Friday, May 27, 2011

Right Where I Am: 5 Months, 3 Weeks

I am writing this post as part of the project started by Angie at Still Life With Circles.  Accounting for where I am in this moment shouldn't be that difficult, considering that's sort of been the point of this blog all along.  It's recorded where I was at various moments since 2008.  Worrying about my dissertation.  On vacation.  Celebrating something.  Embarrassing myself and laughing about it later.  Expecting a baby.

Now, I'm trying to make sense of where I am five months and three weeks into whatever this is.  Grief.  Mourning.  Sadness.  Life.

It's been like living in a time warp.  The days are long.  The weeks are short.  These months have felt like an eternity because I feel like I have aged a million years since December 6th.  I can recall those hours in the hospital as though they just happened yesterday--in vivid detail that makes the bile rise in my throat.  The gleeful, smug happiness of my pregnancy feels much farther away.

I think that I should make Eliza's death mean something more than great sadness.  It should teach me what it means to be truly alive.  How it feels to be continually astonished by the beauty and destruction in this world.  Grateful for the people who support me, the comforting things that surround me.  The connections I've made with strangers who have become confidants almost overnight.  Crying this hard, this long, means that I'm living.  I'm right in the thick of it and I'm struggling to make meaning out of a loss that, by all rights, should have simply done me in.

The thing is, I don't feel one bit like the wise woman who can speak of the way my daughter's death taught me what it means to love.

Mostly I feel like the whiny brat who wants to scream "UNFAIR!  DO OVER!  I WANT MY BABY!"  Oh, God.  Do I ever want that baby.

Oh, and I will scream it.  Except it doesn't do a bit of good, and it kind of stresses David out.

I've moved from zombie on my sofa, crying buckets of tears, my body wracked with heaving sobs I can't control, to, five months and three weeks later, a mostly functioning person whose tears are close to the surface but usually kept appropriately in check.  I find myself laughing.  I make David laugh.  I have moments that feel so good I can't believe it.  I can't believe this happened to us.  I can't believe we are two ordinary people whose baby died just when she should have started to live with us.  It's impossible.

Except the truth of it hurts my heart.  All the time.

It's not just in my head.  It's not something that I can turn on and off at will.  Yes, I can function better now, keep my tears to myself most of the time.  But sometimes it's the biggest thing I've ever felt, and there's nothing I can do to escape it.  It has nothing to do with willpower or mental attitude.  It's an anguish that knows no bounds.

I'm grateful for my friends who have not let this pain scare them away and who promise me that they're not going anywhere even though the give-and-take of friendship has me just taking these days.  I'm grateful for my mom, who has the astonishing ability to never say or do the wrong thing when it comes to Eliza.  And for my dad, who hugs me tighter every time he sees me.

I'm disappointed in the few people who have taken my sorrow and made it about them, about their life experiences, about what they believe, about what makes them uncomfortable.  I know I'm lucky those people are so few.

I'm in awe of the people I know in real life who were where I am fifty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago.  Who remain vibrant and kind and interesting and happy people.  It gives me hope that I won't become a broken shell of my former self.

I don't think I'm doing a good job of articulating where I am now.  I'm not sure this is at all coherent.  Which seems appropriate.  I'm kind of incoherent these days.

Right now, I'm scared.  I'm scared of trying to have another baby.  I'm scared of losing David to some random, unforeseeable accident.  I'm scared of losing everyone I love.  I'm a reasonable person who can't abide by probability or statistics.  I can feel God sometimes, but I have a hard time praying.  I don't sleep as well as I used to, but I am sleeping.  And eating.  And vacuuming.  And ironing.  These tasks were impossible for a while; they're more manageable now.  I still have days when it's all I can do to drag myself out of bed, and I cry almost all day long. But these are fewer, and further between.

Today, I'm feeling more like my old self.  I'm actually interested in this little project of redecorating my living room.  I'm doing more reading and less TV watching.  I have more energy.  I can think about the future more than two days in advance (I'm still not looking too far ahead, though).  I'm taking pleasure in some of the things I used to love--caprese salad, my favorite jeans, a new purse, clean sheets.

I still feel sad, heartbroken, lost, and angry.  But I also feel more wistful these days.  There are still horrible moments of gut-clenching fear and sadness, but there are more moments of a softer kind of longing.  I'd be doing that if Eliza were here.  We wouldn't be making these plans if Eliza were here.  I miss her, but this is now.  I have to make do. 

Maybe this is what they mean by the acceptance stage of grief?  It's not that this will ever be okay, or that I'll ever be better.  But it's starting to feel like maybe, eventually, this could be a sad and tragic part of my story instead of the wrong life all together.

Even as I want to get to that point, I resist that idea.  The possibility of accommodating this huge and terrible thing into life's series of ups and downs, it feels so wrong, like it diminishes how much we loved Eliza, how much we wanted her,  how many plans we had for her.  I know that my love for her doesn't have to be wrapped up in this great pain forever, but right now those two feelings are still mostly inextricable. 

It's been 5 months and 3 weeks.  I'm really, really sad.  I miss my baby girl all the time.  But I'm mostly--surprisingly?--doing okay, a lot of the time.  I don't know how to resolve that contradiction, so I'm just learning to live with it.

P.S.  I should add that, having written this and clicked "publish," I immediately burst into tears.  I am so tired of being introspective and self-reflective and trying to keep my shit together.  Maybe I could have written this post in one word.  How am I, at five months and three weeks?  Tired.  Sick and tired of being so sad and tired.


  1. I remember when pleasure and passion returned to my life again, especially via food. I couldn't have cared less if I ate crap on toast for breakfast lunch and dinner for those first few months, I only ate because I knew I had to. But it was good to finally reclaim some of the former joys in my life.
    I know you think you're incoherent right now, but to me you strike me as someone who has very clear and coherent thought patterns about your life and your grief. I'm not sure I could have managed this clarity at only five months out. So I take my hat off to you.
    The smugness of my pregnancy with Hope feels a million years away now as well. I still yearn for those days and that innocence and still obviously wish it wasn't like this, but I'm doing my best to make good of what is left of my life. And though you're a long way behind me, I can clearly see you're doing the same.
    Missing Eliza today and always.

  2. I was thinking the same thing as Sally--you are very articulate at five months. I wrote then too, but blunt anger defined me, I think. Or it volleyed between anger and fear. I feared the same things you do. It's ironic, because my own blog post would have probably made me bristle, because I did not want to hear anything positive that could come out of Lucia's death. And someone saying their daughter taught them about love might have enraged me. I can't remember exactly. Thank you for participating. Walking through these grief snippets are powerful reminders of the common thread of grief experience, and that we also each process things in our own way. xo

  3. I feel like my grief is the same sort of contradiction. I am happy and ok most of the time and yet still terribly sad.

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  5. I lost my daughter 3 months and 3 weeks ago. Every single word you spoke, I agree with. I find profound comfort in your courage to tell your story. Thank you. Knowing you are weeks ahead of me and can begin to find comfort in the little things brings me hope one day I will as well.

  6. I think I can only echo what Sally and Angie said, I am always in awe of how insightful and thoughtful you are about your grief and sadness when it has only been 5 months. I was still a mess then, spewing anger and tears and nowhere near being able to articulate how Sam's death was anything but wrong, fucked up and unfair. And in lots of ways, it still is those things, but like you said somehow you integrate the grief and sadness into your life. Somehow, I still don't know how. I'm coming up to 3 years so have had time on my side.

  7. This is such a good picture of where you are, and as others have said, so much of this seems familiar. I still cringe at the phrase "silver lining," but it made me want to throw things (heavy things) across the room in the year after Teddy died.

    I'm glad some of your pleasure in life is returning, though I'm sorry it doesn't come easily or without backlash.

    Thinking of you.

  8. I completely agree (per usual), but specifically about the contradiction.

    Everything I write seems to be convoluted and so out of sync from what I wrote about the week prior. Or the minute prior. I can't get my shit together either.

    I love what those first two ladies said-- while we all grief differently and the grief "cycle" is not cyclical at all, it's still a general pattern amongst the general population. Over time, it HAS to get slightly easier. And it is. At least we're not sitting on the couch sobbing anymore. Most of us have sprung to our feet at this point of nearly 6 months. Thank goodness for that. Otherwise we'd all have bed sores. Hah.

  9. The whole thing about articulating... yeah that's how I feel. (although I agree you actually do it very well) In fact I almost didn't post this comment because nothing that comes out of my head, whether it be through my fingers or my mouth, makes any sense to me. Or anyone for that matter. I think that's what keeps me from leaving comments on most of the blogs I read. Keeps me from reaching out to someone that I may feel would really understand and maybe even help me. Keeps me from sending someone an email... I don't know. But yeah, that whole articulating thing. That's so me.

  10. well said. I am so all over the place with my grief. It's been 4 months and 3 weeks for me and and I too am just tired, so sick and tired of being tired. It's nice to read how you are doing being just a month ahead of me in this grief process, although I wish neither of us had to be dealing with this.

  11. Learning to live with it. I think this is probably the best thing any of us can ever hope to do. Doesn't make anything fair or right it just is. Projects are good, I can't wait to see how it turns out. Love to you and Eliza~

  12. I remember feeling like crappity crap crap crap in the earlier days, but still mostly being ok, it doesn't make sense, but I kept telling everyone I was mostly ok, I think I just knew it had to be...I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well, but this post reminded me of how I felt back then, you know doing ok, but it's still really fucking awful.
    Love to you. x

  13. I remember feeling strange functioning at about 5 and a half months, the juxtapose of emotions a rage in me; the love and the pain. You do such a great job of articulating where you are - we get you.

    Acceptance, yes, but more so with me is just learning to cope with carrying both; letting the love remain at the front for my thoughts and letting the pain of loss bubble to the surface when it wants.

    Keeping Eliza in my heart

  14. So much of what you have said here i can completely relate to. God, the friends who stay and the ones who have made this about 'them'.

    It is ok to be tired.. and to be tired of grief. It's all part of a process (and a life) that we never signed on for. So we try to make the bets of what we have in front of us.. and we try to find the strength to keep on keeping on.
    Thinking of you and Eliza....

  15. I can't believe we are two ordinary people whose baby died just when she should have started to live with us.

    Heartbreaking. I wish that it wasn't so.

    I think that grief does strange things to the passing to time and can turn the best of us into whiny brats. For the record, I think you are allowed to have a tantrum or two. If not under these circumstances then when?

    And I'm sorry. It is so very tiring, grieving. Thinking of you and your family, especially your little Eliza xo

  16. So sorry that you lost Eliza. I think this post really gets at the conflicting feelings of grief. After my daughter died I really thought I should make something out of all of this grief energy but, more often than not I'd just stare into the middle distance wondering how this could have happened to her. I never did get around to my big doings.
    I'll echo what some of the other commenters have said about the grieving schedule. Be patient with yourself. Do what feels helpful at the time and ignore the rest.

  17. I'm in awe of the people I know in real life who were where I am fifty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago. Who remain vibrant and kind and interesting and happy people. It gives me hope that I won't become a broken shell of my former self.

    I feel this too, 3 years out. And the sudden weeping, still. But less often, now.

    Thinking of you and your sweet Eliza x

  18. Brooke, I wish I could reach out and give you a hug. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired too. Over a year out and I still have those moments when I just feel exhausted by the grief and by the permanence of it all.

  19. Oh Brooke, I think you just did a beautiful job of explaining right where you are now. Sick and tired was my overwhelming feeling around 5-6-8 months too - a world weariness. But there is other stuff shining through as well - I loved that you said:
    "I'm right in the thick of it and I'm struggling to make meaning out of a loss that, by all rights, should have simply done me in."

    I think the weariness is part of the acceptance - when you realise, as you say "there's nothing I can do to escape it", and so you start allowing yourself to feel it and live with it instead.

    Sending love and thinking of your girl xxh

  20. Hi Brooke,
    I'm here via Angie's project...and want to extend my sincere sympathy over the loss of your daughter, Eliza. After reading this post, I can feel your exhaustion. Your pain. But I can also sense your desire to "live" again. And be happy. Whatever happy looks like now. Your writing is beautiful. Thank you for being honest and sharing your thoughts with all of us. ((hugs))

  21. Thank you, as always, for a lovely post. I wish I could gather all us moms who are sick n' tired together on a tropical island paradise for two weeks. I know it wouldn't take away the pain, but it would be so nice to relax around other people that get it. I often feel exhausted just from keeping it together, keeping it inside, etc. Whew. Thinking of you & your little one this morning. xo

  22. You are, as others have already said, such an articulate writer. It's great to see you participating in this project. : )

  23. I've come from Angie's project. I am so sorry that your little Eliza died (I love her beautiful name). I recognised myself at five/six months in this post - all of it rang so very true, although I doubt I would have been so articulate. I especially understood feeling, not the big life lessons, just an overwhelming sense of the unfairness of a loved baby being ripped from loving parents. I still, 2.5 years out, sometimes (but, less frequently now) wonder how I reconcile the gifts that are in my life because of Emma with the still powerful feeling of frustration that my baby died and nothing can make sense of that.

    Thank you for your post.

  24. I'm so sorry for your loss. Eliza is a beautiful name and you're right, it's not fair at all.

    I really loved this post. It captured the ride of grief so perfectly and honestly. Thanks for sharing. I found this paragraph to be full of truth:

    "Even as I want to get to that point, I resist that idea. The possibility of accommodating this huge and terrible thing into life's series of ups and downs, it feels so wrong, like it diminishes how much we loved Eliza, how much we wanted her, how many plans we had for her. I know that my love for her doesn't have to be wrapped up in this great pain forever, but right now those two feelings are still mostly inextricable."

    Grace and peace to you.