My autoimmune journey begins long before my diagnosis, as most of ours does. It goes back to the day my world shattered into a million pieces that could never quite be put back together again. It goes back to the day of my twenty-first birthday, fourteen years ago today, when my daughter never took her first breath.
Grief is a funny thing. If you don’t take the time to grieve, your hurt oozes and seeps out in odd ways the rest of your life. It pokes its head out in unreasonable anger at the person messing up your order in the drive-thru, or in having a melt-down crying over sappy commercials, and in reaching out for approval in odd and destructive ways. Grief will not stay silent. It will have its say in your life so it is best that we give it the floor and take in its screams and whispers until it runs out of words for a time.
For me, grief was a screaming banshee that unleashed wails that shook the walls and whispers only I seemed to hear. I was so shocked at the loss of this precious baby that I had waited to hold for so long that I could barely reason with the enormity of it all most of the time. She was born perfect and beautiful, but silent. It was oh, so silent. No cries of fear or hunger from her. No cries of joy from me. Even the people who walked in and out of the room did so in an eerie silence meant to be respectful, but the silence only made my grief scream louder inside.
Then came the worst silence of all. The silence after I went home broke my heart even more, as if that could have been possible. The silence of dismantling a carefully decorated and organized baby room with her name on the wall that would not be needed. The silence of friends, afraid to speak of her death as though I had forgotten. The silence of the night when no baby woke me up to nurse.
Grief is silent and loud all at once. There were days I would get in my car and scream and cry at the top of my lungs with all of the sorrow exploding from my heart in shockwaves. There were days I couldn’t say a thing because the hurt went so deep it seemed to take my words. There were those who said my grief was wrong, or too long, or not to their liking and I should be silent. There was enough silence, let my grief and I speak.
Grief is a process. While we must give grief, the great orator of our pain, time to weave its monologue, we also must not let it mesmerize us to the point of losing grip of the the spell it puts us under. There is a time to grieve and there is a time to heal. There is a time to hold another woman’s baby and smile even though you heart is aching with the knowledge you cannot hold yours. There is a time to buy sweet baby girl clothes for that friends baby shower even though you thought all of the outfits she never got to wear while you shopped. There is a time to heal. It is in your own time.
Grief will have its say until it is done. It will scream and wail like the most horrifying sounds you have ever heard until it runs out of steam. Then it will come in waves of shouts. Then gradually, over time, it speaks into your heart from time to time. Until at last it becomes a soft whisper of a memory, bitter-sweet, no longer sour and pungent.
I have grieved. I have grieved long and hard. I have also learned that the darkest of moments and seasons in my life have the treasures it is built on. Grief has taught me lessons I could never have learned otherwise.
This year my grief was joyful. I have put in the hard years of pain and can now enjoy the fruits of healing. Instead of focusing only on the loss and sorrow, I was able to look at how my grief has made me better. To share this with the world I decided to honor my daughter’s memory on her fourteenth birthday, by doing fourteen random acts of kindness in her name. To say the least, this has been the sweetest November I have had in fourteen years. Sharing kindness not only offers the better person I have become through these fourteen years to the world but also shares the goodness that was my daughter.
The truth is the only thing that subsides the storm of grief and lets us heal is love. So share more love. Love yourself more and love the people around you more. Love those who are grieving and if you are grieving, love yourself enough to believe it’s okay to do so, and it’s going to be okay.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughter and Happy Birthday to her mom, who has grown so much and become a better person than she ever thought she could be in the last fourteen years.