Grief is a weight. Building enough strength to carry it takes time. Arriving at the point where it can be carried effortlessly, takes even longer.
Being released from a state of grieving does not come by “getting on with things”. It doesn’t come through platitudes or words, no matter how well intentioned.
It doesn’t come from knowing the loved one is free from suffering.
And it doesn’t come from knowing this was God’s plan.
I don’t believe one is ever relieved of grieving. Instead, grief, pain, loss, sorrow—all those emotions that we’d do anything to refuse—are gradually absorbed into our being. Cautiously, carefully, day after day, we carry our grief, all the while building emotional muscles that are able to bear its burden.
But it doesn’t start that way.
Grief landed on my spirit like a chain-mail shroud, a rough and weighty burden thrown without ceremony over my being.
In the beginning, it was all I could do to drag myself under its weight, minute by minute by minute. Each measure was evidence that time was passing, but I had no inkling of the old adage, “Time heals all wounds”. There was no healing going on that I could feel.
Grief was so heavy I felt I was crawling under its weight. Emotions were frozen, tears had a life of their own. I had no ability and barely any desire to check them.
Sometimes, if I was distracted, I felt a small reprieve, but even in that, I learned to be cautious. Grief was constant, waiting to ambush me when least expected.
I was shopping at the mall one day, and walked into Zellers. My path took me beside the baby department. My eyes drifted to a display of infant sleepers, and grief roared in so powerfully it nearly drove me to my knees. Through tears I couldn’t quell, I found my way to the door and stumbled to my car in the parking lot. By now I had learned to wait for the blast of sorrow to abate. It’s not safe to drive when you’re crying.
Grief weighed down every spark of life I had once possessed. This state of being, overwhelming and ceaseless, was unprecedented. Did others feel such a depth of sorrow? They must. Why had I not been told? For a little while I felt betrayed, angry that no one had warned me. But then it came to me that perhaps they had. I simply could not relate.
The weight of that shroud was greater than gravity. I knew there was an expectation that I move forward, but how could I, dragging the shroud everywhere I went? The truth was, for a long time I couldn’t.
But then, occasionally, I did.
Gradually, like an athlete training for a race, my emotional muscles became accustomed to the weight, built up a slow, measured strength as I learned to function under its burden. In awkward fits and starts, the pain moved from external to internal as I absorbed it into my heart.
Tentatively I began to stand under the weight of sorrow. I braced myself against a wall, a shoulder, a faith, and peered at the world through red-rimmed eyes, processing what I saw with a mind that now knew what it couldn’t have known until it had happened.
Did things go back to normal? They did not. The normal of the past was no more.
Was I changed? Yes. Was it right that I was changed? Absolutely.
Like any child conceived and carried, Wendy impacted our world in a careening, life- altering explosion, and we would never be the same. How could we be? Why would we want to be?
I’d had the privilege of knowing this wee human being for nine months in my womb, and then for her lifetime of thirty-seven hours. It tore the fabric of my being when she was wrenched from arms ready to hold her, from breasts ready to nurse her. She was snatched from her father, her sister, all of our family who’d been ready along with us to embrace and love a precious new being.
Expectation and anticipation were destroyed in a way for which we could never have been prepared.
Yes, we should be changed.
‘Normal’ had been redefined.
Some thought I should go on as I had before. Prior to Wendy, I might have thought that too.
Now I knew without a doubt that this was both impossible and wrong.
Going on as before would devalue the tiny life God sent to this earth, a life as important as my own, as my husband’s, as my other children’s lives.
I did not go on as before. I went on as a mother who had birthed her second daughter, loved her, held her as she died, and buried her.