All Saints’ Day

We received an invitation in our mailbox last week. It was from the church in our neighborhood. They invited all neighbors to come and light a candle for a beloved one.

My eldest gave it to me without saying a word. Does she want to go there? I read the invitation and I feel I’m attracted to it. Again I am surprised about how much I am changed. In the past I never understood why someone would want to light a candle for someone who passed away. What is the point? You can’t get the person back by doing that. I didn’t like rituals and things like that. But now, I want to go there. And asking my husband, he feels the same.

Mourning together is an impossibility. I have given up on that some time ago. There is room for grief in our family. Who wants to talk about Amanda, or about death, or about a baby, is allowed to do that. But when one of us feels the need to bring his or her sorrow to the table, another one might just not want that at that moment. We’ve found that it is very hard to find a way to express this empty place we all do feel. I don’t want to ignore, but I also don’t want to push.

I find mourning on my own already quite hard. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t feel much, don’t think much. In my head a line is resonating, a line I read in an article about the death of a child. ‘Are you able to deal with it somehow?’ Somebody asked. ‘No’, said the wife of the author, ‘He is still dead’.

She is still dead. That is what I realize too and the inevitability and inescapability is dawning more and more on me, but I can’t deal with it really. I wished I could just cry some more. Because it was a year ago yesterday that I held a positive pregnancy test in my hands, for example. But today it seems as if this happened in another life, to someone else. I am only thinking: ‘she is still dead’. Over and over again.

We all feel that. Each of us in a different way, but we all miss her and we all need to figure out how to live with that. I’ve found that I am grateful when I think about how she is doing well. That she’s been taking care of, that she, if she would have a choice, probably wouldn’t want to go back to us. But I also notice that there is a hole in my heart. There is love I can’t give away. I always lack a child.

With my other children I have ‘Mommy-…..’-time. Time wherein I do something with only the child whose name fills the dots. I realize I need to do the same with her. I need to make ‘Mommy-Amanda-time’. And although I can’t breastfeed her, put her in bath, or, as I do with my other children, when she is older: eating cake in the city center, making a walk and talk about something deep, or just making a jigsaw puzzle together, I can focus my attention on her alone for some time. Just focus on her.

So I think that is why we accept this invitation tonight. In order to remember her together. To mourn together, whatever that is.

First published in Dutch on November 2, 2017

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