I think that most of us tend to think of grief in linear terms. Meaning that you go through it in continuation. That you live through its process and come out the other side someday (hopefully) absolved of the grief itself to resume your once held life. No one ever tells you, especially when you consider all the ideas thrown out to us about grief, those that explain the steps in the process or the emotions you’re likely to encounter, that the process itself may be one jumbled up game of hopscotch. You may find yourself bouncing back from ten to two then back up to six. There’s nothing linear about grief at all. Grief is a knotted up skein of emotion. Sometimes the harder you try to untangle it, the more gnarled it becomes. Usually it’s just when you think you’re making progress that you find a whole new entanglement.
My grief attacks me regularly. It penetrates my thoughts and feelings daily. Sometimes it’s overt and obvious, and sometimes it sneaks up on me from out of the blue in the most contrived of ways. How could it not, I ask? I lost a child, after all. Not a parent, not a sibling, not a fetus. A three year old child. My child. A little girl with green eyes, golden hair, a name and a personality. Is there anything worse? Consciously as well as subconsciously the grief of my loss is part of my every single day, but the one thing my grief doesn’t do is hold me hostage. I am not beholden to it. I will not be. That is my choice. A choice we all have in life, but one where a reason to sway you from one side to the other must first be a catalyst in choosing your position.
I laugh. I smile. I enjoy life. I am alive. I’m social. I’m present. I’m “tuned in”, you could say.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing too good. I’ve asked myself if I’m too okay before. For some reason it just doesn’t seem, normal to not be circling the drain in a constant state of despair. Why is this? Is it what society tells me I should feel? Is it friends or family? Is it what I’ve seen of others in a similar situation? Why I am not completely broken down? Why am I functioning so well? I wasn’t dreading Mother’s Day at all. I didn’t feel particularly more bad on that day than I do any of the other days a year. To me, holidays are like bonus days or party days with a lot of distraction surrounding them. I miss my Miss Elliott more in the monotonous moments in life. On random Tuesdays as I fold laundry in front of the television. I imagine her sitting beside me, plopped on the couch with a string cheese in one hand and Teddy Grahams in the other. I told my friend I felt this way. I told her that I felt like my grief was tricking me into feeling worse for not feeling bad enough. Like I must not be feeling my feelings strongly enough if I don’t experience that can’t eat, can’t sleep need-to-be-medicated-to-get-through-the-day state of existence.
I feel comfortable discussing these things with her, because like me, she lost a child too. She told me that it was ok that I didn’t feel that way, that it was a good thing, and that she doesn’t feel that way either. I knew she wouldn’t, which is probably why I confided in her in the first place. After all, most of the time all we really want is someone to agree with us and tell us we’re not crazy. She told me that even though she “gets” why they do it, that some people will make losing a child the only thing that defines them, and that that’s just not either of us. We refuse to fall victim to that mentality.
I never want anyone to think of me as “that lady that lost her child”. Mainly because I don’t want any pity. I miss her terribly, so much it physically hurts, but my friend was right. Even though that is and always will be a part of me, I’m so much more than just that. It doesn’t define the whole of who I am. I certainly won’t find a way to honor my daughter’s life at the bottom of a bottle, be it for pills or alcohol wallowing in my self-absorbed pain. It’s not how I operate, thank goodness. I am lucky. I can get through the day without those things. I owe it to my daughter to live my life because I’m still here, still present.
I write and I speak. I tell people about her beautiful and amazing life. I tell them all the things I learned from her and how she changed and inspired our lives. I don’t think grief has to get better or go away. I do all these things to carry on her legacy and to honor her and her life even while carrying grief. I think each and every person who experiences grief, on whatever level they experience it, needs to come to terms with the place it holds in their life and rectify that hold, if necessary to find the healthiest way to move forward – not on, just forward. The grief will always be there, but it doesn’t have to hold you back from living the life you still have left.
It may not get “better”, per se, but for me the fact that I’m still here is pretty good in and of itself.
To learn more about Miss Elliott’s beautiful life, you can purchase your copy of her book:
Three Short Years: Life Lessons in the Death of My Child, here: