17 September 2011

And Everything After {A Photo Reflection}

Anyone who has grieved someone they love can tell you: grief isn't easy. It's some of the hardest work you will ever do. It is intense, unpredictable, and though it does have its stages, they are hardly linear. You can find yourself traveling back and forth and in between denial and anger and bargaining and acceptance and depression any number of times along the way and sometimes, several times in one day.

It's utterly exhausting. And in many ways, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

After a night of many tears :: January 10, 2011

Natural human tendency tends to be to protect ourselves from pain whenever we can. Perhaps if I had held back and loved less, or attempted to convince myself that none of it really ever happened, or that none of it mattered, I could have made it easier on myself. Perhaps, as one anonymous commenter noted two months after Ewan's death, I should "just get over it already." You know, snap out of it. Sweep it under the rug and put it behind me.

Yeah. Because it's just that easy: to have a child, give your heart to him completely, watch him die in your arms, and then skip along through life as though it never happened. As if it were just a bad dream I could shake off. As though denying reality were the way to get on with life. As though my heart weren't every bit as broken as his.

I've struggled to find words for my friends who haven't lost children, and even more for those who don't have children at all to try and describe what it feels like to be pregnant, give birth to a child, and bury him three weeks later. For a long time, I couldn't find anything that would even come close. But in a moment of revelatory contemplation I realized quite clearly that it is a taste of hell. I say this without the least hyperbole or exaggeration. There is nothing like a mother's love for her child. Experiencing separation and loss is exquisite torture. There is nothing like nurturing a life from its very beginning only to watch him suffer and to see his life slip through your fingers in its infancy -- and you with all your protective instincts are utterly powerless to stop it. I became one of the many mothers who had all the attendant instincts and no child to care for, and I can't deny the reality that it is a taste of the agony of hell, pure and simple.

And it feels like it will never, ever end.

But. But ...

don't give up.
January 13, 2011

But life does come again, slowly. It dips a toe inside to see how you adjust to its ripples. It can't be forced. It can feel like a betrayal somehow of the one you lost. But experiencing life again doesn't mean forgetting or betraying, or even that in moving on, you don't also continue to feel your loss acutely. It's not an either/or proposition. I believe that after your heart shatters like that, when the pieces start to be stitched back together again, your heart grows bigger. When it does, you find you have the capacity for both at the same time: loss and life, joy and pain, laughter and tears. You can hold onto the trauma that shattered you and continue to mourn it, and also find that you're grateful for how it has taught you to feel more deeply, to love more fully, to embrace the present moment -- in fact, to live out of love instead out of fear or bitterness or denial.

And that's why I say here on the blog header: (and life again). Because life can come back, and it will. Where Ewan is concerned, I know I'll be nursing a broken heart for the rest of my life. I'm under no illusions about that. I also know that in that time, I'll find a greater capacity for joy and life than I ever dreamed was possible. I know it because I have. Even as I weep for the son I buried, I find absolute delight in his healthy baby sister who is so incredibly vibrant and full of life. In my one heart I hold unspeakable grief and pure, unmitigated joy.

January 30, 2011

And I intend to embrace them both.

* * * * *

This concludes the Photo Reflection series leading up to Ewan's first birthday which is tomorrow (9/18)! Please come back tomorrow morning to share in my tribute to recognize and celebrate Ewan's first birthday. Many thanks to all of your for the faithful ways in which you've cared for Ewan and allowed him into your hearts. Thank you for following our journey and honoring our son with us. I've got the best readers in the world!

Also ... for those of you who might be interested, I'm making another appearance on Catholic radio live today (yikes!!) from 2-4 pm ET to talk about Ewan's life in relation to our faith and spiritual journey. You can find your local station at EWTN.com > Radio > Stations (AM/FM or Sirius Satellite), or you listen live from the website by clicking on the "LISTEN LIVE" link on the right-hand sidebar. If you're not able to tune in today but still want to listen, the show will be archived and available for listening within a day or two of airing. Wish me luck!!