“Did you brush your teeth?” I yell upstairs, trying to rush everyone out the door for school. I grab my phone, a jacket, and we rush to the end of the block to catch the bus.
I feel a mist, see rain on the horizon, and then I hear a siren. I’m immediately brought back to last October. Back to that very day the year before.
The day I found our almost two-month-old foster son lifeless. The day I began CPR. The day I waited for the sirens.
I rush back to my house, hoping not to catch the eye of any neighbors. I know it is coming; I know the flood of grief is about to burst. I make it two feet into the door and collapse into a chair. I sob uncontrollably, vividly remembering my worst day.
I climb back into bed because life is too much. Next thing I know, I’m awoken by my husband asking if I’d like to go to lunch. I had fallen asleep in my grief.
I slept for four hours as if even my body couldn’t bear the grief. It couldn’t hold the pain, so it simply shut off.
Grief – it’s palpable.
Everyday Grief And Normalcy
I didn’t want to go to lunch. I wanted to sit in my pain. I wanted to wallow. But I knew that wasn’t what I needed. So, I brushed my hair, grabbed a pretty scarf, and put on the best “I’m okay” face I could muster.
In the morning, I was swallowed by grief. In the afternoon, I sat in the IKEA restaurant with my husband, two of our kids, not at school, and it looked like a typical day.
My eyes wandered to the mother, flustered by her double stroller and divvying up lunch. I wondered if she looked over and thought our table had it easy. After all, we weren’t juggling a baby while managing hungry kids.
But she didn’t know – she couldn’t know how desperately I wanted us to be juggling a baby.
Just like that, my day was split, half being swallowed by grief, half being a typical mother out to lunch with her family.
How does that even work? How can you swing from the depths of despair to just living life?
A new normal. An unpleasant normal. But a year later, at least my days weren’t entirely swallowed by grief like they were last October.
When There Isn’t Time To Stop
Earlier in the summer, I had scheduled an extra ultrasound. Half of me knew all was fine; I just needed reassurance. The other half felt something just wasn’t right. We were cautiously optimistic. We had a rainbow on the horizon.
Our perfect Sunday was planned. Morning service, where I let my mind wander through potential names for our soon-to-be little one. Then we’d hit the ultrasound place before finally heading to a pool birthday party.
I sat in service, thinking about the previous perfect ultrasounds. I wanted desperately to be confident in just choosing a name and trusting we’d meet our little one in the months to come.
We pulled up for the ultrasound. I left everyone in the car and just went in myself, figuring it would be quick, and we’d be on our way to the promised pool party. I was considering sharing the news that day.
We had five perfect ultrasounds, surely this would be good, and we’d finally share our joy.
Quick it was. The screen showed only a still baby. No heartbeat. No wiggling. Just stillness.
She quietly declined payment. Graciously gave me printed pictures, letting me know the hospital wouldn’t give me any.
I made it to the car without a tear; I didn’t want to make her feel worse than she already did. I could hardly get the words out, but I told my husband the baby was no more. Offers to turn around and go home came, but I looked to the backseat and saw excited faces.
We had promised them a pool party, and a pool party they deserved.
My life had once again been crumbled, but there wasn’t time to stop. Nothing I did at that moment could bring her back. Car sobbing on the ride over would have to suffice. Baby wipes would have to be enough to “wash” my face and be okay for the afternoon.
And so I did my best to smile at the party. I did my best to chat. I did my best to eat through the still unfair nausea of now pointless morning sickness. I did my best to hide, all while knowing it was apparent I wasn’t okay.
I knew I was acting off, but it was the best I could muster. It was easier to let the party-goers think I was a little rude than it was to say I just found out my baby died.
Once again, my life was split; half grief and half being “normal.”
A New Normal
Many years prior, after my first loss, grief consumed me. I avoided people and places for months. I felt shame and discomfort as if I was carrying a plague.
I let grief have every part of me. I allowed grief to become bitterness. It’s part of the process, but I let grief have too much for too long.
I’m not sure why I carried it that way, but that’s how it went.
Then a second and a third loss came. Years later, another two and our foster son. I no longer felt like I had the plague, but I certainly felt as if I was carrying a curse.
I wasn’t. I’m not.
Some of us face it more than others, but unfortunately, loss is merely a part of life.
I no longer allow grief to swallow entire days. I no longer allow grief to consume my entire being.
I have learned to let grief have what it must, but nothing more.
Grief can have moments of remembering. It can have the anniversaries, the birthdays, the expected due dates.
Grief can have long car rides.
It can have my late-night thoughts.
Grief cannot have my children. It cannot have my marriage. It cannot have my peace.
Grief cannot have my life.
When Grief Can’t Have It All
So, what does that look like? It looks like the above. It’s sobbing so hard your body puts you to sleep for four hours, and then you go out for lunch with your husband.
It’s sobbing in the car, then going to a birthday party.
It’s crying yourself to sleep at night but waking in the morning to wash your face and keep moving on.
Living with grief is crying for the ones who aren’t here, but cheering on the sidelines at soccer for the ones who are. It’s feeling broken on their birthdays or due dates but planning a birthday party for the miracle children who are earthside.
It’s crying out and questioning God, but still resting in peace, passing all understanding. It’s being too scared to walk through the church doors, but doing so anyway knowing His Word never returns void.
It’s letting grief question your faith but not letting it take your faith.
Living with grief is normal for many. Perhaps that sweet mama juggling the baby and rowdy hungry kids knows loss too.
Or maybe she holds another type of grief, struggle, or heartache.
Living with grief but going about your day is to live in empathy. It’s knowing there are others living split days just like you.
Living with grief is to accept its existence. It’s to acknowledge that you will always grieve because you will always love. It’s knowing the grief is the only way you get to love the ones who aren’t with you.
It’s accepting that you can never be who you were. You are a new you. Better in many ways, but bruised and broken too.
It means your heart is softer for so many things, but it’s also hardened over other things.
To live in grief after losing a child, after losing pregnancies, is to live knowing that life has no guarantees.
It’s to be reminded to live in the moment because tomorrow, grief could very well swallow you.
It’s knowing that next October, grief will have its day again, but it still won’t have my life.