Last week, I wrote about the many unexpected losses that come with grief. Today, I think about what I’ve gained from this experience.
I don’t like to think about this particular topic, especially in terms of God’s purpose for me in this life, as it can only mean one thing – that Addie’s “purpose” was to die so that I might discover these things. Whenever my brain tries to hint at that concept, I choke back tears and fight the urge to scream, as I cannot … I will not … accept that she “had” to die for some greater good or other reasoning that comes from the great beyond.
But I’ve seen a pattern of sorts among loss parents. We will never agree with those who claim that everything happens for a reason. (Guess what folks? No it doesn’t! Sometimes truly awful things happen and all you can say is, “this sucks” and try to cope with the bitter harsh reality before you.)
What we do agree on, however, is that our new focus and drive is to honor our child(ren) in some form of expression unique to each of us – one loss mom paints beautifully; another writes poetry; still another has created an organization and website about SIDS to share her son’s story while educating others and providing resources and support for those new to loss. We gain power each time we take to our medium of choice.
For me, I take comfort in writing. This isn’t quite unexpected, as I’ve always loved being creative and using words to express myself. What’s been most unexpected though is the ease I find when discussing loss and grief and our particular story. Yes, I often write with hot tears streaming down my cheeks (I never claimed it wasn’t an emotional experience to do). Yet even with the tears, the words appear in front of me quickly … as though someone has opened a fire hydrant – I’ve suddenly become that kid in the stereotypical hot summer in the city scene who runs to rushing water and begins frolicking and laughing while splashing about and feeling the cool relief. I want to stay there all day, pouring out every feeling, thought, and emotion I have raging inside me onto paper and never stop. Whether it’s advocacy for sepsis awareness or penning a book about infant loss, I now think that’s doable (I never would’ve even considered such a thing before June 22, 2017!).
That, to me, is unexpected.
Friendships and a newfound desire to be more active in our church have also been unexpected. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me – after all, I’ve said from the beginning (particularly when someone asks why I’m suddenly attending church or gives me a look if I mention God when I never used to be so religious) that I can’t truly believe Addie is in Heaven and I’ll someday be reunited with her unless somewhere, deep down, I believe.
Intense friendships formed with other women who’ve been through their own infant losses are the best unexpected gains. I still may not really know any of these moms, and we’re geographically dispersed throughout the U.S. and across the globe (I can only hope that one day we’ll meet face-to-face), but we KNOW each other and are bonded on a far deeper level and I am so grateful for them in my life.
For anyone facing grief with fresh eyes, I always say that it doesn’t “get better” with time – you just adapt and the grief is different as the days, months, and years go by. Now I can add that they may find something pleasantly unexpected in the midst of all of the loss and pain. I kind of like that.
This post originally appeared in the May We All Heal 2019 project on Facebook, based on the writing prompt "Unexpected Gains." For anyone seeking a loss community of like minded moms (and dads), please consider joining that group.