The line between dark and light when you’re traveling through this intense grief is very thin. You’re constantly teetering. And the darkness feels so much closer. So much bigger. So much easier to fall into. There are so many facets of the dark: sadness, emptiness, pain, jealousy, guilt. Things I hadn’t even thought about. We lived in a state of anticipated grief for so long. We knew it was coming. We knew every moment could be our last. But we so wanted to soak in every moment with our little miracle. We tried desperately to stay upright. To not give in to living in darkness.
Now I struggle with the emptiness. I want to fill the house with her pictures and leave her room the way it is. I cuddle her stuffed animal just to feel something against my chest. “Clyde” even has a tuft of hair that tickles me the way hers did. I just want to feel the weight of her again. I don’t yet know how to mother her when she’s not here.
There’s jealousy. I saw a mom holding her baby at the Blues game the other night. I wished Zoey was there with us. I heard a baby cry and it broke me. Friends have wonderful, beautiful babies and mine is gone. And you can tell me to hold on to the memories. That she made an impact in her short life. And those are beautiful things… but I still want to hold her. Losing Zoey has been physically painful. My heart aches for her. I have to remind myself to breathe.
And there’s anger. I’m not even sure who to be mad at, but there are moments I am just mad. Why didn’t Zoey get a chance? Why does a teenager get a baby she didn’t want but my much wanted, much prayed for child was taken away? I see babies abused or tossed away and the unfairness of it all boils up.
There’s anxiety. Fear. Irrationality. Will we make it through? Will our marriage survive? If we have another baby what does that mean to Zoey? Is it too much of a risk? I have flashbacks of the worst moments. The walk out of her doctor’s office when we first heard the words Trisomy 18. The first time she stopped breathing. The phone call telling us to remove her feeding tube. Kissing her and handing her over for the last time.
There are so many things that slap you in the face when you’ve come to a place you seem comfortable. A song on the radio. A sad story in the news. Walking past the baby clothes at Target. Mention of a sick child. My heart breaks again when I think of another mom facing the loss of her child.
Then there’s the guilt. The moment you laugh at something on tv or cheer at a sporting event and feel terrible that for a moment you let the grief go. Going back to your old routines like going to the gym and out to dinner. Does it mean you’re letting go of her too? Does it mean you don’t miss her enough? Last night something I said made Joe laugh. And then I laughed. And soon we were in that deep, contagious, unstoppable laughter. And then we cried. Out of guilt. And out of knowing that she’d want us to laugh together. How do you give yourself permission for laughter and joy when you’re so overwhelmingly lost and devastated? How do you give yourself over to the light when you feel like you need to stay in the dark?
I know the light is there. The stars shine because they are surrounded by darkness. The sun peeks through the dark and glistens off the water. I cling to the good things I’ve found through this journey. I found one of my dearest friends because we share this path. I know unconditional love. I have a deeper desire to live a better life for my daughter. I was able to look into her eyes and feel like I knew her. Zoey is my light. I’m her mom. Even the darkest night can’t steal that from me.