The lady next door is pregnant. I vacillate between an inordinate fear that what happened to our baby may happen to theirs, and an intense envy that what happened to us WON'T happen to them. My preoccupation with the fear and envy I have regarding pregnant women and the sights, sounds and smells of newborn babies are some of those things I am still trying to work through. It is a dream that no longer has hope for reality.
We each have within us our own secret dreams; images of how we wish our lives would progress. We treasure them, measure our "success" against them, set our goals upon them. No matter at what point in our lives they begin, dreams can be all-consuming and powerful. They almost have a life of their own.
A series of events led to my eventual realization that life has nothing to do with fairy tales - miscarriages, divorce, death - but I never lost sight of my dreams. I clung to my prevailing sense of ideal perfection almost as if life was yet to begin, and I awaited on the threshold of some unexplored field of wonder.
When our daughter was diagnosed with a fatal heart defect, I screamed at the injustice. I felt crazed: puffed up, swollen - as yeast rising in dough. Then again, shrinking, withering, as a flower left too long without water. I ached with a pain of such magnitude I wondered if survival was possible (or desirable). As Lindsay took her last breaths of earthly air, I cuddled her, sang to her, whispered to her and could not give her all the love I had for her in a few minutes. I felt something slip inside me. This is reality! How odd to discover this at the moment of death.
In the following months, I confronted many conflicting emotions. Reality seemed a myth. Dreams, that once consumed my mind, now surrounded me in a spattering of broken glass. Our lives had revolved around the baby. I loved her so much!!! The absence of her presence was enormous! Her death left a huge hole in my soul and an emptiness I knew would never be filled. We mourned the unlived dreams we had for her and the future we would never share together.
As time moved on, I realized some changes needed to be made. We had no control over Lindsay's death, but we do have certain choices regarding our future. I understood the need to "let go," yet wasn't sure what all that involved. If it meant forgetting, then I would never be able to let loose the bonds that spin from Lindsay's world to ours.
My grief seemed to be divided into many boxes: guilt, bewilderment, anger, sadness, obsessions - you know them well. Each box needed to be acknowledged, examined and explored. So one by one, I took them out, held them in my hands and looked square into the face of my feelings. I worked through them in my own time, in my own way, and learned to let them go. I'm not saying I am completely back to "normal" (will we ever be?). I still choke up at baby baptisms and "It's a Girl" signs in a stranger's front yard and other things. But I am trying to learn to deal with it in more constructive ways. And somewhere along my life-line, as I let different pieces of my grief go, I discovered Lindsay had moved into our lives in a totally unexpected way!
Moving on, letting go, does not mean our children are no longer a part of our families! "Letting go" means accepting the realization that not all dreams we had for ourselves, and for our children, can come true. It means rebuilding the structure of our lives and recognizing a new value system. It means accepting our lives as they are NOW and accepting the challenge to use their brief, but powerful, lives in positive ways. It means looking forward with an unobstructed view - where Lindsay once stood in front of me, she now stands beside me, holding my hand, guiding me.
Each one of you reading these words can make a difference in someone's life. Our children have given us a priceless gift. We didn't necessarily want this gift, but it is one we can use to help others who must someday follow in our pathway. Letting go of grief is in no way letting go of our children and the many blessings they brought. But letting go of the pain may allow you to compassionately reach out to another grieving parent and offer hope, as only YOU can.
The idea of "Letting Go" can be frightening and only you will know when you are ready to take this important step in the grief journey. One never forgets, but there is something of a love-language and a gentle beauty in remembering. Hang on, dear friends. Tenderness will be part of your life once again.
Uh . . . Oh . . . Our best friends just called to tell us they're having another baby. Here we go again. (But I'm working on it!)
Copyright Dana Gensler. All rights reserved.
Dana Gensler is the mom of Lindsay Nicole Gensler, who was born May 23, 1989 and died May 25, 1989 of hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Visit Lindsay's website!
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