|My sister getting silly the night after Ewan's funeral.|
After Ewan's funeral, all our family and some close friends came to our apartment -- by far, it has been the most people we have ever fit into this space. We had food leftover from the funeral reception, and my brother and sister-in-law brought a few bottles of wine for everyone. We talked, we laughed. We had fun. We all actually had fun together, even if at times, it was through teary eyes. I remember looking around the room several times that evening and smiling, feeling warm and loved and happy that everyone was there.
Yes, I said happy.
And even now, our movement through life is not all sadness. We have friends over, and sometimes those friends bring their babies and small children. We want them there. We talk, we laugh. We look at pictures of Ewan and we smile. We miss him, remember him, and talk about him without falling into a heap of tears for a simple reason: as sad as we are that he is no longer with us, he made us smile. He makes us smile.
Answering the question "How are you?" is inevitably complex. I don't know if it's human nature, this desire to make things simple that cannot be simplified, or an inability to hold paradox, but it really is both. It is laughter, and it is tears. It is sad, and it is happy. It is bitter, and it is sweet. It is never entirely one or the other. And to be honest, most days even now, the smiling and the laughter exceeds the tears and sadness. It does not mean we have forgotten, or that we have repressed. It does not mean we have "gotten over."
We experienced grief for Ewan before he was born, not because we had any idea of what would happen, but because we knew our experience would be nothing like what anyone hopes for when they are expecting a child. We had time to be saddened, to be angry, and to learn to accept that our experience with Ewan would be absolutely nothing like what we had hoped or wanted -- for him, or for us.
I think that is what this is for us, this "both/and" in our grief: an acceptance of the outcome, of all the tension and complexity that it brings, of letting laughter in, even while knowing tears will likely come again. Living with loss is an experience that is neither linear nor contained, nor is it predictable. One experience is not identical to the other. I might cry, I might laugh, I might smile with tears in my eyes. I might be angry, or I might go through a whole day without crying at all -- even if that is not what I expect.
It can be a bit of a mess, really -- and that's okay. It really is.