there are no words

Jozi Grant 1092
Looking back, I am not sure how we were able say goodbye. How we were able to decide when we had enough cuddles, enough kisses, enough time.  How we were physically able to walk away from the little body, our son’s beautiful little body, on that rainy day in November.

Strength is a trait that gets thrown around lot with the bereaved. I am not sure what it means, or who it is meant to comfort. However, the sentiment is well-meaning and appreciated. It implies that someone cares but simply has not learned the language of the bereaved. I wouldn’t want anyone else to truly know how we are feeling, or how the textbook definition of strength only vaguely skims the surface. To know that in this language, there are no words.

I was not strong the other day as I walked past some neighbourhood mothers with their strollers. The smile on my face and forced “hey” did not accurately portray my broken spirit, nor my anger and sadness that I was on my way to a counselling session instead of on the walk with them. I was not strong as the tears pierced my cheeks the rest of the way.

I was not strong as I wept while I read the birth announcement from one of my colleagues, announcing the safe arrival of their daughter. Jealousy is not strength. However, I was strong when I decided not to reply, when I decided that a passive-aggressive email would not set a good example for my son.

I was not strong as I fell to pieces in the nursery. As I sat in the chair we had so carefully, and proudly, chosen fabric for a few months before Owen’s arrival. As I looked at this space we poured so much of our love into to make sure everything was just right. I was not strong as the only sounds were of a wounded heart.

I am not strong in the fleeting moments when I wonder why we bother to carry on, yet knowing in my heart we have to in order to honour our son.

I fear that people will see me and think that I am strong. That in those moments you courageously speak with me, walk past me, or sit with me, you see my ability to string words together as strength. That I am somehow giving off the wrong impression. That I do not miss my son with every ounce of my being.

We do have moments where we feel elements of textbook strength. We can smile, laugh even. However, when you are in the throes of grief, you do not feel strong. I am there sometimes, but I am not there yet. I do not suspect I will ever be there all of the time, either. Strength is subjective.

I present to you my new definition of strength, as it applies to my grieving heart:

The ability to carry on one minute and allow yourself to fall apart the next. The willingness to make yourself vulnerable, to be honest with your emotions, to cry and scream when you need to. The capacity to feel joy without guilt. The selfless act of taking on the suffering so your child does not have to. The power to let go, when all you want to do is hold on, when all you want is one more cuddle. To live, knowing your child will always be with you in your heart.

And for those who are along this journey with us as we navigate the unknown:

The courage to be with our grieving hearts. The ability to sit in awkward silence. The willingness to let the tears fall alongside our own. 

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9 thoughts on “there are no words

  1. Stephanie April 6, 2015 / 9:43 pm

    Loving the three of you daily
    Your words are beautiful and your grief makes my heart break in two!
    I wish there was something I could do……
    Please call or text me asap 6049020082
    Love

    Like

    • robynedmondson April 10, 2015 / 8:09 pm

      I am looking forward to our walk. The hugs will be nice, too.

      Like

  2. Gretchen April 7, 2015 / 9:05 am

    There are so few plausible or attractive alternatives to strength, in the face of the suffering and death of your own child. I remember so many people wondering how we had the strength to live out those last few days with Zachary, knowing his life was ending, after it had just started so beautifully. Or how we had the strength to give the cue to remove his life support. Or how we had the strength to involve our almost six year-old in caring for his brother during Zachary’s last day of life. These are things I would have never chosen, or believed I could have done. And yet, what alternative did we have? We are a family and you do what you have to, for your children, even if it’s saying goodbye forever, even if it’s allowing your living child to care for his baby brother and then hold him while he dies.

    Now, in the aftermath, your definition rings very true with me. Sometime I congratulate myself simply for getting out of bed and doing the basic things that need doing. It is never easy. Never a carefree exercise. The onslaught of triggers – like the ones you describe – can threaten to overwhelm our “strength”. One of the hardest parts is that the constant battle begin waged inside, in order to be strong, is so invisible to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • robynedmondson April 10, 2015 / 8:16 pm

      Yes.

      You do what you have to, in spite of it hurting. In spite of not knowing how you are able to. In spite of every part of you not wanting to do what you know in your heart has to be done.

      I look back at the past 5 months and wonder where the time has gone. I have forced myself out of bed every day. Cried every day. Somehow I manage to carry on, but I have no idea how. A friend described it to me as the feeling of constantly wading through water. We manage, but it is so much more difficult. It takes so much more energy.

      Thank you, Gretchen. I wish you didn’t ‘get’ me, but you do. Sigh.

      Like

  3. Tiffani April 7, 2015 / 10:48 am

    I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved son. I also lost my son.

    This is so accurate and I feel the same way about people viewing or telling us bereaved parents we’re “so strong”.

    Thank you for writing and sharing this.

    Tiffani

    Like

  4. Burning Eye April 9, 2015 / 11:06 am

    God, I remember people telling us we were “so strong.” I hated that. I hated the implication that, because I was simply carrying on, I was “strong.” And the implied inverse, that those who can’t get out of bed or consider suicide aren’t strong. It was an adjective I rejected, squirmed at. It’s not like I dug down inside myself to find my inner strength. It wasn’t something I did actively. I just did. I just woke up, grieved, went to sleep. That, to me, wasn’t strength.

    A friend just shared your blog with me. Your writing is beautiful and I hope that you are finding some healing from it. I couldn’t have survived without writing. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful baby Owen. My first son, Joseph, was stillborn at 35 weeks, two years ago. I hope you are finding some support, in real life, online, anywhere. I have found a lot of comfort in friendships I made online, mostly through Glow in the Woods.

    Thinking of you and your family, sending hugs and light and peace,
    Burning Eye

    Liked by 1 person

    • robynedmondson April 10, 2015 / 8:28 pm

      I agree. Going through the motions of life doesn’t feel like strength. At the moment, it doesn’t feel like much of anything. In fact, I am not a big fan of ‘time’ right now.

      Thank you for your kind words. I do find that it is helping in some ways, and hope that my words offer some element of support to others.I am not sure how we would be coping without the support of those around us and the online community.

      As much as we know we would not wish this pain onto anyone, each other, we haven’t been given the choice. It is, in an odd way, comforting to know that there are others on this path ahead of me who are surviving.

      Like

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