20 Months Later

Moon risen, road clear
 {photo by Daniel Littlewood via Creative Commons}
It hadn't happened in a long time.  Longer than I can remember.  But last night, driving home under the swelling moon, the panic came again.

A few months after Eve died, my therapist shared that she thought I was dealing with PTSD.  One of the ways that this manifests is that, when I find myself driving at night the route my husband and I took away from the hospital that horrible night that our lives were instantly, shockingly altered, the panic rises.

Suddenly, it feels as if it has just happened, that my husband is driving me and my belly full of death home and the car is thick with silence and not-knowing and fear and fear and fear.  When I drive that one road past the hospital in the darkness, I have to breathe deep and press my eyelids shut, both welcoming and shuddering at the too-real memories.

Only . . . it hasn't been like that for some time.  Somewhere in the wake of our rainbow son's birth, the triggering power of that route began to unhook itself from my heart. 

Until last night.

I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot onto that road, marveling at the moon's bright beauty, when all of a sudden I could feel the hospital as if it was a monster hulking in the back seat of my car, breathing its hot breath onto my next.  And for the first time in I don't know how long, I found myself gripping that steering wheel and telling myself to breathe, just breathe, that I didn't have to be afraid.

But I was.  I was afraid.  My chest felt tight with the panic of it as I tried to drive away from reliving those old moments of dread and freshest loss once again.

I write these things to tell you that this is what grief is.  That grief is having the memories and pain slam into you when you are enjoying the cooling summer air toying with your curls, when you are happily anticipating being welcomed home by the arms of the man that you love.  When all you are planning is a bit of sleep and perhaps feeding your sweet baby in the too-early hours, and then you are right back there in that time before there was a rainbow or healing, when there was nothing standing between you and birthing your dead firstborn.

And you didn't want this.  You didn't want to be the mama of a dead child, and you certainly don't want to be unable to control when the grief and the memories flood in and grab at your ankles and pull you down in their undertow.

But this is how it is.  And you love that dead child just as much as your living one, after all, so you press in to the pain and welcome the memories, because really?  That's all you have of her.  All you have is how you live with her absence, and how you embrace the pain so you can reap the healing, or not.

I want to heal.  I am healing.  And sometimes -- or maybe lots of times -- healing looks like floundering about with the pain in the surf.

I have to remind myself that salt water, it stings and burns and it feels too scratchy against my skin. . . but it also cleans and scrubs and seasons.

Grief is seasoning me, and my life, and my parenting, and my faith.  I can't say that the life of my daughter wasn't too high of a price for this, and yet I am unspeakably grateful for the new flavor my days hold that could not have been possible without her brief living and traumatic dying.

What else is there to say?  I keep trying to write one, but there is no tidy ending to this story.  This is my grief, twenty months to the day after I held my sweet girl in my arms for the one and only time in this green and fading life.  

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