“Good grief!” – Charlie Brown, Peanuts
Grief. The word has been constantly lulling in my mind. Grief is hard, painful… but good? I am not so sure I’m with Charlie on this one. I’ve experienced grief in so many different ways in my life: the loss of many family and friends to death, E’s premature birth, the loss of a “typical” first year for E, and many, many other situations.
Grief feels familiar to me, like an old acquaintance you see at the grocery store and avoid making eye contact as to not be obligated to start an awkward conversation with him/her. I know the “stages” well: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I know that grief doesn’t work in a straight line, that stages can be extended, and can be repeated… numerous times. I know these things. I can recite them, I remember each stage of each bout of grief vividly. I have a very firm grasp on them. However, with E’s diagnoses, this grief is different. It is powerful. It is crippling. It is unlike anything I’ve known before. This grief is a stranger. This grief is the lurking person on the Metro you stand up and sit away from. There is no familiarity here.
This grief strikes in the middle of a laugh with my husband. When he jokes about needing to keep an eye on E’s cell phone for boys and swearing she won’t have a cell phone until she drives… we begin to giggle until reality smashes into us. Those are most likely not realities for E… dating… driving… And it is like the air has been sucked out of my lungs. The life we had imagined for her, are still imagining for her, isn’t going to happen. Ben won’t get to teach her to drive and I won’t listen to her giggling and chatting about her crush. This grief steals away laughter.
This grief comes in the middle of play dates, when other babies begin to sit… crawl… stand… walk… run… laugh… speak words… sentences… paragraphs… Each milestone that every baby reaches while E falls behind is a new, fresh, grief-filled stab wound. Those babies reach their milestones effortlessly, naturally, and adorably, as they should… while E struggles at therapy 5 times a week to not be able to sit at 16 months old. This grief is a silent grief: the kind that lessens a smile, inhibits a cuddle and steals a joy.
This grief is an ocean. There are calm parts, safe parts, stormy parts, and shark-infested parts. There are lonely parts, connected parts, and lonely-connected parts. The waves are huge, and often swell unexpectedly. The result is typically a night spent in tears and prayer. I know that this is natural, expected, and needed. But the depth and breadth of all that the diagnoses mean are continuing to hit us in terrible bouts. There are so many questions, yet many “certain”, heart-wrenching things that await us.
I am still searching for the “good” in this grief. I will let you know when I find it.
There is no physical form of closure with this grief: there is nothing to bury or burn. There is an entire lifetime of moments of grief that we cannot have closure for. Our grief is ever-present, ever-lurking and will continue to be. Yes, as years go by the swells may lessen, but they will still rise on occasion. I yearn for the day that when they rise, I can sit down and say, “Oh, hello old friend. You won’t be staying for long. I’ve got better things to do.”