Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three Years Later: Living Now

"We find a place for what we lose.
Although we know that after such a loss
the acute stage of mourning will subside,
we also know that a part of us shall remain inconsolable
and never find a substitute.
No matter what may fill the gap,
even if it is completely filled,
it will nevertheless remain something changed forever..."

-- Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939)

It's been three years since Zachary was born and died. Three long and crazy, up and down, painful and joyful life-living years. We've taken up projects. We've taken vacations. We've had both challenges and celebrations in our marriage and as parents. We've had two more losses. We've had a baby. Life has indeed gone on, but to my heart, no time has passed at all since the day my body refused our son. The stagnancy of my heart in relation to the passage of time made this anniversary the most peculiar of all.

In a way that I'm sure was not meant to be insensitive, this year James asked if we'll always release balloons -- even on his 42nd birthday? Evidently, that's a lot of balloons. Moreover, the kids are confused about how they should feel when we all go out to celebrate their dead brother, though we specifically tell them feeling any way about Zachary's death, even feeling nothing at all, is absolutely fine. And it is fine, but it does hurt my heart when their "feeling nothing at all" turns into incessant requests to go to a restaurant for lunch, entirely disregarding what we're doing.

I don't know what we'll do to honor Zachary thirty-nine years from now. With my family history, there's a good chance I'll be in a grave of my own by then. Clearly, the future is entirely out of my hands. What I do know is if I'm living, I will do something. I won't let a day pass without recalling the child who changed me so. I do feel quite sure, though, that this year was the last year that we'll do something specific with the children (unless they ask to participate). Also, because he seems entirely ready to move on, this may be one of the last years I do something specific with James. We'll see...

As for this year, we recalled Zachary's birthday by taking the kids to a field near a lovely little church and cemetery where we talked about loss and grief and Zachary in particular, then we released three brightly-colored star balloons. Matthew insisted the strong winds were going to take them out, but they made their journey safely out of sight.

The rest of the day was spent in normalcy -- running errands, doing chores, having that lunch at a restaurant -- and to me, that felt terrible, discourteous. I felt like in many ways we dishonored our dead baby, and we dishonored that part of innocent me that died along with him, but what did I expect? Life has gone on and even our family -- the group of people most affected by this loss -- has stuff to do on a Sunday afternoon. Such division between yesterday and today! So challenging to contend with.

The next day, Monday, the anniversary of his death -- I spent that day almost entirely alone. James was at work and the Gracie and Bub were at school, so Brystol and I spent the day wandering around my favorite antique mall in near silence (Brystol ate puffs and napped, I wandered). That, for me, was a much better dealing-with-grief sort of day. I was able to sit in silence, reflect in peace, recall the events of that day and the days that followed without having to do or be anything for anyone else. I needed Monday. I also found a lovely sampler at the antique mall. It reads, "With this you see, remember me" -- a perfect reminder for recollection.

I haven't entirely figured out the right way to deal with this grief in light of my present life. Though friends have moved on and my family is moving forward, this deep sense of loss is still a part of my everyday. But, the past cannot be changed. This grief is part of my story, like it or not. I deal with it, I embrace it, I allow it to be woven into the fabric of my life without allowing it to be the sum of my life. Who, but God, knows what the next year will bring or how, when the day arrives, we'll honor the memory of the baby we never brought home. To quote Emerson, "With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now."

"Everyone can master a grief, but he that has it."
-- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, scene 2

"Given a choice between grief and nothing, I'd choose grief."
-- William Faulkner (1897 - 1962)

candle photo credit: punkmarko, other photos mine.


  • amy

    You have such an amazing way with words, Amanda. Someday when you join him in heaven, Zachary will be able to experience a full relationship with you - his mom - the wonderful woman that bore his precious body & loves him completely and without end. Until then, we will remember his all-too-short life here on earth...

  • Randi

    Regardless of how you spend these days, I think the remembering speaks volumes about the impact he had on your life in those short hours. You only pause to remember those that truly touched your life and that you loved deeply ... hence the grief that joins those remembrances. Your reflections are beautiful.

    I love seeing the pictures of Brystol in the midst of the day ... full of life and smiles and completely untouched by grief.

  • Heather D'Amico

    I love you, sister.

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  • Mrs. Owen of Yorktown

    Thank you for posting this, sweetheart. My daughter never made it full term, but I know that feeling of joy living in the same space with sorrow. You are beautiful. Thank you again for sharing this.

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