gentler now

This is the hardest thing I’ve carried. The pain of losing Emmett has surprised me, both in intensity and in depth. I am startled by it. Air feels harder to move through. It’s harder to breathe. There are brief periods of relative lightness, a small, welcome reprieve, but for hours and hours each day, things are just heavier than I’ve known them to be. They will just be heavier.

I am indescribably grateful for my beautiful wife. My beautiful J. If I were in this without her, I think I would break under the weight of loving him so much. We share that weight. I believe that we love him in equal measure, and so we will both carry him with us. Always. We both carry him. The comfort of that is immense. It is a gift.

I feel empty inside. I don’t eat for comfort; I eat not to feel so small. The space where he was feels like an absence. Like a void has opened up, and if anyone looked, they would see straight through me. Some people have looked. One friend lost a baby at five months. Six more weeks of love and body and blood. That was twelve years ago. She thinks of him every day. Sometimes the pain feels brand new. That’s our road now.

Judith Butler writes about grief, saying that the process of mourning is the process of accepting that you will be changed by your loss. You will never be the person you were. You don’t know how. You can’t control how. You’ll just be changed. I try not to be afraid of that. It means he has marked me, and I need that, for him to have marked me. Still, the surrendering is frightening. Who will this make us? I felt at home. What will home feel like now?

Other friends don’t know this exact loss, but they share our pain. We have been upheld. We have all three been loved and upheld and understood. Our house is full of flowers. People write that they are heartbroken with us, and I know that they are telling the truth. I feel sad that they’re hurting, and I love them with my whole heart for hurting. Blue irises will always remind me of Emmett. He can’t choose a flower, so we chose for him. I think we chose well.

Some friends have been absent. There are stigmas. He was only fourteen weeks. That’s a miscarriage, not child loss. But he came out of me whole. He had every single organ and a perfect little face. I kissed him. I held his too small body against my chest as the milk that would never feed him began to come in. He never cried. His eyes were still fused. I’ll never know what color they were. It’s hard for people to know, and I wouldn’t want them to have to know. I pray that they will never know. Most people have upheld us. Our closest friends and our closest family mourn with us, and I can feel their hearts hurting, and I know they will carry him too. I feel united with them. It softens me.

I’m still bleeding. Every cramp takes me back to that night, and to the feeling of him leaving my body. The sight of him leaving my body. The trauma is a separate thing from the grief. The trauma and the fear and the grief. They are not the same. They take their own toll. Missing him is not the same as the hurt of not having a child to parent. We long for him. We long to be parents. These are separate longings. They are distinguishable. I wouldn’t have thought they would be. Now this seems obvious.

In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry says, “it is in defeat that we become Christian…We are all gentler now because we are beaten.” I keep thinking about these words. They play in my head all day long. I’m not a Christian, but that isn’t the point. I am humbled. I am humbled in a way that I like. I feel differently about my humanity. There’s a new fragility. I think this is a gift. I think this is a gift from my son. I think he has humbled me to life, and I think he has sealed me together with J in a way no vows could have done.

There’s a lot of gratitude.

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4 thoughts on “gentler now

  1. Beautiful post, R. I do find that renewed and strengthened gratitude and connection are the upsides of experiencing grief. I’m glad you’re in that place. Love to you and J, M

  2. Your son may have been born still, but his passing is every bit a child loss. I feel like I need to “warn” you that the bleeding from every menstrual cycle for a very very long time brought on flashbacks after our miscarriage. I hope yours don’t, but if they do, you’re not the only one…

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