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At the kitchen table with Glow in the Woods, August 2011

August 4, 2011

These are my responses to the Kitchen Table prompts over at Glow in the Woods. I think one of the things I appreciate so much about these reflections is knowing that my answers are so shaped by where I am, that tomorrow or three weeks from now, I’d think about this differently. Appropriate, then, that these prompts are all about time.

1. How much time has passed since the death of your child(ren)?  Do you mark grief in months, weeks or years? Does it seem to be going fast or slow? 

I’m approaching three years. I mostly mark grief in years now, which is a change, but August is my anniversary month, so right now I am acutely aware of weeks and even days. And, you know, it goes both quickly and slowly. I can still, especially during this time of year, feel like it all happened just yesterday, but there are also days when I feel like time is carrying me farther and farther away from it all. I want to go, and yet I don’t. I want to move forward with my life, but I also want to stay as close to him as possible.

2. Do you have an end goal to your grief?  How much time do you think that will take?  How much time did you think you’d need to get there right after your loss?  How much time do you think you need now? 

There is no end goal. I’d like – someday – to be able to remember without being overwhelmed by sadness the wonderful, funny, beautiful things about being pregnant with him, about holding him, about our too-brief time together, but that isn’t a goal so much as a small, wistful sort of hope. I have no idea how long it would take. There are days when I feel like I’m almost there, but I’ve not yet managed it.

3. Rather than a clear end goal, is there a milestone or marker to indicate that you are feeling grief less acutely, i.e. going to a baby shower, listening to a song that made you cry early in grief, driving past the hospital?  How long did it take to get there?

We visited Portland, the city where Teddy was born, this past March, and it was more fun than difficult. We were intentionally very gentle with ourselves, but we met friends there, walked around the city and its gardens, ate good food, and then visited the hospital and the hospital garden where Teddy has a memorial brick. It helped that we returned there with his little sister. I think, without her, it would have taken longer to be able to make that trip.

4. How do you view the time you had with your child, either alive (within or outside) or already deceased?  Before you all answer “Too short! Not enough!”, did you have time to “bond” or develop a future imagination about what this child would be like?  Perhaps depending on whether yours was cut short, how do you now feel about the nine-month period of gestation — too long or not long enough?  

My one huge and haunting regret is that I should have refused the induction and kept Teddy with me for as long as I could. There were good medical reasons for inducing at 37 weeks, and I don’t blame my doctors or myself for taking that path, but those last couple weeks were very precious ones and I’d give a lot to have added even a couple more days to them. He was very active and kicky, and I talked to him a lot, imagined him responding. I played him music, wrote letters to him. After he was born he was heavily medicated against pain, so there wasn’t much bonding, not like there is with a healthy newborn, anyway. I pray he knew we were there, that we loved him. I like to think he heard me sing to him, that he took comfort in our arms and hands around him, but mostly I just hope he wasn’t in pain.

I wish I’d spent more time with him after he died, when he still looked like himself. I wish I had kissed his belly and knees and toes and elbows and back and bottom, instead of just his face and hands. They brought him to me the day after he died when I asked for him, but he was stiff and cold then, his lips dark with death, and the change between the day before and that moment was such that I almost wished that I hadn’t asked to see him again.

5. One grief book suggested that it took 2-5 years to incorporate your grief into your life.  Where are you on this timeline, and you do you find that to be true?

I’m in the middle. I’m still not functioning on high levels in all parts of my life – work is harder than it’s been, I’m still working on opening doors and being more communicative with friends and family. The timeline sounds about right to me, though I still don’t know what incorporating grief into my life will look like.

6. There’s a familiar saying, “Time Heals all wounds.”  Do you think this is true?  Or do you subscribe to Edna St. Vincent Millay:  “Time does not bring relief, you all have lied”?

Edna was right, in some ways. Time doesn’t bring relief. But I think all the repetition that is a part of grieving has been building up my tolerances, changing my expectations, helping to develop scar tissue. I’m better able to bear it now. I’ve had lots of practice. Is that healing? I don’t know.

7. Has your relationship with the future (immediate and far) changed since the death of your child(ren)?  How about your relationship with the past?

I’m starting to envision possible futures again, but every time I think about what, for instance, Dot might be doing when she is five years old, I immediately add the phrase “I should be so lucky to see it” to that thought. The past is tricky. The parts of it with Teddy in it are so full of hurts and potential hurts, but I can’t not revisit them because he is there, too, and I need to go where he is.

8. How long did it take to answer these questions?

Looking at it one way, about 45 minutes. Looking at it another, three years. Looking at it another, all my life.

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3 comments

  1. “Looking at it one way, about 45 minutes. Looking at it another, three years. Looking at it another, all my life.”

    There is something about this last sentence that has stuck in my brain since I read this earlier this morning. Sometimes I think that my whole life was leading up to George’s life and death. I know that sounds really weird but it feels true nevertheless.


  2. Theres an awful lot here in your answers that makes sense to me. Thank you for sharing. thinking of Teddy this month. x


  3. I love your answers here, especially the question about healing. I’m not sure what that word means when it comes to surviving the loss of a child.



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