By Guest Contributor: Caitlin Mallery
Guest blogger, Caitlyn Mallery, helps us find hope for the future when our present feels like it shouldn’t be this way.
It was a normal day, sending each child off to school with a lunchbox, making sure I had all the things I needed for work. Driving over the wintry roads to work. All the daily problems encountered and solved in normal fashions. To all appearance there was no reason to make the day stand out from any other day. Yet in my heart the day was noteworthy. It was the due date of my little Iona. A day I would have been annoyed that I wasn’t in labor or maybe already holding the precious baby in my arms. Instead, I moved about my life as if it had never been touched by the presence of a new life.
Since having an incomplete miscarriage on a warm June day, I have spent a lot of time marking what-should-be.
I should be washing baby clothes, I should be nursing, I should be sleep training. I already have three vibrant children in my life so I know exactly what should be happening each month. I live with an acute awareness of the what-should-be, while everyone else seems to have forgotten about the baby I carried. For the first few months the sympathy of those who knew about the loss of Iona was frequent, but eventually everyone else is properly consumed by their own lives and they forget what-should-be. It is not a lack of compassion on their part. It is the nature of grief. To continue on and only those who experienced the hope and the loss feel the full weight of the absence.
My six-year-old son is losing teeth and my baby should be getting her first teeth. I celebrate loudly with the one and mourn quietly the other. As I bandage up wounds on gangly limbs and brush my daughters long coppery hair, I also think of the tiny girl who should be crawling across the floor and maybe just having a first ponytail. I delight in watching my children grow and accomplish new things. I grieve for the one who I will not see in this life.
Occasionally people make the comment, “At least you have those three.” It is an ignorant attempt at encouragement. The loss of a child does deepen the love for the children I am allowed to enjoy right now, but I am not just a mother to those. Because when I sit at the dinner table, I know there is an empty space. I know the spots on the calendar that should be reserved for birthdays and milestones. I have heard from some women that they know when the graduations and other significant events should be happening, they know exactly how old the child would be today. The quiet grief never goes away, but settles for marking what-should-be and delighting in what has been given. Normal days of quarrels and driving around town and making meals are not a sign that one is done grieving, for grief ebbs and flows. In some seasons it swells like a river after much rain. At other times it trickles like the stream giving life to everything on its banks.
When the grief overwhelms, you reach to those who love you. Wait for the flood to settle. And then let that grief lead you to see the joy within your reach, noticing that love was there to carry you through the flood. I am learning to quietly mark the spaces that are empty as well as let the fulness of life continue on.
At times it seems easier to push grief aside, to pretend that everything is fine.
Other times I have to fight the urge to live fully in the grief, to dive deeper in the depression that keeps me from being able to function on even the most basic of levels.
Those are the extreme reactions to sorrow and loss.
Living on that pendulum is exhausting for me and difficult for everyone around me. Learning to actually live with the grief, when to sit down and have a cry, and when to get up and deal with laundry and dishes requires that I learn to become compassionate towards myself.
We sow while weeping, holding on to the promise of joy in the harvest. Plants take time to grow and produce flowers or fruit. The journey from loss to living with grief is the same. You will not stay in sorrow forever, even though the sorrow will never fully leave.
Grief is not an ugly thing to be hidden. It is a story of grace that slowly reveals itself in the ebb and flow of life. And it’s the hope of a harvest that will be all the more wonderful thanks to the sorrow in which it was sown.
Walking Through Grief, Loss and Suffering?
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My name is Caitlin, reader and writer looking to capture the wonderful things that exist in the quotidian. Much of my writing is thru the lens of the Fruit of the Spirit, which I believe speaks deeply to our cultures need to pay better attention to how we handle sorrow. Her weekly newsletter Caitlin Chats (caitlinhmallery.Substack.com) helps you discover that fruit of the Spirit in everyday life.
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