There Are No Words

I don’t feel good this evening.

I feel like my grief is written all over my face.

At the very least, it is becoming written in the lines that have deepened on my forehead since my daughter died.

Of all the ways my daughter and her death have changed my body—the stretch marks, the extra weight, the thinning hair, the chubby fingers that are just now ready for wedding rings again—these are what bother me the most.

The constant lines of worry that can never be alleviated. The constant lines that ask a constant question, “Where is my baby?”

As much as I don’t want to be, I’m very self-conscious of them. 

I’m proud of my stretch marks because they are my permanent reminder that a whole, entire person once lived just below the surface. Most people will never see them, just like most people will never know the way Eleanora does what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside. They feel like a little secret, kept just between her and me. A part of her I never have to share.

But these aching lines on my face—everybody sees them, and that makes me feel like a deer in headlights. In my reflection, they scream at me, “You look like hell. You look like you’re grieving. You look like you’re going through something there isn’t even a word for. Wives without their husbands are widows. Husbands without their wives are widowers. A mother without her child is just…what?” 

Empty. Scared. Broken.

When you get cards in the mail after your baby dies, most people say, “There are no words.”

They are right.

We don’t even have the language for this kind of grief because it is all-encompassing, earth-shattering, and larger than anything our minds can conceive of.

When you tell me, “I can’t even imagine,” you are right.

And because of these very visceral reminders of my grief, I’m scared that people will treat me differently now because my daughter is gone. I’m scared that these lines on my forehead will scream to everyone, “She is long gone. A part of her died with her daughter, and it’s never coming back.” Those lines are the fault lines of my life. They cracked open the day my daughter died.

I know that losing her has changed me, and in some ways, it’s changed me for the better. But in the ways that I don’t like, I’m scared that I’ll become unrecognizable. I’m scared that the worry lines will give me away. Will I ever again be the person who loved Christmas as much as she did before? Will I ever again be able to feel pure, unfiltered happiness? Will I ever again live without the constant fear that someone I love will die today? 

Will I ever again be able to hold just one single emotion at a time? Will it ever again be just happiness, instead of grief + happiness? 

I’m not sure what part of me was extracted from my body and thrown into the grave with my daughter, but some days, it feels like my entire body and soul are there with her. Today is one of those days.

Don’t tell me I’m strong. Don’t tell me it’ll get better when we have more children. Don’t tell me I’m brave. I never wanted to be the kind of person who could hand her deceased baby over to the hospital staff and walk away. Don’t tell me that surviving that makes me strong or brave. It doesn’t. It makes me a slave to the reality that, as much as my brain was screaming “LET ME KEEP HER FOR JUST ONE MORE DAY,” I couldn’t. I had to let her go.

And today, that day feels just like yesterday.

I know that better days will come. I know that someday, God willing, we will have children who sit at the table with us. 

But why does Eleanora’s chair have to be empty? Why do our hearts, always and forever, now have to be never quite full?

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