I participated in this project a year ago. I was in a very different place a year ago. But you know? It wasn't all that different. I can reread that post and still feel all those same emotions. They're just a little softer now.
So maybe time does help. Right where I am now is one week shy of eighteen months out from the loss of my daughter and 35 weeks pregnant with my second baby.
I was trying to articulate to David the other day exactly how I felt, feeling the Deuce kick and wishing Eliza were here, too. I read this on another blogger's post (Amelia) and I have been borrowing it in my head ever since.
I am happy about all the things in my life that I can control.
It seems like a pretty accurate way to sum things up right now.
When people ask how I'm feeling, I mostly say "Fine" and I mean it. Physically, I'm fine. Emotionally, I think I'm doing as well as can be expected. I guess I'm fine. Sometimes I even feel lucky, which I never would have believed as possible.
The idea of happiness is still something I struggle with. How to be both happy and sad. How to reconcile the bitter with the sweet. How much I wish things were different, how glad I am that we've gotten to where we are.
So much of the heaviness has lifted. Grief isn't suffocating me. It can still blindside me, tears still come so easily, there is still nothing I wouldn't do to change things and get her back. But it doesn't hurt to be alive the way it did for so long. Ordinary life is enjoyable again, and there was such a long time when I didn't believe that would be possible. I can't believe that my sense of humor is still intact, that it's possible to have fun again.
The bland, gray world that seemed to be all that was left without Eliza, has sparkle and flavor again. It's not without darkness and shadows (how could it be, when I miss her so much?), but there are more bright moments than dark ones. I feel like I am living instead of just going through the motions. Eliza is still right there with me, but it truly feels more like a presence than an absence. She's the daughter I love, not just a gaping hole in my life. I miss her being here, but I also know that she'll never stop being our first baby and a beloved member of our family. And that brings me comfort instead of just sadness.
I feel recalled to life this summer. I don't know what I did last summer. I taught a class. I sobbed my way through my birthday. I fled the country to the wonders of Canada for two weeks. But we didn't go to the farmer's market. We didn't visit green houses and carefully choose new flowers. We didn't eat dinner (and breakfast) out on the deck. We didn't barbecue with friends or invite people to come in town for the weekend. I thought we were functioning, but it was all we could do to get through the day. I forgot what it felt like to have energy, to get excited about little things, to relish life and delight in things like sparkling citrus water and strawberry shortcake.
That doesn't mean that I don't wake up at 4am with a grief and fear that weighs so heavy on me that eventually I can't take it anymore and my sobs wake up David and he wraps his arms around me while my tears and snot make a wet puddle on his chest. Yeah, that still happens. But those days are few, and far between. The hardest thing about right now is the conflation of grief about Eliza and fear about the Deuce. It's hard to separate those emotions, and I feel conflicted about the way they seem to twist together and overlap.
I've said it before and I'll say it again and again: there are no silver linings. There is no lesson great enough to justify the loss of the baby we wanted and loved so much. But I am so appreciative of the gifts we've received because of Eliza, of the people who have reached out to us in kindness and in friendship. And I feel now like I can try to give something back sometimes.
The biggest difference between now and a year ago may be that eighteen months out is long enough that I can look up from my pain and interact with the world around me. It's long enough that I can talk about Eliza without crying, and the Deuce has actually made it easier for me to do so. What I've found is that I'm not the object of pity and wonder that I feared I would be. Instead, Eliza is a connection I share with anyone who has lost someone they love dearly. Because of Eliza, I've heard stories of death and loss and sadness that would otherwise have been hidden. I never expected to enter this world of shared tragedy and empathy and understanding, and I certainly wouldn't have traded my daughter's life to get here. But I'm honored that people trust me with those stories, that they see me as someone who can listen and understand in a world that wants to ignore grief and sweep it aside. I know that they only do so because of Eliza. And, surprisingly, it doesn't feel like a burden when someone shares their story with me. It feels like a gift.
Yesterday we bought a baby swing for the Deuce right before we visited the park where we have a memorial brick for Eliza near the Angel of Hope statue. The park was gorgeous and blooming, and a cardinal fluttered around us, which always makes us think of David's grandpa. It was a day of preparing and remembering. It was happy and sad. I cried and I laughed. I felt overwhelmed with love for both my Baby Ducks.