I had my own notion of grief. I thought it was a sad time that followed the death of someone you love. And you had to push through it to get to the other side. But I’m learning there is no other side. There is no pushing through. But rather, there is absorption. Adjustment. Acceptance. And grief is not something you complete. But rather you endure. Grief is not a task you finish, and move on, but an element of yourself- an alteration of your being. A new way of seeing, a new definition of self.
Last week someone asked me “How is today for you Christa?” I responded with “What a great way to ask that question. I appreciate that. Thank you. Today, I am ok.” Every day brings with it a new set of emotions, different levels of pain, sorrow, sadness and grief, as well as seemingly benign events that can send the waves crashing down over me. Today Mike and I looked over at our oversized, L-shaped sofa and thought back to where we were exactly two months ago, cradling Lea in our arms, soaking every second of our last few hours with her.
Our last photo with Lea, hours before she died.
I thought two months into this mess I would be in a different place. I thought the pain and longing would have subsided… even if just a little bit. I thought I would have adjusted to the quieter, less chaotic home now that we have one less child in the mix. I thought I would be less sad, with drier eyes and maybe a bit more sparkle in my soul. I was mistaken. Five weeks in the numbness wore off. I came out of the haze. I woke up feeling empty, looked around at my new world without Lea, and was shaken by it, many days thinking I don’t want to exist in it anymore. A world without one of my pieces. One of my parts. One of my reasons for existing.
My pieces, 2016. Credit: Christina Rosario Photography
My broken heart starts aching in my chest and then the nausea creeps down into my gut. There are days I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to feel this way for even one more hour. Parts of me want so badly to fast forward through this time to a less painful point in my life that is, hopefully, off in the distance. But it doesn’t work like that. This is a part of my story. A chapter I wish could be ripped from the pages as if to undo it all… erasing the scars and filling the emptiness.
“Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.”
“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.”
“In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out.
But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.”
“Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself.
And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.” Credit
The work feels hard. Many days impossible. In order to find my way out of the wreckage, as much as I don’t want to, I am finding ways to help with this process we call grieving. Weekly bodywork, writing this blog openly and honestly, exercising and moving my body, and spending time with those I love are a few of the things I have been doing to help me endure this. I am searching for a therapist to talk to about this process and how to move through this in a way that serves me best. I am saying no to things that I don’t want to do or that don’t feel right for where I am. I am allowing myself to feel, and be, and weep, and mourn any way that feels right to me in that moment. I am not hiding my tears, or my grief, or the messy, ugly parts that go along with this.
I had a dream last week that we lost Keira. I woke up shaken, as I now know, this is a reality. We are touchable. Fragile. Every day I feel so vulnerable in this world, yet every day feels more valuable than it did before August 10. Lea’s death forced us to realize how quickly your “everything” can be taken away from you, and your life can crumble before your eyes.
Many days Lea’s absence seems to consume me. The waves seem bigger, angrier and more violent these past few weeks as we continue to float in the wreckage. Liv and Keira have been missing her more as well. The buffer she created is gone and Liv and Keira fight more than they used to when Lea was here to offer another playmate when one is tired of the other. We talk about Lea all the time… about all the things we loved about her. We tell our favorite Lea stories. Keira wears a Lea shirt. I flip through photos of Lea BC (before cancer) and cry, every time telling her out loud how much I love her and miss her.
On the particularly hard days, when I am missing her the most, I imagine her running, jumping, skipping, laughing, dancing, and painting Heaven with her joy. All things this life took away from her, but the next one can not. I know my work here is not done yet, but I look forward to the day when I join her, and can bask in her joyful sparkle once again.
Melancholy by Albert Gyorgy. Geneva, Switzerland.