This week’s topic of Walking with You is about the early stages of grief. Kelly asks, “What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit?”
It’s been a very long time since I’ve written about Duncan, and the impact he had, and continues to have on my life. I suppose the most recent posts would have been in the days leading up to his third birthday, and the birth of our James. And I suppose, that is because the place I’m in now – the place I didn’t have time to touch on when I was getting kicked out of the coffeehouse last week – has become unnoticeable, in the way that familiar things do. You don’t notice the way your favorite shoes fit, you don’t notice the angle you turn the shower knob to bring forth the right temperature water…it just is – every day, the same. And that is where I’m at, today, when it comes to my loving and missing my sweet Second. He is present, in a hundred ways, all day, every day. The “pit” of grief is still existent. But not gaping. Yawning. Bottomless.
Not like it was in the beginning…
In the beginning – the REAL beginning – the pit was just a bad dream, in the sense that it wasn’t real. Not yet. It was just a horrible “what if,” a scary worst-case-scenario that wasn’t really reality. Yet. Lesson learned from that first encounter with the initial pit? Denying it doesn’t mean you’re not standing on the edge of it.
Tripping over the edge wasn’t as painful as I’d have expected, looking back. I think that is because my mother’s heart already knew. But having my suspicions verified – if not yet verbalized, at least acknowledged by a doctor – was how I actually stumbled from the safety of one reality into the darkness of another. Lesson learned, part two. Thinking “it’s not so bad,” is a coping mechanism. It IS bad. And chances are, it is going to get worse.
The darkest part of the pit of grief, for me, was actually hearing the words. Because there was hope. Always, the tiniest sliver of hope. Until there wasn’t. Until the doctor confirmed what my heart knew, and my eyes saw what the doctor said, and I had to accept that nothing would ever, ever be the same again. And as I sat on an ER gurney and wailed an unrecognizable wail, cradled in my husband’s arms…I fell. Lesson learned, number three. When you’re falling off a cliff, you think, surely, the scary part ends when you finally hit the bottom…. It doesn’t. The freefall is terrifying. But the hurt starts when you stop falling.
I’ll try to pick up the pace here….
The days in between learning that Duncan had passed away and delivering him into this world were dark. I’d stopped falling, but only to begin wandering aimlessly, though a million details needed to be addressed. Everything was so unclear and foggy and foreign in those days.
But… (and I know Kelly is reading this going, “Girl! Get to the HOPE part!!!”)
The morning after Duncan was born, a marvelous thing occurred.
The sun rose. (I know, I know. The sun always rises. Technically.) But the sun rose, and I watched it. With my sweet, absent, boy cradled in my arms. And as I stood there, on the third floor, room D, I realized that I was still in the pit. BUT. I hadn’t fallen so far that the sun still couldn’t warm my face. I hadn’t fallen so far that I couldn’t still feel His loving arms wrap around me, even as I struggled to let go. I hadn’t fallen past the point of no return; I was actually close enough to the edge to stand on my tip-toes, and stretch my fingertips, and reach over to find….
New appreciation. New joy. New purpose.
Not that there weren’t bad days. Not that there weren’t constant reminders of what was missing. Not that there weren’t things that made me madhurtconfusedsadangry all at once. Not that there weren’t instances where I questioned the sanity of some of those around me as I navigated my way out of the pit.
I chose to walk away from the hospital that day I said goodbye to my son, believing that I would be okay. That Jim and I would be okay. That our family would be okay – and wonderful – no matter how many chairs stood empty at our table. I chose to believe my God loved me more than I could comprehend. I chose to believe that there would be a time when it didn’t hurt to breathe. I chose to trust that my heart would mend. And I chose to be patient. I chose to accept that my journey would be my own – and that no one could dictate my climb out. Not when I emerged. How messy and torn and bloody I was when I climbed over the edge. Not how close I remained to the mouth of the pit, and for how long.
I know there are some that think I’m still too close to the edge. That 3 years would be enough time to be miles away from such a scary, dark, sad place. But I like my spot here, on the edge.
I’m out. I’m in the sun. But I’m close enough to reach down a hand, and help pull up those behind me who are on their own journey out….