It’s true what they say about grief: once you’ve lost someone, your life will always be separated into two categories. It will have a Before and it will have an After. It’s a strange separation. It’s hard to remember things clearly from before I lost Lincoln. Things feel a little fuzzy, including my pregnancy. It can even be difficult to look at pictures.
I took this picture the day before I went into labor. It feels like an entire lifetime ago. When I try to think of anything in my life from before I knew Lincoln, it feels like I’m trying to remember a different person. In a way, that is what I’m doing: I was different before Lincoln. You lose a lot of things when your baby dies. This makes grief a bit complicated. I grieve the loss of my son and the future he should have had; but I have grieved over many other things. I’ve grieved over my feelings towards God (a different post for a different time). I’ve grieved for the loss of friends, and my isolation and loneliness. I’ve grieved loss of innocence.
From the moment I found out that Lincoln had died, I was changed entirely. I have always been a rational person. This is not the first time I’ve witnessed the death of someone close to me, but it is the first time that it has touched me in such a deep way. When I was in high school, my great grandma died. She was my pen pal. I had spent years writing letters; sharing my violin lessons with her. She was part of a symphony for most of her life, and she taught violin. We connected through music. When she passed away, she left me her gorgeous, vintage violin. I was sad and I cried. But my great grandma lived a full life, and she died at a very old age. In July of 2015, just 5 months before losing Lincoln, my big sister died in a car accident. She was my best friend and my hero for most of my life. She was charismatic and charming. She was full of life. But when she died, that wasn’t the case. We had lost my sister to drug addiction a couple years before the accident. In a way, that accident saved her from a horrible, drug-induced future. Yes, I miss her. Yes, I am sad sometimes. But my life was not shaken at its core from this loss, because I had lost her long ago. Losing Lincoln has been a much different experience. He didn’t get to live a life. I think of him every single day. He is a part of me. Having a baby changes your life; and losing that baby does the same. I look at myself in the mirror sometimes, and I don’t recognize myself. I have lines that have deepened over these past 9 months. My eyes used to have a light in them that I rarely see anymore. I’ve quickly had to learn that life can be cruel.
We, as a society, feel invincible to tragedy. We intentionally distance ourselves from other people’s pain. We have the mindset, “That won’t happen to me, so I don’t need to think about it.” Tragedy can’t touch us….until it does. While I was in labor, I laid in that hospital bed and I was at peace. I was so sure that everything would be okay. I had a sense of naivete, living in my own happy bubble. I can admit that I’ve spent my life avoiding the hard stuff. I’ve now been thrown into the harsh reality. I can no longer pretend that bad things won’t happen to good people. In some ways, this has hardened me to the world. I find myself annoyed with petty complaints and exaggerations. But In other ways, this has filled me with compassion for those who truly suffer. I find that I have more patience and understanding, as the little things don’t get under my skin as easily.
As I’ve started to paint more and write more; to focus on honoring Lincoln, I can feel myself coming alive again. I feel things on a much deeper level: the pain, love, joy, excitement, anger. I still don’t feel like my old self, but I feel like I’m finding something new and meaningful that wasn’t there before. My heart has changed. It is bruised and broken. It is missing pieces that will never return. It will always hurt, but with what’s left of that ragged heart, I want to share it with the world around me. I want people to see the good that my son has brought. I want people to learn compassion and kindness from his short life. I want people to have a better understanding of hurt and pain; you don’t have to live it to know that it’s real. At some point or another, everyone will be touched by suffering. So talk about it. Don’t run from it. Don’t try to fix it. Just be there. Be there when the storm first hits, and then be there long after. We lost a piece of ourselves. We still need people to check on us. We still need to talk about the ones we lost. We need to hear their names. We need you to remember that they were real. They mattered, and they will continue to be important for the rest of our lives.