That bump from my last entry here got bigger and healthier and turned into another beautiful baby boy, late September. We named him Lionel, and recently scheduled his baptism. Trying to squeeze it in before Lent but still allow time for family to make plans to join us, we landed on Sunday, February 15. Three days later is February 18, when Samuel would have turned five years old. The days of the week land on the same dates this year as they did five years old. Sam died on Ash Wednesday. And here we are, five years later, baptizing another beautiful son.
Then last week I connected with a couple of newly grieving mothers. For one, a mommy who recently lost her baby, I ran a meal and some gifts–she is one of the moms in a group I connected with when I was pregnant with Ezra. I bundled up a bunch of sympathy cards from our little group, tied them with twine, and cried as I always do for moms new to this grief path. I always cry like that for them. It’s all anyone can do.
I feel like my grieving “scars” were pressed and made to ache by these events in a way. And then, this weekend, we finally picked up Sam’s permanent headstone. Finally. We designed it a few years ago, ordered it last year, and are just now picking it up. Life just kept going on and on and on, the stone kept taking the back burner, and I felt like a bad mom every time something kept us from placing the stone, like I was failing Sam. Battling mommy guilt over Ezra and Leo is a regular thing for me–and I do battle it, not accept it–but mommy guilt over a baby who has passed is gut-wrenching.
We sat down to discuss when we could get out to the property to actually lay the headstone, and realized there may need to be some maintenance done for his grave–a little fence built, maybe. I had this weird expectation that I would lay the stone and just be done with it–I’m not a stuff-all-the-feelings kind of person, yet I had this expectation–and I began feeling discouraged about all the work ahead.
I’m realizing this weekend that the saga of the headstone may have been something of my story, not some bad mommy failure but rather a thread Divinely woven into this grief part of my life. I realized that my hope and expectation to just get the stone DONE paralleled my expectations of grief. I just wanted to be DONE with it. A friend, also a bereaved mother, posted an article from the New York times, challenging psychology’s current model of grief. I’m familiar with this model as I studied it in college. I found myself, over the past five years, trying to squeeze my own grief into that denial/isolation>anger>bargaining>depression>acceptance timeline. Not realistic. Grief doesn’t fit. It’s not a thing we do and get DONE. It’s like a new appendage, which can be an asset in life or a tumor. It’s not a timeline.
I think in word pictures, so all along I’ve had this vision of myself grieving through a Valley and then eventually emerging. Several years ago, when my husband and I met, I was working at an adventure camp where I led all kinds of crazy mountain adventures–hiking, mountain-biking, cross-country skiing, etc. So my vision of grief was that of a familiar trail through a treacherous but beautiful Valley, from which I would eventually just be done. Turns out, this Valley is a place to live in joy and sorrow.
And really, it’s kind of lovely here when I’m not fighting to exit.