Monday, August 06, 2012

Joy After Loss

There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy -Mark Twain

I don't down own the copy-write to grief. If we are lucky enough to live long enough we lose those we love.

We just do. 

To experience loss is to experience the full palette of human emotion in all its vibrancy and darkness.

When it happens earlier in life it seems shocking. When it happens a little later in life we view it as a sort of phase. We realize we all must face these things at some point. Our friends and family are derailed by tragedies and we wait, watch and help while they go through it. When it happens toward the end of our lives, well, we view it as an inevitable part of the ride; another signal that our time is coming too.

If there is such a thing as scale of loss and I'm not sure there is, mine falls on the lower end. I did not know my baby as a little girl or as a teenager or as a young woman. I never heard her laugh or tucked her in at night. I don't have those memories of her to mourn.

I mourn the possibilities.

I stare at her little empty car seat and imagine buckling her in. I see the empty seat in my truck between my two youngest and visualize her in the middle. I see the empty table place and imagine her high chair there. 

While she is not physically here; she holds a window, a view of what might have been.

If there is a spectrum of grief I cannot begin to fathom the outer edge; losing a child whom I knew, one who colored my life beyond the eight months that I carried mine.  To lose her so young is such a very sad thing.  But is it any different from what we all must face at some point?

As a little girl I had seen such grief in my father, when my parents received a call that my 22 year old half sister had died. I could hear from the hall what sounded like laughter,  but not.  I was five at the time. I had never heard my dad cry. Peeking around the corner into my parent's room; I watched my dad hit his knees with his hands clasped out in front of him. I didn't know what happened but I knew it wasn't laughter I was hearing. The neighbors came by and picked me up “to play”. Hours later I learned what had happened from their kids. And while my father grieved his little girl, my 22 year old sister also had a little girl of her own whose life was upended in ways I cannot imagine.

So clearly I do not own grief. It is public domain. We all own a share.

But mostly what I want to talk about are the little oddities of the experience, the strange places where joy can be found even among such sadness.  I find my emotions don't always "match up" with the store bought variety. I suspect no one's grief squares with what it is "suppose" to be.

I find joy and peace in anything that proves she existed. And in anything that makes me feel she still exists in some way.

Anything that makes her feel real brings me great joy. The photos of us holding her and seeing her little plaster hand cast on the shelf bring me such serenity.  I dream of her at night and sometimes in the dreams she's alive for just a little while and I get to see her eyes. She looks right at me. You would think such a dream would be devastating but to see her looking back at me is such a beautiful experience that I smile when I wake up. It feels like I've been given a small sweet gift.

I have a habit of counting my kids when we're out and about. I do it so often that I don't really hear the numbers anymore. When I've mentally checked them all off, I go right back to what I was doing. If I don't get to the right number, I look to see who is missing and why and then I count again. Ever since the death and subsequent birth of my daughter my brain doesn't feel satisfied when I reach five. My mind rings the someone is missing bell so I start to count again. Mid-way through the second count I realize who is missing and why. 

This brings me joy, an odd bittersweet kind of joy.

It tells me that somewhere beneath the veil of consciousness, my mind  detects her. 

She was really here and somewhere, in some form, she still exists.

It tells me that the empty space  is not really as empty as it seems.  

                           Baby Sonora Rain with Mom, Dad and brothers and sisters


1 comment:

Elizabeth Mcnew said...

I was searching for images to display grief. I am telling my story on Kickstarter in homes of publishing my memoir.
Although I have not suffered through the death of a child, I have suffered through the ambiguous loss of not having my girls physically with me. In a sense I can relate with the small things that bring joy and evidence of existence. Truly beautiful article and I wish you all the best!