28 Aug 2014
I used to whisper her name to myself over and over again. “Grace. Grace. My Grace. Grace.” Her name was a lifeline that I desperately clung to through the waves of grief and pain and rage and sorrow that swamped me.
Her name was my manta. Grace. Her name carried me through months and years of silence and grief.
See, Grace was my daughter. Her father, my fiancé, died in a car accident before he even knew that I was pregnant and having her grow inside me was the light and hope that I held onto during those first heartbroken, grief-stricken months after his death.
Then Grace died too. Drifted away for no explainable reason to be born still and silent.
I was not unfamiliar with grief or death or even the death of babies. Despite my youth (I was still in college), I’d experienced the deaths of loved ones and friends and family. I knew that one of my aunts had had a daughter who was stillborn, though no one ever talked about that baby.
Nothing, nothing prepared me for the unfathomable pain of losing my partner and our child just months apart. It was like falling into an abyss so dark and black and deep I couldn’t imagine ever finding my way out. I lost myself in it.
I silenced myself as my daughter was silenced by death. To the world around me, I appeared as your average college student, though perhaps somewhat depressed and aloof. Inside, there was just her name repeated over and over and over to carry me through the dark caverns of grief.
Grace. Grace. Grace.
It took me more than 6 years to speak her name out loud to another person. Six years to share her life with another and to break my own silence. After her father died, I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone I was pregnant when I couldn’t tell the one person I wanted to – the man who was supposed to raise her and love her with me. I hid my pregnancy, and then I hid her death and my grief.
Saying Grace’s name to myself, helped me survive through years of grief and depression and pain. Saying her name out loud to someone else and breaking my silence, well, that helped me come alive again.
The truth is I wallowed in my grief and my silence for far too long. I clung to it, because I told myself it was the only way to hold onto my daughter. It was all I had left of her. I believed that if I let her go, let myself crawl out of that dark abyss, it would mean she would disappear and it would be like she never existed.
When I broke my silence and loosened my grip on my grief, I discovered that I could never truly lose Grace. Her body died and she never drew a breath in this world. I will never know the sound of her cry or her laughter or her voice. I will never see her grow and play and learn. I will always wonder who she might have been in this world.
But she, the beautiful bright light that lived in me, will never die.
Bodies, even those of babies, die. Love, though, love never dies. I still say her name at least once a day – sometimes just to myself and sometimes to others. It’s a sound of love now, a sound that brings me peace and joy and so much love.
So Grace lives, and I finally, truly live again too, because love never dies.
14 May 2014
I’ve done my share of hiding in life – it has usually felt safer and more secure to stay tucked neatly on the sidelines or under the covers, metaphorically speaking. Part of me would like to stay safely there in the shadows, unnoticed and unseen.
Except that I’m also rather ambitious. I have plans for my life and my work. Lots of big and ambitious plans. And in order for those plans to blossom and grow, I’m gonna have to get used to being in the light.
Plus, there’s that whole life purpose thing.
See, a big part of my Why in life, my reason for being here is to help others feel seen and heard and valued. To empower others to be seen and heard and valued (by themselves, mostly) for who they are so they can live the life they desire.
Since my ONE hard-and-fast rule for being a counselor is to never ask my clients to do something that I am not willing to do myself – hiding has lost the argument on being visible. To be in integrity with myself, I can’t ask my clients to be seen and heard and valued (aka, visible) if I’m not willing to do it myself.
This dilemma really hit home for me this past weekend on Mother’s Day. I’ve written on the challenge of this day for me and have been much more open about the pain of it for me in recent years.
And still, my pattern has mostly been to hide that day. To withdraw from people and to avoid the day. To take my wildly mixed emotions and sadness and keep it all to myself at home.
I had planned to do that this weekend.
Then I remembered all the inner work I’ve been doing on visibility and bringing my professional work into the world. I remembered my hard-and-fast rule. And I remembered the work I’m doing with “invisible mothers” to give acknowledgement and voice to them and their experiences.
After mentally cursing myself for a while, I got up and left the sidelines and the covers behind. I wrote a blog post about it. I went to my spiritual center and cried when the pain rose up. I laughed when I felt like laughing and cried when I needed to cry.
Nothing was really different in my emotional state that day than in previous years. I just didn’t hide those feelings. I acknowledged the difficulty of that day and didn’t try to pretend otherwise.
I let myself be seen.
And, surprise surprise – I survived!! And I’m still safe.
Where do you hide – for others or yourself? What would happen if you stepped into the light? Something to ponder 🙂