5 weeks+ 4 days pregnant
Today my shoes fell apart- that’s my actual shoes and not my metaphorical shoes. Since the day we lost Nieve, I’ve been wearing only that one pair of boots and in a way they’ve become familiar and comforting. They’ve also walked with me during some of the most significant moments of my life these last few months. They walked with me into the hospital on the fateful day I had to go in and birth my sleeping angel, they walked with me to the registery office when I was tasked with the anguish of registering both Nieve’s birth and death, they walked with me through the heartbreak of my beautiful baby’s funeral. They walked with me when I took the tentative steps to enter the world again after losing Nieve. They walked with me when I reached out for counselling and to support groups. They walked with me to buy the pregnancy test I took last weekend…They’re worn out, and so I found a new pair. It feels symbolic, like the end of one chapter and the start of the next. I’m wearing different shoes now, but the walk feels different too.
In the beginning I likened grief to a black hole that I’d fallen into. It was cold, dark and desolate and it felt like there was no way out. I was oblivious to the life that went on outside of the hole and it felt insignificant and pointless anyway. Despite the fact that the black hole felt all-consuming, it didn’t exclude me from the rest of life’s upheavals- other stuff got thrown in there with me regardless. In the months after the loss of Nieve we had a house move, a car crash, an emergency hospital visit and a family disagreement. Misfortune makes no exception for the miserable.
I was humbled by the amount of people who found me at that time. Some had navigated their own black holes once in a time and they held candles- symbols of hope that I could survive. Some candles were even held by strangers that I still haven’t met, but whose lights still illuminate brightly for me even today. However, Some people found my black hole uncomfortable and wanted to push me out of it as quickly as possible. Other people thought it best to pretend that the black hole wasn’t there and to distract me with other things. Some people were so terrified of the sheer size of the hole that they avoided it, and me, altogether. Maybe they were afraid of falling in too. Some even set time limits on me getting out of the hole before they lost patience. But there are no short cuts with grief.
I found that although Matthew was with me, his coping mechanisms were very different and he had his own way of navigating in the darkness. At first that felt difficult. We struggled to understand each other’s needs- we were both trying to find the light but I guess we were following different maps. In the end the key for us was to accept that although we were standing in the same hole we each needed to climb out in our unique way.
The black hole felt endless and dark but as time went by I began to notice the light shining in from above. Hope. And slowly, very slowly I made my way towards it. It wasn’t a straightforward climb. Often I would slip back down into the darkness and it would feel hopeless and desolate all over again. But I began to learn where the footholds were and so the progress was quicker each time. People helped guide me along the way, but in the end the journey is one of solitude because although others can show you the way, they can’t climb for you.
Some days I felt in touch with life again. I could feel the rain from above and I could smell the flowers and I felt that life was beginning to find me again. I think the hole will always be there, but my world is beginning to grow around it.
There are people who think that my black hole has gone now, that all my grief work is done, that I’m ‘cured’ by my new pregnancy. But these people have never lost a child, because it isn’t just something you ‘get over’. The new baby is not a replacement for the lost one. I could go on to have a dozen children, but there will always be one missing.
“Although we know that after such a loss, the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else. And actually, this is how it should be. It is the only way of perpetuating that love which we do not want to relinquish”. –Sigmund Frued
However difficult my ‘climb’ with grief is, I remember that it is sacred because it is testament to the love I have for my little girl. And while my life may change- the tears may dry up and the pain may ease and my world may begin to grow again- that love will remain unchanged.
I have learned much from my short journey with grief. I’m learning lessons both from those who’ve helped and hindered my journey. I’m learning to be more tolerant with others knowing that they are only facing my pain with the tools that they are equipped with. I’m learning that nothing is certain, and that that scares the hell out of me but it also makes me cherish life more for each moment. I’m learning how to be more compassionate towards others- I’m not afraid of the pain that other people carry any more because I’ve lived it too. I’m learning how to be resilient in the face of upheaval and that’s a very empowering thing. Finally I’m learning to live with the hole in my heart but I’m striving towards living a life that is, whole.