Every once in awhile I
want need to just lay the cards out on the table–to say “this is me, right where I am,” and to be okay with that.
Twelve weeks. It’s been twelve weeks since Alexander was born, since we held him, and since we said “hello” and “goodbye.” That day, July 9, 2016, and the week leading up to it, changed our lives in a way that we never anticipated. Everything we thought we knew about life and death, about joy and sorrow, about faith and doubt–everything we knew about anything–was turned upside down.
Babies aren’t supposed to die. But they do.
People aren’t supposed to laugh raucously during the most painful days of their lives. But we did.
And if it hadn’t been for the unwavering love, support, and prayers of the great cloud of witnesses, I understand how we could have easily run so so far from our faith. People do that in the midst of tragedy. But somehow, by the grace of God, we haven’t.
I’m currently in the middle of taking an online course on The Wisdom of Story, doing some self-assigned grief work and learning how to use the power of stories to make meaning out of the “bru-tiful” (brutal + beautiful) adventure that I am living in. Let me start by saying this: this isn’t easy. It wasn’t even easy to make the decision to take this course. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that I needed it. It’s part of my healing process.
Some people need to see a therapist, and that’s okay. Some people jump right into a support group, and that’s okay. Some people need antidepressants, and that’s okay. Everyone’s healing process is different. And who knows which of those things I might need at any point in this process, and whatever it is that I need to heal and continue taking forward steps, that will be okay. Right now, these are some of the things I need: connection through spending time with friends and connecting with others who have experienced child loss both online and in person, meaningful conversations, and intentionally spending time with friends; support through having safe places to talk openly about Alexander and our loss and safe spaces to grieve, cry, and process life; creative outlets through which to channel all the feels; physical health and recovery through eating healthy and finding motivation and encouragement to work out and stay healthy; and hope through staying involved and engaged with our faith community near and far.
This is Act 2. It is the rumbling and the wrestling. It is the place of listening for the whisper of grace that says:
“it’s dark and hard in there. I cannot make it hurt any less, I cannot make it go any faster, all I can do is remind you that you [and others] walked through this before.” (Brené Brown)
This is the middle of the story. It’s not the end. And right now, this is what the middle of my story looks like:
A little over a week ago, we drove almost 400 miles out of the way on our way back from Destin to spend the day with Mark and Christine, friends who we had never met, but who “get it” because they have been where we are.
Last weekend, we went to a wedding reception and celebrated with friends. Even in the midst of our rumbling, there are reasons to celebrate.
Some days, I can go an entire day without crying. I can even talk about Alexander, where we have been and where we are at without crying. And yet it feels weird to not cry on the daily. Other days, I cry. A lot. Tuesday, I cried while sharing highs and lows during our staff meeting, and then I cried again while watching This is Us. Wednesday morning, I cried while re-watching the last scene, and then while blogging about it. Thursday, I lost it in the narthex outside the chapel at Trinity Seminary when someone asked me about “the baby” but didn’t know what had happened.
I’m back at work and fall youth programming is officially in full swing. Last Sunday was the first of our confirmation classes for the year, and last night was the first youth event that Scott and I were fully back for and taking the lead on. I’m still living into the new normal and processing what that new normal looks like in ministry. Things feel different: standing in front of kids, praying with kids, chatting with kids and parents. I can’t put a finger on it, but ministry is changing for me. There is a shift. I don’t think it’s bad. It’s just different.
We’re still working on putting details together for Alexander’s memorial service, and doing a lot of things that people should never have to do for a baby. Setting up and choosing designations for memorial funds, shopping for an infant urn, choosing songs and scriptures. We take it in small doses, because what else can we do?
Scott and I both jumped back on the My Fitness Pal bandwagon this week in an effort to take care of ourselves physically. We know that taking care of our bodies is an important part of the healing process. And, maybe it’s something that we can control at a time when so many other things in our life feel like they’re spinning out of control.
There are still things that I haven’t done, and that I’m not ready to face. I haven’t opened the door to Alexander’s nursery, but I’m just not ready for that. I haven’t quite figured out how and when to talk about all of this with our youth at church. We haven’t gone to the local support group yet, even though it’s been on our calendar since August, though we have found some of our own ways to walk with others who share this journey.
This is Act 2, and it’s a season of life that can not be rushed. We can’t make it go any faster, we’ve got to just walk this road, allow others to walk with us, and find ways to make some meaning in the midst of it all.
And so this is where I am. Today. Twelve weeks since Alexander was born. Twelve weeks since I became a mother to my sweet boy in Jesus’ arms. Walking my way through the rumbling and the wrestling and the grief of losing him. Still here. Still standing.
“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
― Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace