of protection from it. I cried more tears than I ever imagined humanly possible from the agony of it. I barely put one foot in front of the other in survival mode. That was all I could do – one tiny, dragging step. Each day, each minute, one foot just barely in front of the other to get through. The rest fell by the wayside. Anything other than the bare minimum was extraneous and unnecessary.
Sometimes I didn’t know where to begin to ask for help. I felt like I was just staring at a heap of rubble and forced to make sense of it. Most people offered their help in ways I didn’t even know we needed. Others were looters who took advantage; the walls which once provided both structure and defense had been torn down leaving us vulnerable. A friend who had experienced the same devastation. We cried together. It was so good to have someone who understood exactly what I was going through.
About a year later, I began to take inventory. I picked through the rubble and found things that survived, things that had been covered by the dust of the wreckage and that I hadn’t noticed at first among the mess. Faith. Music. Art. Writing. They were more meaningful now, these treasured things that I’d forgotten I had or forgotten how much I loved. The devastation still affected me deeply, but I found that I was getting back to a regular routine again. The weight was not as crushing now – not every day, at least. I could let go of carrying it most days, enough to reach out my hand and help other people who were just beginning to feel the weight of their own loss. It felt good to help others: it brought me healing, too.
As time has gone on, now almost three years after our loss, I find I am sort of redefining myself. Much like someone would rebuild a home lost to a storm, I can use the foundational pieces that make me who I am and rearrange them to create the me I want to be – the me I wish I’d been before the storm. I know what things were lacking before – things like self-confidence, an inner peace, grace, and I can make an effort to add them. I know what things there were too much of, like doubt, hurt, and fear, and I can do the work to remove those parts. The areas that were weak and broke too quickly under stress – patience, kindness, gentleness – I can take steps to shore up and reinforce. The parts that were too rigid and needed to bend a little bit with the wind – self-righteousness and understanding – I can allow to give a little more.
In the past, I made New Year’s resolutions with no real faith that I could make any change. I felt like the me that I was, was the me that I was always going to be, and while she had her good points, I wasn’t satisfied with her. And yet, I didn’t know what to do to fix her.
When our babies died, I made no resolutions. I just wanted to survive.
This year, though, I feel some hope for change in a way that I have never felt before. In a way that I think could only have come from having been totally devastated and undone, evaluating myself bit by bit as I have picked up the pieces from our loss, and considering that they don’t all have to go back exactly as they were. They don’t even really fit together like that anymore. And that understanding feels really good.
This year, I’m rebuilding.
Image by styf22