04 December 2010

The Possible

We're all mothers here, right?

It was as if a golf ball formed in my throat. At a table of eight women, only one other seated there knew me, knew about Ewan. I placed my hand over my mouth and clenched my eyes shut. I wondered if I should have come. This was my first social outing since Ewan's death and me bursting into tears and running out of the room was most decidedly not how I wanted it to go.

As conversation around the table resumed, I took a few deep breaths and concentrated on the salad in front of me.

I needed to stick this out. I needed to learn how to do this. I was determined not to allow grief to turn me into a recluse.

Earlier that day, I had spent a lot of time in Ewan's room. I can't say if anything in particular drew me there, but there was some tidying up I had long wanted to do and then seemed as good a time as any to do it. I dusted and rearranged, I re-folded clothing and diapers, I wiped down hard surfaces. As I handled the clothes he never wore, and looked at the bulletin boards on the wall that held some photographs, ribbons from baby gifts, and cards full of well wishes, I felt grateful. A deep peace settled into my body and thankfulness filled me.

And here I was now, feeling sad and awkward, emotionally volatile and flighty, wondering how to make conversation with a table full of women I didn't know. My extroverted tendencies had abandoned me utterly. It felt as though I had to relearn how to conduct myself in social situations. I nodded and smiled when conversation pointed my direction, saying as little as possible.

And what about you?

Conversation up until that point had been about their children, and now it was my turn.

My son died two months ago, I said. The words tumbled out of me so indelicately. 

I saw the faces around me change as I told them about Ewan, our time in the hospital, about the roller coaster of everything. I pulled out my husband's phone and showed them a few short videos of Ewan, both before and after his surgery.

It felt good to be invited to talk about him, to share pictures, to shed a few tears with those around me.

And then I learned I wasn't alone. Right there at that same table were one whose son had died more than 20 weeks into the pregnancy, and another whose son was stillborn at full term. There at a table of eight women, three of us had experienced the death of a child. It had been some years for both of them.

I didn't have to struggle with finding the right words to tell them how difficult this time is, because they already knew. They had experienced some of the same cycles of good days and bad, of shock and numbness. They knew what it was to feel emotionally volatile and had experienced the unpredictable and wide ranges of emotion in a single day. They had used some similar coping mechanisms that they feared would make other people think they were crazy. They understood how difficult a night like this could be.

I saw in them something I already knew to expect: you never "get over" it, but you do learn to live with it and to find a new normal. And it might take awhile. I got a glimpse of the life that is possible beyond the rawest of moments: one lived with compassion, one where yesterday's pain leads today's grace and strength.

17 comments:

Sarah said...

I found your blog about a month ago, and you are so inspiring. I lost my little angel a year ago today, and today has been pretty rough for me, even though I now have a beautiful 8 week old daughter. I normally don't comment, but when you wrote "You never get over it, but you do learn to live with it and to find a new normal" it really helped me! You are exactly right. You NEVER get over the loss of a child, but you do move on. My experience was not nearly as awful as yours, I was only 22.5 weeks pregnant. I absolutely cannot imagine feeling worse than I did in my situation, and to know that your experience was so much worse makes me so incredibly sad for you. I don't know you, but you are SO strong and you WILL get through this! Anyway, I just wanted to tell you THANK YOU for this post, it really helped me today.

Anonymous said...

Kirsten,

I imagine there will be moments in the weeks, month and yes even the years to come where the grief will hit you out of nowhere and tears will fill your eyes and softly cascade down your face. You will owe no one an explanation. Grief is such a personal thing. When we lost the baby I was carrying (between our son and daughter) I felt lost for weeks. It has been almost 3 1/2 years now and I still cry on the day the baby should have been born. I still stop and think what that little soul would be doing now.

Peace to you, my friend, peace to you.

Shannon Egan

Sarah said...

I love your courage and grace, and I love it when you tell stories about it because I don't get to see it very much in person. What a gift, both to be invited to share and to hear others' stories. You are not alone, sweet friend . . . never alone with this.

terri said...

i'm glad you found some friends to help you feel less alone. i'm glad you're being tender and wise and patient with your grief. that makes a huge difference. love you dear.

Anonymous said...

It makes me sad that there are so many who have experienced the loss of a child, but I am glad you met these women! It took a little weight off of my heart (especially after reading that last entry). I'm glad you don't have to go through this alone.

Bria

christianne said...

Your words and process continue to touch me deeply, my friend, and I find myself at a loss for words. I've read your most recent letter to Ewan a couple times, and each time I am left breathless and sad and without anything to say except I'm here. I'm reading. Your heart matters.

I'm so glad you share your story here. It moves mountains inside the hearts of many, I can't help but believe.

HennHouse said...

You are so brave...

Alyssa the Ragamuffin said...

Exactly what I was going to say -- You are so brave. I keep reading and I want you to know that I witnessed his life this way and I was changed.

Katie said...

Proud of you and as always, admiring your strength through this. Hopefully your night out and meeting these women helped provide some healing, even if just a tiny bit.

Jamie said...

I am so thankful you found women to love you and remember with you, who know what you are going through. We should all be so lucky!

felmleyfam said...

thanks for sharing
God continues to answer our prayers for you
it is good to see how he answered them in this special way, on this awkward day, yet you were understood and learned from the situation.
oh, grace and strength... and that the Lord says that when we glory in our infirmities the power of Christ rests upon us. there is such privelege in being a child of Gods, His power... on us?! but, it is true. praying that you'd continue to look to Jesus and see that you can glory in your infirmities and only because of God's amazing grace to help you!

Scott R. Davis said...

May you and your husband have God's peace as you prepare for the advent of the Christ Child. May your love for each other and Evan heal the woundedness of those you meet. May you be the salve to the souls you minister to!!!

Papillon Sky Photography said...

I have to chime in too and remark on your bravery. It is good you went outside of your comfort zone and went to this outing. And that you stayed even though you probably wanted to run away. And you told them about Ewan. And look what happened. What a beautiful story!!
My baby died 9 months ago yesterday. I was so incredibly cranky and depressed the last couple of days and couldn't figure out why. My doctor told me to mark my calendar for the 3, 6, and 9 month and 1 year, etc. anniversaries so I would be able to know why I felt so inexplicably sad. I have no room to go to, no photos to go through, but I have two children who will not let me forget they almost had a little sister. They talk about whom she would be lying next to while we're reading stories and that's what kills me. Otherwise, I think I would stuff my sadness away and not let it come out, and that is not healthy at all. You are doing the right thing in your grieving by spending time in his room, looking at photos, etc.
I truly love your honesty with others and willingness to open up to us like this! Thinking of you.
xoxo!!!

Kari said...

this is so beautiful. think of you often.

CHD mommy, Kari

kelh said...

Incredible story! I'm saddened for all of the losses, but it should give you strength knowing your little boy is making friends and living his own life in heaven. Wow, the small world scenerio surfaces again. Prayers for you!

Carolina Carters said...

Wow. Three out of eight. That's a lot...

God gives you just what you need, exactly when you need it. How fitting that he put you in a crowd of women who could truly understand what you're feeling on your first 'night out'.

Always praying for you!

The Hands said...

Kirsten, I'm so glad God allowed this little healing moment in your life. I'm proud of you for being willing to get out there and share with others.
Angie