Doing the work

This afternoon I was rear-ended by a P-plater who sat too close to my bumper, and rammed straight into my car when I slowed at a crossing. My first thought wasn’t anger, but of exhaustion. The swapping regos, calling the insurance company. Making arrangements, taking the time. An uninvited inconvenience hurled into my lap.

This is still how I think of grief, and trauma. Being forced, against my will, to do the work of grieving and healing and holding each part of myself up to the light, inspecting for cracks. Of examining my relationship to love, to family, to being in control.

I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t sign up for my daughter to die inside of me. I should have a six month old baby girl by now, but instead it is the eve of the one year anniversary of her birth/death and I am in bed with a box of mementos of her short life: the tiny hospital wristbands she wore; the photos of her in utero and after she was born, as soft and pink as a plum. Her footprints in gold paint. The cards people sent attached to giant bunches of flowers. A tiny pink crocheted flower that I tucked in her clothing, then took out at the last moment so I could keep something that had touched her skin.

There are no shortcuts through this. It has been hard work. It still is.

It is hard work to find the language to honour an almost-baby. To find a space for her in our family, in a way that feel rights for all of us. To grieve deeply and fully, to sit with it, to welcome it in. To burrow inwards.

Tomorrow, I will take the boys to swimming lessons, and then we will drive out to the country and eat ice cream. Archie suggested we eat a cupcake for Edie, for her birthday, and the suggestion nearly broke me.

We will hold hands, and I will wipe faces and drink coffee and kiss their heads. I will eat a pink cupcake and cry in the car. I will write letters and make art and plant a garden. I will have a messy house and a warm heart.

The long-dreaded anniversary over, I will loosen the stays of this year of reckoning and hold my babies close.

“Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight. She helps us to discover what matters most.” – Frank Ostaseski