Surviving, Not Living

Since losing my daughter, I have said that navigating grief is like riding a rollercoaster with a blindfold on—you have no idea when you might be flipped upside down, tossed side to side, or thrown off the ride entirely. You have zero control, and as soon as you start to feel yourself trekking up a hill, the coaster plummets downhill into darkness. Sometimes you find yourself sitting in the darkness for a few minutes, or even a few hours. Sometimes it goes on endlessly.

Sometimes you take the blindfold off to get a peek at what’s ahead, and the darkness stretches for miles. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. You will realize that you are beaten down and exhausted. The passengers who were on the coaster with you have moved on to their daily lives, but you are still strapped in. Even in sleep, you’ll dream of situations that you’re trying to escape, boxes that you’re trying to claw your way out of, but you never can. You’ll realize that you are surviving, but it’s been a long time since you were living.

I’ve been sitting in the dark, at the bottom of the tracks, for a handful of days. I’ve had stints of great happiness over the past two weeks, but as soon as the moments are gone, the blindfold is pulled right back over my eyes. I don’t have the desire to flesh out on the Internet everything that’s going on, but I will say this: I felt myself finally climbing up a hill, and out of nowhere, the coaster tracks were ripped out from underneath me again. I came crashing down, and I don’t know how to get back up again. I’m exhausted from the free-fall, scared to peek out from underneath the blindfold, and all too sure that there’s nothing but darkness waiting anyway. I’m tired.

I’m tired of the rollercoaster, and I’m tired of fighting it. I know that grief isn’t linear, and I never expected it to be, but I also didn’t expect that it could be quite this cruel.

The bottom line is this: my daughter should be here, and there is nothing I can do to bring her back.

Part of this crash landing is due to situational, everyday things that just keep going wrong. Part of it is due to planning for our future. Part of it—a huge part of it—is the culmination of these things with the holidays. The timing really couldn’t be worse.

I would give anything to rewrite the story of my life and have it differently.

Because…every moment that you enjoy with your children this Christmas, I am desperately—desperately—wishing I had the same. I can’t help but compare my life to yours—or, my real life to the life it should have been.

Your Christmas plans include watching your new baby fumble with wrapping paper as she opens her first presents.

Mine include visiting my daughter’s grave.

You’ll want nothing more than to capture every moment.

I’ll want nothing more than to curl up into a ball on the ground and sob until I have nothing left.

You will get to sit your new baby in a high chair at the table and watch as your relatives’ hearts melt with joy.

I will sit at family dinners, holding back tears as I curse God for robbing me of my first child. My baby’s high chair will sit in its unopened box upstairs.

You will enter the nursery, pick up your sleeping (BREATHING) new baby, and snuggle her before having Christmas breakfast.

I will wake up to a silent home and an empty crib, with six-month-old sheets that have never needed to be washed a second time.

You will absently sing along to Christmas songs without pondering any of the lyrics.

I will flinch with every mention of babies, sleeping in heavenly peace, and the most wonderful time of the year.

You will show off the pictures of the day your baby came home from the hospital.

No one will know what to say about my baby because she never came home.

People will ask what milestones your baby is reaching lately.

They will ask me how my c-section recovery is going, but not how I’m handling life without my daughter. I will tell them that I hardly even processed my surgery because it was, undoubtedly, the easiest part. These conversations will infuriate me.

People will help you daydream about who your baby will grow up to be.

People will look at my life and tell me that I’m “so strong,” that they “can’t even imagine,” or that I’m “inspirational,” and it will break my heart all over again.

I will want to tell them: my only options are to choose to keep living or to choose not to. I’m not inspirational, and I’m not strong. I’m living in the worst possible hell I can imagine, and it takes everything I have to keep going.

I am doing my best to enjoy the holidays, but all I’m doing is surviving. I’m not living.

It takes everything I have to push through the next nine days until the new year. But I am still clinging desperately to the hope that next year will be different.

I will keep going. I just don’t see how right now. I don’t say any of this to be mean or to scare anyone. I’m just being honest.

My therapist gave me some helpful words of wisdom this morning after I told her how I’m feeling. She said, “I know you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now. But the door hasn’t been slammed on you. The light is still there.”

I just wish I could see it.

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