By Sue Elvis
From my diary:
… This last week has been so miserable. Only a future without Thomas lies ahead… I’ve felt like retreating within myself…
Thomas died 11 ½ years ago after 28 hours of life. But losing Thomas wasn’t our first experience of grief.
I had already lost four babies by miscarriage, one after the other in the space of about eighteen months, a few years earlier. So many cycles of hope and happiness and then sorrow, one after another. I was on an emotional roller coaster and I felt like I was going crazy.
After the 4th miscarriage, my sister arranged to visit me. I came home from the hospital knowing we would soon have a guest in our home. I felt I didn’t have time to deal with the grief. I couldn’t cry and express my sorrow when I had a visitor to look after. I decided I wouldn’t think about the grief. I would leave that until later when I was once again alone. I stepped back from the pain. I didn’t cry. I didn’t grieve. I didn’t feel anything.
My sister returned home but the time for grieving seemed to have passed. I had retreated so far away from my pain, I couldn’t get back. Life went on. I functioned. I survived. I thought I was quite all right. It didn’t really matter that I’d never cried a tear over my lost baby, did it?
And then one day I was at a mothers’ meeting talking to my best friend. Somehow the talking turned to arguing and a torrent of anger flowed out of me. My startled friend couldn’t understand why I was crying uncontrollably and getting very upset over a trivial matter. I gathered up my children and stormed out of the meeting to the great surprise of everyone.
The anger and tears were nothing to do with my friend. She just happened to be there when the dam burst and the grief I’d kept locked up inside me for so many weeks came flooding out. It was time to face the pain. I couldn’t avoid the grief any longer.
When Thomas died, there was a great temptation to withdraw within myself again, to retreat from the huge burden of sorrow that was bowing me down. I just wanted to get away both from the grief and myself.
But this time, I admitted to a friend how I was feeling; “It would be so easy just to draw back until I can no longer feel the pain.”
“But Sue if you withdraw from feelings of pain, you will withdraw from feeling anything. You will not experience moments of joy or happiness or hope. And it is these moments, however short, that will keep you going along that long and difficult pathway to healing. Yes, you will not feel pain. But you won’t feel anything good either. You will feel nothing.”
I cannot say I never retreated within myself while I was grieving for Thomas. There were moments when I no longer cared about the future. I just wanted to escape the present. But these times did not last long. I fought my way back each time.
I had to feel. I had to have hope. I wanted to survive.
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