The Unexpected Struggle With Time
After Maggie died I have often heard the phrase, “I could never imagine.” There were many things I had never imagined that come with the death of a child. One of the things I never imagined is that my daily and weekly schedule would be altered. I knew that the very fabric of my being was altered but not until recently have I begun to contemplate what grief means to my schedule as a mom, wife, and entrepreneur.
We are now one year and 3 months into our grief journey. I have been up since 4:45 am this morning. Why? Because for months on end grief has woken me up anywhere between 3 am and 4:45 am. And when I am sleeping I am woken by a child who has had a nightmare or who is scared and needs to crawl into bed with us. Usually, I wake up closer to 3 am. For the first few weeks, I slept very little. As the weeks went on the 3 am wake up began to happen. And then I slowly began to sleep again though not for a full night. As we approached the one year anniversary of Maggie’s birth into new life the old symptoms came roaring back. I lose hours of sleep. During these early morning hours, I am thinking about Maggie even as my mind wakes up. It is during these hours that I have the “time” to mourn her. It is during these hours that I am most attacked. I am haunted by images of what is happening to her body as it lies underground. Often times I cannot imagine her face as she was here on earth or as she is now in Heaven. It is in these moments that I have to chase out any image of her that comes to mind because it quickly becomes distorted and terrifying. I spend much of this time in tears and in prayer. It is in these quiet, early morning hours that I am able to worship. That I am able to grieve. That I feel the depth of my suffering. That I feel the darkness. That I sense God’s spirit.
Time has also changed during the day. Depending on how the children feel many days are filled with temper tantrums, arguing, and even anger. Grief has a “funny” way of affecting all of us right down to the very youngest who was only a year old when Maggie died. Even one tantrum can take an entire hour (or longer) to diffuse. This means that everything I should have accomplished in that hour is now pushed back. It leaves me exhausted and oftentimes overwhelmed. When I add in my own lack of sleep I can lose an entire day worth of work and effort. As moms, we already know that there are not enough hours in the day to finish our work. Imagine adding to those hours the grief and heartache that comes with child loss.
I spend a lot of time trying to remember what I was doing. The first several months of grief wreaked havoc on my short term memory. I remember one time standing in the aisle at the grocery store and trying to remember what I went in for. I knew I needed only one item and I knew I was on the right aisle to find that item but I could not remember what it was. After about 10 minutes of standing there, I called my husband to ask him why I was there. “You are grabbing some toothpaste,” he said. As the months went on my short term memory began to come back. As the weeks led up to the one year anniversary I realized that my short term memory was once again affected. When I add in the lack of sleep it makes this short term loss even more difficult. It is not as severe as it was in the beginning but it is present and it adds minutes and even hours to my day that I feel I simply do not have to give.
We buried Maggie almost an hour away from our home. Why did we do this? There are very few Catholic cemeteries to choose from and they are all a long distance. The larger cemeteries are much more expensive and have a lot more rules about gravesites. The place we chose for her body to lie is beautiful. It is way out in the country. In the mornings all you can hear is the birds singing and feel the warmth of the sun on your face as it rises. Maggie loved birds and I find it fitting that there are so many singing around her. We are free to do as we please with her little spot. We plant flowers. We listen to music. We dance. We cry. We pray. We sing. I could sit there for hours every single day but I cannot neglect my living children for this sacred place. We have to work, do chores, go to school, and live daily life. But I must still visit my daughter so this means that no matter how busy I am I don’t have a choice but to add “visit my daughters grave” to my weekly schedule. I do my best to go out at least once per week if not twice. I water the flowers and pray during whatever amount of time I have with her. This time varies as it depends on if the other children are with me and how well they do. When I go alone I tend to leave at around 6 am and stay for 2 or 3 hours. When the children are present they are not always able to stay long because of their own grief. Between driving time and time spent at the grave, it easily becomes a half-day spent there. This does not upset me. I would visit my children as often as possible no matter where they were. So, I add hours to my week to take care of my saint’s relics and to spend time united with her in prayer.
I could easily go on and on about the time that grief consumes. There are no choices for us grieving parents. All of this has been out of our control since the moment we found out our child was going to die. We learn through trial and error and we figure out how to make it work, with much sacrifice, in the midst of daily living.
So, the next time you meet a person who has lost a child you will understand a little more about what they go through. Their lives are forever altered in ways that you, and they, never imagined. – Jenifer
He did not say: You will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disqueted; but he said: You will not be overcome.Julian of Norwhich