I'm slow, as I was last month, in getting to Under the Tree, but the first question hit on something I've been thinking about lately.
How long has it been since you lost your child? Has your grief changed at all? Is your life becoming any easier or is it just harder as time passes?
I've been saying lately that Henry died a little over a year ago, though I can't say that much longer. Soon it will be a year and a half, then almost two years or two years in December.
My grief has changed in part because of time and in part because of circumstance.
The first days and months were a haze. Henry died on December 17. We buried him on December 22. I don't remember what we did for Christmas that year. I have vivid memories of Christmas Eve, of sitting on the couch with my friend who's dad had died a couple of weeks before Henry with the energy of kids at Christmas swirling around me. I walked around in that haze for a while. It was a strange mix of numbness and searing pain. I slept with Henry's blanket every night. I avoided going to bed because it always made me cry, so I stayed up late reading babylost blogs or doing mindless tasks. I mediated and cried my way through yoga classes.
I hated the time I had to do it, the time I had to do anything for myself.
I didn't have the energy for the day to day stuff that needs to get done. So a lot of it didn't.
I was exhausted.
I cried every day.
In March, three months out, it hid me harder. I felt like any bit of protective numbness was gone. Outside was mud and dirty remnants of snow, nothing green in sight. It was bleak and lifeless, and it fit my mood perfectly. But March was a turning point: I didn't necessarily feel ready to have another baby, but I felt the need to make the effort, to work to create life as sickness and sadness and death past and approaching surrounded us.
My sister-in-law died in June, and in addition to the grief at this new loss, I was plunged back to December, to a place where just getting up, just breathing felt like too much. Brian and I struggled to communicate, both stumbling to find words and mistaking what the other was trying to say.
Some days were harder than others. Some days just knocked me out--I'd wail and weep, I'd literally be too weak to stand. As time moved on, these knock out days became less frequent, though no less intense.
As we approached the first anniversary of Henry's death, a day I dreaded, we were also approaching Kathleen's birth. Kathleen's birth has had a huge impact on my grief. I cannot focus so much on Henry or on the hole left behind in my heart anymore than I would be able to focus solely on him if he were here. This isn't to say I don't feel it, but more that it has taken more of a background role, tinging my whole life, but not the center of it.
Henry is retreating from me in some ways. I feel more distant from him. This bothers me, though I think it is normal and bound to happen. I don't have guilt, but sadness at the growing separation. In some ways, Kathleen increases this divide as my attention rightly goes to her and her needs, but at the same time, she bring Henry back to me in some ways. I can't help but contrast the experience of living with my two babies, and that brings him back.
And lately, many people have been telling me that they think Kathleen looks like Henry. I have seen it myself in flashes, a certain expression, a particular angle. So I feel heavily the growing distance between Henry and me and I love the anchors that help hold him near, part of our family, part of my life.
Some days still knock me down; they come out of the blue and hit hard and sudden. But they continue to be less frequent. I still start to realize sometimes that I will always carry this loss, that it is part of me forever. It's too disheartening to think that, so I just try to go day by day. I am able to feel joy more, to see the light more. I'm not sure life is easier, just different and still changing. Sometimes it seems so long since I held him, and yet he wouldn't yet be two. It is almost too much to take in, how much has happened since May 2007.