Today, I witnessed an amazing display of bravery, grace and hope as I watched Newtown families on “The Katie Show.”
They spoke about their children and spouses, and about the Sandy Hook Promise
. I heard them proclaim that this tragedy would mark the beginning of change. I heard them attempt to describe life without their child or spouse. I heard them ask all of us parents to imagine ourselves in their position. They beautifully and bluntly cautioned that to do so would be heart-wrenching and brutal… but necessary in order to harness those raw emotions and move us as a society forward to an improved place.
And mostly I felt them struggling against an indescribable force that rolls in and out of grief like a tide churning and tossing things ashore, then moving back out again taking everything with it, only to return even more brutal than before. That force is time. And what makes it indescribable is the desire to stop time, yet fast forward it all in once.
I can’t claim to begin to understand the depths of suffering these parents and families are experiencing. I am, however, a bereaved parent and forever suffering the loss of my infant daughter. Every life and every loss is different, just as those 26 experiences are different, despite them being linked to the same horrific event.
But one thing I do know as a bereaved parent, is that my life is forever benchmarked by The Before and The After. In the weeks, months and first year following my daughter’s death, the passage of time became a bit of an obsession for me. You see, each day that passed marked another day since my daughter was with me, another day further away from a time when life was innocent, my heart happy and I naively believed everything was good and went according to plan. Each day that passed propelled me further and further from the idyllic world I once knew, The Before.
After her death is The After. And I did not want to be in The After. The After was a dark, sad place. In The After, my body reminded me with stretch marks and lactating breasts that I had an infant daughter, but my reality revealed she was dead. Having always prided myself on making others feel at ease, quite the opposite was true in The After. In The After, I made friends and family uncomfortable as they clumsily tried their best to say the right thing, but always landed on the wrong. People were a bit afraid of me in The After, not only because they were worried I might just lose it and go truly and sincerely mad, but also because I reminded them of how something like this could (gasp!) happen to them. Heck, in The After I was a bit of afraid of me too! In The After, I saw a heavy, downtrodden, grief-stricken mother wandering around a foreign, lonely place. I wanted nothing to do with this, The After.
I would do anything to return to The Before. The light, the funny, the sarcastic and upbeat world of The Before. I longed for my daughter and ached for The Before so badly that it would close my throat and make my chest feel heavy. Every day, every change of the calendar month or holiday was just another reminder that the rest of the world was moving on, while I felt frozen in that moment clinging to The Before. To embrace The After felt like a betrayal because this would be to embrace a world without my daughter.
They say acceptance is the last stage of grief and I supposed somewhere along the way, between The Before and my current version of The After, acceptance permeated its way into my existence. Its been nearly seven years and I can’t pinpoint the moment it happened because its not just one moment, its a series of moments, but now gratitude, happiness, joy and laughter have returned to my life and each has a very prominent place in The After.
But for me, life is still forever defined by The Before and The After, as I suspect it may be for the grieving families in Connecticut.
So, as the calendar moves us all further and further away from that date, lets remember that December 13, 2012 will always be the last day of these families’ Before. Please don’t hurry them along, let them stay emotionally close to their children, spouses, parents, friends and loved ones, their idyllic Before… for just a big longer.