Over the last 11 months, I have found myself reaching out to women I know who are further along in their mourning process. It doesn’t matter if our losses are similar, because grief is specific to each of us. As I negotiate this life, the guiding hands of those who have gone before hold me when I am stumbling. One wise friend told me she now sees people as a kind of Venn diagram: In section A are those who have had a devastating loss; section B contains those who haven’t (yet); and the overlap, section C holds those who haven’t but are willing to venture into a deeper understanding of what it must feel like.
When grief first knocks at our door, there are great outpourings of love and support. Gradually it fades away and we are left to our own devices, to our own processes, to our own sadness. We belong to group A in that diagram and it slowly becomes clear where everyone else stands.
My husband has his own moments of mourning our son, though they are less frequent and less obvious than mine. This makes sense. He is able to hold me when I cry, as hard as it is for him, because he has learned that this is how I process the pain. Though it is not his way, he understand that it is mine.
My daughter wants her mama to smile, to laugh, to play with her. She watches me closely. She speaks of her brother – less often now – but she is a child. It will only be later, as she grows, that she will begin to understand what this experience means and how it will shape her life.
My parents have their own moments of sadness, though we don’t speak of them often. My in-laws too, hold their eleventh grandchild in their hearts. We give and receive the support we can, loving and forgiving each other for our strengths and weaknesses.
It is with friends that I have seen the biggest changes. Most of those who know loss or are willing to taste it are able to hold space in their lives for me and my ups and downs. Those on the B side want things to return to some semblance of the way they used to be. They have no idea the energy it takes to recover, to stand on two feet after being knocked flat. It seems they want me to do what I did, be who I was and I cannot. I’ve tried.
I do not wish to be that person anymore. I like the new me, though she is not always graceful, has plenty of rough edges and falls apart on a regular basis. I like the way I’ve grown and many of the changes that have come. Most importantly, I accept the new me, in a way I’ve never accepted myself before. This, in turn, allows me to let go of judgments that have held me captive for a long time. It is like shedding a weighted skin. I am raw, born anew, learning to walk again.