One Year

Monday, January 25, 2016

One year.  It's been one year. 

Tomorrow marks the one year mark of Everly's passing, an experience never to be relived, yet never to be forgotten. 

I've been in a period of reflection as of late and have been able to take a step back and cogitate on the past year.  I've not only learned about grief during this time but have seen humanity through a lens as never before.  Looked inside myself with a critical eye to see the good and the bad.  Have reevaluated priorities and refocused attention.  This season has brought about the most significant amount of changes or at least observations that I have experienced so far in my almost 43 years of living.

It has been both humbling and grueling.

Grief.  This constant companion, the relentless roar of torment that resides just beneath the surface. Ready to rear its ugly head at any given moment. Grief can strike you when you least expect it. It can be suppressed no more.  In the grocery store, the library, in the shower, a movie, a store...there's no rhyme nor reason to when the agony opens up.  It just is there...the way you and I just are.

I've seen this line...sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks...and how absolutely true that is.  Reading at night with my youngest son is a common time that tears just stream down my face.  There's no reminders, no glaring signs from my daughter, but rather, just cherished memories that work their way in and then out as we read.  Silently the tears fall as we continue to read. 

Something I learned during the past year in being physically parted from Everly is that not all tears are the same.  I had always been under the impression that when you cry, you cry and that's it.  But I've now learned that it's so much more complex than that simple idea.  There are moments like I described above that tears stream down when a thought crosses you.  And you may not make one sound as the tears fall.  Other times, tears stream down in the quiet of the night or standing in line watching a mother and her child or in the busyness of cooking dinner.  Then there are yet times you cry in sorrow and sadness for your broken heart.  This cry is much like a child's when they've been hurt or injured. It's loud and present and for all to hear.

But then there's the last cry which really, by definition, isn't a cry at all. 

This cry is a rite of passage of sorts.  A horrible, awful sound that only a parent who's lost a child, an animal who's lost its young, would know.  It's guttural and can only be described as gut-wrenching and from the inner-most depths of a soul.  There is no place deeper.  This cry consumes your body.  It takes control and only when it's done with you can you have it back.  Once you've heard the howl of total anguish, you can never unhear it.

If I am honest, it is the cry I fear the most. 

It happens. It's agonizing.  And it's depleting and consuming

But as we all know with loss and grief of any kind, there's no way around it.  We, I, have to just go through it.

Humanity.  Living with and amongst society allows much time for interaction, engagement, relationships, observations, and involvement.  Child loss stripped me of my outer shell, like a nailbed without the nail, raw and tender.  It allows for pain and hurt to enter at will, protection not offered. By in large, humanity tends to lift rather than tear down; support rather than break apart.  But, naively and innocently, some toss massive needlelike darts straight to your irrevocably broken heart.  And without protection, recovering from repeated throws can be debilitating to the point that you pull back.  Way back. 

As I've walked through the year, I have found that I'm now able to identify what I call "safe" people, places, experiences, and the like.  Those labeled safe allow me time time and space needed to learn how to reacclimatize myself within 'normal' society.  Love, support, encouragement is given with each baby step taken and each step towards being a part again.  Humanity is good.  I've experienced the beauty of people as I and my family have walked this road through grief and loss.  The outpouring of love from strangers on social media, the sacrifice of friends and family, the support of those who we just met.  I believe in the good in people and over the past year, I've been able to see it live out over and over again.  For that, I'm eternally grateful and so thankful to be in a position to experience and see that good.

Me.  This has been one of the toughest parts of the past year.  It goes without saying that you experience life-altering changes once you lose a child, a piece of you.  It is arguably every parent's worst nightmare, after all.  So much of 'me' has changed and, many days, I'm not able to recognize or even find the 'old' me.  Quite possibly, she doesn't exist anymore and that's a bit disconcerting, however true it may be. 

While I experience new emotions now that I'm uncomfortable and a variety of seemingly opposite emotions, the overwhelming 'new' self I'm learning about has new qualities and feelings.  Compassion, deep compassion for others and their suffering and their inner thoughts and true feelings, really wanting to get to know others.  Concern and sacrifice are my new companions.  A burning desire to make a change, to do something, no longer able to just sit back and watch.  A new determination to be the good somewhere for someone.

I feel invincible now.  More than that, I know that I am.  I have, with the mercies of God, survived the unthinkable.  There's nothing I can't do, no experience too much, no situation too uncomfortable for me now.  I know that I can survive anything as much as I know that I'm capable of anything now. 

Priorities.  One of the many gifts Everly gave to us and so many others...focusing on priorities in our life.  So many of us have these all out of order and something like a health scare or in my case, losing my daughter, jolts you into refocusing.  While I don't have it perfect all the time, I am worlds away from where I once was and I am grateful.  No longer do I feel out of balance.  No longer do I feel torn and that I am letting something slip away.  That simple gift is life changing but in the best way possible. 

This past year has been exhausting.  It has been eye opening.  It has been renewing.  Nothing will ever change my love for my daughter, just as nothing can diminish the love we shared.  But the take away from this past year, I pray, will help me find my place in this new, vast world I couldn't 'see' before my Everly.