It's strange to me how easily I forget the ways of grief and all that comes with it.
I've been living in and with grief for over a year now. January 20 was Eve's due date last year, and this year will mark fourteen months without her.
Fourteen months. You'd think I'd have learned by now. But somehow grief still manages to surprise me with its unpredictability.
Because really, I thought I was doing okay. Okay with the grief, and okay with the anxiety that has invaded my life as a result of it. As my therapist noted, it's hard to trust again when that thing that you never thought could ever happen to you does.
I still find it hard to believe that we had a daughter, and that she died. Even with the support of my amazing friends and community, even with airing all the pain and hope and questions and anger on this blog, it feels like such an invisible thing, stillbirth. You're left holding nothing but the pain and (if you're lucky) photos that no one but you wants to look at.
And just when you think you're making headway against the pain, it resurfaces in a whole new way.
Like today. This morning, the women's Bible study group that I'm a member of embarked on Ann Voskamp's new video study on gratitude, One Thousand Gifts. I was looking forward to it. Ann writes lyrically and with deep wisdom. I had no expectation of grief attending the study with me.
I guess it's always with me, isn't it, because Eve's absence always is, too. And I was in the midst of reading Ann's book by the same name and counting my gratitudes when Eve died, so I guess I should have seen it coming by the association.
But I didn't. And as I sat there with Jacob squirming sweetly in my arms, listening to Ann talk about watching her baby sister being run over by a truck as a child, about how Jesus gave thanks for the very thing which broke him, about anxiety and closed fists and how thanksgiving can change everything . . . all the ugliness of grief that I thought was healing so cleanly burst open.
The anger, the asking why, why my daughter out of all the daughters in the world -- all of it was right there, as close as it was in the weeks after she died. And here I thought I was leaving some of the rawness behind.
The words that filtered around me exposed, excruciatingly, what is still festering within me.
And so I sat with it, among friends, choking down the tears. Because what else can we do, when grief rises yet again?
But I do wonder -- how long? How long will grief keep blindsiding me?
Because this morning's study? It wasn't the first time that grief sneaked up on me. It feels like it's been happening almost daily for the past few weeks. The memories come flooding in, the tears go pouring down, and every time I am shocked that I'm still crying.
I thought I was better.
So I am forced to realize yet again that there is no "better" for this kind of pain, this kind of loss. Eve will never not be gone. I will never not miss her. It will never not hurt.
In the video, Ann mentioned Jesus giving thanks the night before he died. Is this what Jesus was getting himself into when he went to the cross? Does it hurt him still, to have lost what he gave there? To have felt only the cold back of God at the time when he needed Love most of all?
How do you give thanks for death?
I am not grateful that Eve is dead. There is no silver lining to that fact. Death is wrong, an abomination. God never meant for it. We were not made to die. The first man and the first woman chose death, and every one of us since would, too, because we are given to grasping beyond what is up for the taking.
I am grateful for the new friends I now have because of Eve, friends near and far that are precious to me. I am grateful for the loved ones who came to the hospital and waited with me for her birth, who prayed when I thought there was nothing left to pray for. I am grateful for the ways I have grown because I have known loss. I am grateful for the writing of these words. I am grateful for our son, who would not exist if his sister had not come into the world when she did. I am grateful to God, for the way He carries me, even when I feel that I've fallen too far too many times.
And I suppose in a backhanded sort of way I can be grateful for the pain, because it is a mark of love -- of my love for the daughter that I will never know in this life. I just wish that I could remember what a constant, slippery beast grief is. I wish it would stop surprising me.
I think that I must embrace this forever-broken place in me, to make friends with it, instead of expecting its replacement with a healing that will never come.
But how? How to you befriend what you wish would pass?
Ann Voskamp would say that gratitude is the key. But I've counted my thousand and more gifts, and it still is hard. Too hard, sometimes.
It will be interesting, at the very least, to see what else this study will unearth from the raw and hidden depths of my heart . . .
"Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves."
~ Joni Eareckson Tada