Posted by: Ingrid | January 16, 2010

The many forms of grief

Today we attended the funeral of a sweet baby girl who never had the opportunity to take her first breath.  Little Alyssa Grace was born via emergency C-section on Monday, after the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat at a routine appointment.  She was only a few weeks from her due date.

Going through this week with the weight of grief for her parents and family on my heart brought home some of the latent grief of my mom’s death as well.  Our trip to California, the fast and furious nine days of family, friends, and more family didn’t leave much room to think about sadness and grief, much less experience it on any sort of level.  There were moments, like driving up to Fresno with Isaac, when I realized how sad I was to be bringing my baby to my parents’ house knowing that my mom wasn’t going to be there.  There were memories and conversations replayed in my mind as I ran familiar miles that were heavy with regret.  We even stopped at her grave site on Christmas Eve, three years from the date my dad mentioned that the doctors thought she had six months to live, and I wondered how two and a half years could have gone so quickly.

Going through this week with reminders of little Alyssa fresh on my mind every time I held my own baby, brought back some of the grief in a different way.  It was striking to me how staggering grief is, regardless of whether the person ever had a chance to take her first breath.  Once upon another lifetime, I think I would have expected grief in this situation to be lessened, but I see now that it’s just a different sort.  You mourn one death because of the time together and the memories shared.  You mourn another because of the infinite possibility that is lost.  Alyssa’s parents should have been able to look their daughter in the eye, watch her laugh, seen the first smile break over her face, and marked all of the precious firsts.  The mom should have had a baby shower today.  Instead they had to leave their first baby in the cemetery near the church.  There should have been celebration and incredible joy after all of those months of pregnancy rather than this painful loss that will stay with them for the rest of their lives and will come up whenever someone asks the innocuous question, “So, how many children do you have?”

When we pulled up to the cemetery near the gravesite there was a bulldozer nearby.  Of course that’s what you would need to dig into the frozen ground in the middle of January.  Of course that only makes sense.  But it was such a huge machine to bury such a tiny casket.

It still surprises me how little I actually understand the grief and pain of loss.  Watching the grief of someone else is like hearing a melody that’s been slightly altered.  Close enough to be familiar but different enough to catch you off guard.  And maybe we need that catch and that awkwardness and unfamiliarity.  Maybe we need it to remember that the world isn’t supposed to be like this and that each loss is an individual person whose absence impacts people on a deep level that we may never see.

It was hard to be there today, to see the grief that this family is carrying right now.  At the same time, I remember when I was stumbling around in the freshness of my own grief wondering: Is it okay to grieve?  What if no one else remembers my mom? For that, I was glad that I could be there with so many other people affirming that Alyssa Grace would have been worth celebrating in life and she most certainly was worth remembering and celebrating in death.

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Responses

  1. Thank you Ingrid for sharing with us your heart on grief and your sensitivity and compassion for your friends. We are praying for Alyssa Grace’s mom and Dad as they grieve and for you as you continue on your journey of grief, we are so greatful for a God who loves us in our grief and uses its tragedy in a miraculous way to transform our lives.

  2. your words stopped me in my tracks this morning, and I am reminded once again of how powerful grief is. and yet so fragile too. Thank you for your honestly and candidness, in some way, I really needed to hear those words.

    I thought I’d share with you one of the most powerful descriptions of grief and healing that I’ve ever found, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:
    http://www.californiawomen.org/the-womens-conference-2009/video/maria-shriver

    Kate


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