30 October 2010

Both/And

Grieving, at least as we experience it now, is not an either/or proposition. It is never entirely one thing or the other. It is both/and, meaning: it is not all tears and sadness. It is not all bitterness.

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.

11 comments:

Vanessa/NessieNoodle said...

you have such a gift with words Kirsten.
this is a beautiful post and so true, it isn't all tears, but it isn't butterflies and unicorns either.
finding that balance and being okay with where ever you are at in the moment is what is important.
xo

christianne said...

It's beautiful -- and has been beautiful all along -- to watch you navigate through this. Your continued honesty is so compelling. It brings me closer to the heart of Christ.

I love you.

hopeannfaith said...

What Christianne said...
I describe myself as a writer, it's what I do, it's my heart, my calling, my gift. Yet, when I am here, with you and your precious gift and the gifts of those around you, I pale. I am glad to be around such grace and eloquence.

Your words, my dear are like the sharpest of cutting instruments, they excise effortlessly, almost without pain and then...then the sorrow comes, or the astonishment that it doesn't really hurt just now.

Your words paint the portrait of your Heart.

Blessings and Prayers,
Andrea

Jaycee said...

I love this post. I really do. Thank God for His "peace that passeth all human understanding." May you receive more strength for the journey ahead.

Anonymous said...

Family of Ewan,

What you wrote today is so absolutely true. I feel like you've grabbed some emotions out of me and expressed them better than I can myself.

Hope you don't mind me sharing part of my journey with you. Your words each day help heal me -- they make me think and remember and cry and laugh. I admire your faith even though I have a much more complicated relationship with my mine.

When people ask me "How are you?", there is not a simple answer.

I still have 4 cribs up, even though 2 will never be used. I am so incredibly lucky that my boys are here and yet so very sad that my girls aren't.

Yes, I'm delighted that my son Alex came home from the NICU last week (after 10 weeks) but I'm frustrated/sad that his brother Nathan is still there. While some folks would look at Nathan's baby ostomy bag and be sad, I look at it and am so grateful that this emergency surgery saved his life. (And his ostomy will be temporary and be reversed at some point.)

I feel happy, sad, excited, humbled, grateful, frustrated, joyful, bittersweet all at the same time. I can be grateful for what I have while still missing what I lost. Mostly, I put one foot in front of the other and do the best that I can since so little in life is really under our control.

With love, prayers and hope
Maria

Rebecca said...

Amazing! Kirsten, you are amazing. You have such a Christlike beauty about you. And, it is in both your laughter and your tears, the posts that make me sob and the posts that make me smile, that I see Christ reflected radiantly through you.

With love and prayers (and this time smiles),
Rebecca

Kristine said...

I'm learning much from you, and can also often relate. After Cora's visitation, we had every one over and laughed and had fun. At first, I almost felt guilty. But, then I realized that Cora brought me closer to certain people at that time. Whatever you're feeling, it's quite alright. xo

Nadine said...

Great Post! I'm happy that you've had so many people to love you through all of this :)

felmleyfam said...

thankful for this post. thankful to the Lord for answered prayer, healing, and help amidst each day, hour and moment.

deb said...

it always feel like a gift... this writing you are doing.

Connie said...

hi. just wanted to say that i've thought much about you and your family in the loss of your precious baby, Ewan, and it's good to hear that you all are grieving and healing. babies are such precious little people in my heart, and Ewan has touched many hearts including mine. there is a song that i often think of when such precious little lives are gone from their loved ones song by Twila Paris, Visitor from Heaven. i hope i'm not intruding by suggesting you might be blessed by listening to it, if you haven't already. may God be so near to you and guide you through this very difficult time.