It will be four years tomorrow.
I've experimented with a lot of grief analogies, seeking a way to describe or at least try to understand myself what I'm feeling.
I keep coming back to the Mary Oliver poem that says
"It's not the weight you carry
but how you carry it--
books, bricks, grief--
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it
when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."
Four years out, I've gotten good at balancing my grief. It's heavy as hell, but I've learned to carry it, to balance it, to make space for it without letting grief crowd out the joy in my life.
But in early December, I stumble.
I lose my balance.
I fight to get it back, and most days this week I was pretty good at carrying a two-year-old, an almost-four-month-old, and the ghost of their would-be-four-year-old sister.
But other days I forget how to balance this heavy, heavy grief, while I'm also supposed to be carrying the holiday countdown and grocery shopping and tree decorating and Christmas crafts and normal routines. It feels like too much, like I'm off-center, and suddenly the weight of grief is crushing me.
This means I go back to moments I don't want to relive, but that I can't stop thinking about because they are the only moments I got with her. The regret and the guilt and the sadness bubble up and among all the sparkle and the blessings and the happiness of the holiday season with two little girls here at home. And when that happens, I'm overwhelmed with sadness and grief. I miss my four-year-old girl. I still miss her so much.
I miss her the way you miss a chance not taken, a missed opportunity, a regret not of what you did, but of what you didn't do, what you should have done, what might have happened. What you'll never know. What you'll always wish you could do over.
I miss her with guilt for what I should have done and could have done and might have done and didn't do and didn't know. I fear that I failed her and even though I would argue with a friend who said she felt the same ("Of course it's not your fault..."), my heart just can't quite let it go.
I miss her with anger that has no where to go, no specific direction. Impotent fury at God, at the universe, at my luck, at our fate, at the unfair brutality of statistics that fall randomly instead of predictably (as though predictable tragedy is preferable to arbitrary tragedy). I'm angry at everything and nothing. I'm angrier now than I was at first, as though I'm circling back to that particular state of grief (of course, because we know grief is not linear, no matter how much we wish it were).
I miss her with self-pity, because seriously: "Why me? Why us? Why our baby?"
I miss her with judgment and fury at the people who have and keep healthy children, only to mistreat or neglect them.
I miss her with a gnawing jealousy of the people who have and keep healthy children and live lives untouched by this kind of loss.
I miss her with embarrassment and shame for not being smart enough or intuitive enough to know she was dying inside me.
I also miss the person I would have been if she were here--stupider, simpler, more naive, yes, but mostly a mama who got to bring her first baby home from the hospital. A person who fully embraced the cheesy splendor of the Christmas season instead of crying every time we decorate. A person who knew little of dead babies and broken hearts. A person who believed that things work out in the end because that's just the way things work. A person who could host baby showers and squeal over pregnancies. A person who didn't feel set apart from her peers, marked as different among even her closest friends. I miss being that person, and yet I almost can't remember who she was anymore.
I miss Eliza with the poignant awareness that if we hadn't lost her, we wouldn't have these two girls we have now, and the simultaneous understanding that even abundant recompense does not really make up for a unique and perfect little girl who is not here.
I couldn't trade these girls to get her back, and yet it's equally unfathomable and sickening to me that I had to give up Eliza in order to get her sisters.
Oh, how I miss the baby I dreamed of snuggling, the little girl that I should have been able to watch grow up. I miss her smile and her laughter and her first steps and her first words and her first teeth and her first day of school, and all the other firsts that never happened and never will.
But mostly I miss her. My first baby. My grown up four year old girl. Eliza.