Earlier this week I re-posted an old blog post – A Note to New Grievers. When I wrote the post I was in a very different place than I am now. I wrote the post in 2013. Ten years after my sister’s murder. 3 years before my twins died.
When I stumbled on it again it was like reading one of those time-capsule letters. You know, the ones you used to write and bury for your future self?
I found myself reading the lines:
“I can attest that it (grief) will change, it will become bearable, and you will change with it. The suffering of it will end. There will be days that your heart wrenches when you wish they were present to experience a piece of life with you - but eventually those will be mere moments in the scope of your life. You will not be crippled by this painful loss – not permanently.”
And thinking – is that true? Did I really feel that pulled back together?
I miss my sister, Rachael, even now... well, especially now. Whenever things get really hard I miss her extra. I wonder about where she would be on the journey to making a family. I wonder how she would hold my hand through this.
But, I’ve grown accustomed to missing her. It’s woven into the fabric of my daily life. I know how to miss her and move through the rest of my life.
The twins … I can’t breathe sometimes I miss them so much. The weight of their loss sits like an anvil on my chest. It feels crippling. It feels life altering. It feels … like this is the new forever.
But what if my former words are true?
What if this too will fold in, become part of who I am, and I will move again with ease?
What if the longing and the missing become less?
No … I will always long, I will always miss.
Just as I do Rachael, but more.
More because your children come from the most intimate parts of your heart.
Because your children have true pieces of you.
Because losing them is legitimately losing part of yourself.
I’ve been reading through countless grief sites. Story after story about loss and living without your children. Stories about infertility struggles. Stories about kissing infants goodbye and holding funerals for children. Stories about how people overcome or learn to live again.
I’m devouring these stories. I want to know about the men and women who went before me. I want to know how the grief settles. I want to see the beauty in the terrible wreckage.
The end of A Note To New Grievers recounts the Anne Frank quote:
“Think of all the beauty still around, and be happy.”
So here it is (for now) some of the beautiful things I have seen in this painful time:
Five things for now. I’ll do my best to keep my eyes open for more – even if I see it through the cloud of tears – I’ll look for the beauty for my babies. I'm not quite at the "be happy" part yet. But, I’ll look for it because their lives brought joy, and they are the most beautiful thing of all.
This has been a hard week. Before you read any further know that I am down today. This has been a ‘wish I could stay in bed with the covers over my head’ kind of week. This has been a ‘can’t stay under the covers for more than a few seconds or I’ll suffocate’ kind of week.
Nothing in particular happened – other than my children dying 10 weeks ago.
My children died 10 weeks ago.
Even if I space out the words the weight of them still feels like a punch to the gut. Nothing happened this week in particular to make that feel any bigger. That isn’t true either. I can find all kinds of little triggers from this week, but there isn’t one big thing that I can point to and say “that’s what knocked me off, right there.” I had a pretty great weekend just before this. I went out with a friend, I celebrated my Dad & husband, I ran, I played at the lake, I laughed … I was, for the most, part UP … up enough to have my daily cry and move on to engaging in other things.
Then, in the middle of the night Sunday, with no warning, I sat up, clammy and anxious … that panic feeling radiating through my sternum. You know the feeling? Like an internal tremble. I kept swallowing. Then I remembered the first few lines of C.S.Lewis’s A Grief Observed:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”
Nothing in particular happened this week, except my grief did not get smaller. Even when I write here … even when I give permission … even when I show all my scars … I’m still just trying to rush to the end point. I’ve been desperate to get to the part of the story where some meaning is made.
For years, I chased a need for new identity and a way to turn the awful loss of Rachael into something. I pointed my career in such a way to say, “this horrible awful thing happened, but I won’t let the bad guys win, I’ll help people instead.” I found a way to make meaning – not one that would EVER make it okay that she was gone, but one that allowed me to feel purpose in her absence.
Then our infertility struggle hit. Through months of tears and needles and disappointment my husband and I fought side by side to try to create a family. And the beautiful day that we found out we were pregnant with twins – the story made sense. How else could we end up with two beautiful children at once if not for this way?
I remember naively thinking, “all the bad things are officially over in my life.”
If I have learned anything about grief, especially fresh sweltering grief, it’s that what goes up must come down. I previously mentioned the waves – the inconsistent crashing of grief washing over you again and again. It doesn’t feel any less shocking though. One day you are breathing a little easier, you think perhaps I’m settling in. You think, perhaps my new normal is adjusted and I’m doing just fine. But then the roller coaster plummets with a gut drop. Not the ‘throw your hands in the air’ kind but the ‘swallow your gum, hope you don’t choke’ kind.
It’s been that kind of week.
I’ve secured the appropriate grief supports. I am surrounded by people who have been through similar pains. I have the books. I know the songs. I practice the breathing techniques. I use creative outlets. I freaking know how this works. (I’m yelling at myself here).
But that doesn’t change it. As much as I tell myself I should be better at this, all things considered, I should be a “better griever,” I am not.
There are simply not enough comforts to make the ache stop completely – not even for the most faithful, most hopeful, or most practical. We cannot escape the experience of grief. It is as intertwined with the experience of life as living itself.
I don’t have a cheery message today. Except that if you are going through this, if you are in it, know that you are not alone. If you are experiencing a down day, or week, or moment – it isn’t because of an inability to grieve well, it’s because this is what grief is. There is no getting around this broken heart, except to live it. I am in it today.
Today, I looked in the mirror and reminded myself that I am human. I am human and my heart is broken. No amount of knowledge, no amount of experience, no amount of understanding or self-will or magic is going to change that. I just have to live it.
I looked at the mirror image and said, “You have to live the broken heart.” Swallow again. My dear friend, one year ahead of me after a similar loss, keeps reminding me to take it one day at a time. One day at time, one foot in front of the other, one second to the next. Even when I want to fight moving forward because it separates me more from them. Because 10 weeks have gone by, and I still desperately wish for backwards time travel.
Swallow again. I’m just going to get through the next 24 hours. In the end, what goes down usually comes up; maybe next time with less bounce. Maybe next week, with less bounce.
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
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