Two years ago I was due, so I went to the grave today to put something there by means of a birthday present as I did last year and the year before. Today it feels different from these last two times, although I had to withhold myself from crying when I paid for the lilies at the florist, and felt too bright as I walked across the cemetery in my brightly colored coat.
Maybe I have already learned to live with the loss of our youngest. My heart still feels a bit heavy. Actually since three weeks ago when it was two years ago that I was 37 weeks pregnant (how I prayed that would be her date of birth). I keep finding it strange how my memory works. It is not the date per se, but it is the smells, the temperature and the colors around me that remind me of this time two years ago, when I walked around so vulnerable, dazed looking for the child who is no longer here.
I didn’t know losing a child would feel like this. That pain can go so deep nothing is the same anymore. At least in my perception, because most of the appearance has remained the same. I still live in the same house, in the same neighborhood, have the same family, but I experience it all differently and that continues to regularly surprise me. I really can’t go back to who I used to be. There is a life before and a life after Amanda.
Lately I noticed that things have shifted in my attitude towards other people as well. It matters whether Amanda can be mentioned or not. For people who keep silent about her, opening my heart takes a lot of effort. I heard from other mourners that they eventually ended some relationships. When I heard that, I decided I wanted to avoid that. I wanted to keep opening my heart to people. But now, more than two years later, I sometimes notice that I am not that flexible anymore and that I close my heart more often. I find that difficult, as it evokes new grief.
I always wanted to be there for everyone, no matter how they behave towards me. By God’s grace, I was often able to do that. But now I sometimes can’t bring myself to that anymore. If I have to keep silent about her, who is so real to me as if she was here and now celebrating her second birthday, why would I listen to their story?
Again I need grace. More grace, more comprehension, more space in my heart. Because I believe we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. Not the way we are treated ourselves. An important and essential difference, I now notice again and you can never know why people act the way they do. Often they have good intentions, though good intentions can hurt as well.
So I bow my head again, pour out my grief and anger to the God who already knows, to receive more grace and more love to be there again for the other, however he or she treats me. And then I go to the grave of my daughter, who should have turned two and place a fresh bunch of lilies. Congratulations dear little daughter of mine. And: Give her my regards, Lord.
Again I wonder where grief ends and self-pity begins. Or do you have to go through self-pity before you can grieve? In any case, keeping silent about her and about grief doesn’t help, as that suffocates even more. So here I am again, broken but real and willing to again go that way of treating others with grace and words. Even if they keep silent about my beloved child, who should have turned two by today.
First published in Dutch on July 8, 2019