Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I thought that I'd been sad before.

I am nearly eight weeks out from Eliza's death and I am already realizing that some of the shock has worn off.  Some of the sharpest raw edges have already softened a little.  The blinding darkness, the paralyzing pain, these have already lightened enough that I can go out in the world without shattering completely.  This surprises me even though I realize it's inevitable.  I know it would be impossible to live in that immediate state of grief forever.  I will begin to accommodate her loss into my life in order to keep living without her.  I feel it happening already, no matter how much I hate it and want to resist it.

And, make no mistake, I do hate it.

The thing is, the terror and fear and anguish I felt after her sudden, shocking loss is slowly being replaced by something else.  A deep, quiet, pervasive sadness.

So maybe life isn't black and jagged anymore.  Maybe it will turn gray and the edges will soften.

But who the hell wants a gray life?

I told David last night that I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Only I've moved in the reverse order--from the dazzling technicolor beauty of Oz to the gray plains of Kansas.

So maybe I'm not mad with grief and no longer sobbing for hours everyday.  Maybe I'm getting dressed and applying water proof mascara and leaving the house and going through the motions of teaching and maybe it's even going well some days.

But I am constantly, permanently, continually sad.  I see no possible way to break this pattern.  No child will ever replace Eliza, no prayer will ever bring her back to me. 

It's a quieter sadness, but it has a grip on me that I just don't think will ever let go.  I just don't see what life could look like without this sadness.  I understand that grief won't always be as painful as it is this very moment, that waking up every morning won't always be an agony, but the problem is that the "improved" version of this condition just means an acceptance that my baby is dead and I will never get her back and my life will always be worse than it was before.

I used to look forward to everything.  Life was about making progress--finishing a degree, getting a new job, making more money, taking on a new project.  The future held promise of more and better everything.

But now I just feel like all I can look forward to is moving up from the blackest bowels to grief to the looming plateau of gray, unending sadness.

When I have mentioned this to people--how impossible it is to look forward, how all of my plans have been slashed to pieces, how Eliza was my plan and now I can't stand the thought of entertaining an alternative plan--I get variations of the same reply:  "Just take it a day at a time."  I happen to hate taking it a day at a time.  I want to live in the present and look forward to the future.  I don't want to focus on surviving one minute at a time.  But I do this, because there's nothing else to be done.  Day by day.  Hour by hour.  Breath by breath.  Do you know how much it freaking sucks to live like that?  I imagine it's like an extended prison sentence.  If you actually think about it, if you really try to wrap your head around what it means to be in jail for twenty years, you'll go crazy.  So you live a day at a time.  It's a miserable way to eke out survival. 

I have been assured by trustworthy sources (David, my therapist, my friend Sarah, my mom, and others) that this is plateau of everlasting grayness is not actually true.  That it will be possible for life to sparkle again and that maybe I'll even return to living in technicolor.  There will be other issues that come with that (guilt, mostly), but according to these reliable sources, some day I will reach a point where Eliza is a tender, treasured part of my life instead of a dreadful atomic bomb of a loss.

At this point, I remain skeptical.  I know for certain there is no returning to Oz for me.  I have seen the man behind the curtain, you know?  Life will never be quite what it was before.  But does this mean that I'm stuck in the black and white and gray Kansas of Sadness for ever?

Maybe I can have a technicolor life in a different movie.  One shot in high definition.  No longer the feel-good family film, I'm afraid.  This new movie has a more complicated script and well-developed characters and the kind of storyline that makes you cry buckets and a happy ending is by no means guaranteed.  It's definitely not the kind of movie I wanted my life to be, but obviously I got cast in the angsty independent film when I thought I was auditioning for the lead role in a romantic comedy.

(This metaphor is getting a little out of control. I'm starting to imagine casting myself in a film and wondering if maybe in the movie version of my life I could have a British accent because I've always wanted to be British.  Off topic, I realize.)

So as I feel kind of suspended between the darkest horror of the early grief and the lighter gray of later grief, I understand all too well the conflict that others in this position have expressed--a desire for time to speed up, to put more space between me and this loss, to make the pain more bearable and the days not so dark and at the same time a reluctance to move forward because every step I take away from that day I held her, every inch I loosen the grip of this grief, with every glimmer of light that jostles away the darkness, I move further away from Eliza.  And--even if there are a million reasons why that's not really true--this thought breaks my heart all over again.

So yeah.  Things still pretty bleak and gray around here.  I miss living in Oz, even if it was just a fantasy land.


  1. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I'm living in the gray sadness now as well almost 4 mo out. I don't see it lightening any time soon. You described it perfectly. :(

  2. Yeah, sometimes I wonder if the sadness will ever leave, but it kind of feels permanent, like a tattoo. You get used to it, somehow. Remembering Eliza with you.

  3. "I used to look forward to everything. Life was about making progress--finishing a degree, getting a new job, making more money, taking on a new project. The future held promise of more and better everything."

    I used to be like that. And I miss that person. But she's gone now. Probably forever. But maybe it won't be like that for you.

    You are right, it is like an extended prison sentence, because your little girl is gone, and she will never come back. And that knowledge and pain and sadness will be with you forever. Even if you have more children, they won't be her.

    Hopefully there will be something joyous to come in your life. I hope so for you.

  4. I still have grey days. I think they're always there, hovering in the wings until they get to take centre stage again. (Am I mixing metaphors here??) But they do get further apart &/or shorter in length. Eventually. (((hugs)))

  5. It's hard to move away from your child, I know. Every day in that first year is one day further from the one you want. After that, for me, it started to hurt less. I still can't believe it's 7 years, but I AM out of the gray plains of Kansas. It's going to be a very long time before you are in Oz, a changed Oz, but the technicolor will come back.

    Hang in there.

  6. eight weeks. it's nothing. nothing at all. it's 14 months for me, and it seems like both forever and no time at all.

    feeling happy again sucks, because it DOES bring up guilt and pain and sorrow that the rest of your life won't be entirely filled with misery. but, it happens.

    thinking of you xx

  7. I too know exactly how you are feeling. Yesterday was Love's one month birthday. I was on my way to go skiing with my husband. As usual, I was filled with anxiety for doing something "normal". I cried for the whole half hour drive to the mountain, tears just streaming down my face. Sometimes sobbing, sometimes just sad - but always the tears. My hubby asked "are these tears because you feel we are leaving her behind?", and I knew that he got it. And you get it. You are feeling it too. I want to wallow in the misery, but I also want to try and find a new life of some sort. we ended up having a good day, but my mind was on her the whole time, on every turn, on every hill. It was so beautiful on the mountain, but it wasn't lost on me that the only reason I could ski that day was because she wasn't here. I should still be pregnant. I should NOT be skiing.
    I do feel like ever normal thing I do is one step away from the moment I was holding her.
    I get what you are saying, and for both of our sakes, I hope it does get better. I don't need technicolour. I just need "not this". I think I might be rambling... Just know that I know how you feel.