I have spent a lot of time trying using words like heal, fix, change, and adapt but only recently have I been trying to just be who I am in whatever moment comes. Mostly because it helps keep my anxiety at bay, but being present has also shown me something incredible and something I never thought possible; how beautiful it is to be broken.
I will never look at Lilee as something to be ashamed of (obviously) and I have never looked at my situation as something that I should hide or keep quiet, like the secret only a few people know. My story, Lilee’s story, has always been a public one. But as I navigate a single woman’s journey through parental bereavement, I am starting to see how blurry my “sharing” lines are. When do I bring it up? Do I bring it up at all? I don’t want to share her with someone I don’t know! Woah, this is, like, the biggest factor in who I am, how do I not talk about it? Those are my first 4 thoughts when I even consider going on a date, let alone actually doing it. I still want to protect Lilee, like I would if she was alive, while introducing people into my life. Just like I wouldn’t (and most parents wouldn’t) have her involved in a relationship until it was appropriate to do so, how do I not involve her, in death, in a relationship until its appropriate to do so… and when is it appropriate? Because she’s not alive, it seems like such a difficult thing to assess.
My mind always does two things when I meet someone new and they ask one of the dreaded questions:
“Do you have any kids?”
“Yes, a daughter”
“Oh! how old is she?”
“She was two and a half” please don’t notice ‘was’, please don’t notice ‘was’
“How do you know so much about-insert medical somethingorother here-?”
I also have the scars of bearing a child without having one to show for it, so how do I explain that one?
So my mind always breaks into the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other (which is which I’m never sure) :
“Do you have any kids?”
“No, I don’t.”
the above example with “was” and then potentially ruin that persons day, make them cry, or stamp a big “DAMAGED GOODS” on my forehead.
Half of me thinks, protect her memory, protect her, and try not to make people uncomfortable or cry on the daily.
But the other half is like, fuck those people. I’m sorry, if MY child’s battle with cancer and her death makes YOU uncomfortable then maybe you needed this dose of reality. It happens and I will NOT deny her existence.
It almost always comes down to the latter. But then, there are those times that I selfishly just want to be a single woman in her late twenties just trying to find herself in a world that hasn’t always been so great to her. I don’t want the sob story. I don’t want the pity or the forehead stamp. I just want to see what its like to just not for a while. Is that completely terrible of me? thinking back, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have done that, Said no, I don’t have kids, or however the conversation went. I reacted that way because I knew the interaction had a guaranteed expiration date, and I can almost say without a doubt that I always felt like shit afterwords, riddled with guilt, consumed by being the worst angel mom ever.
So I started to think, what would I do? How would I feel if someone told me the story I tell others, how would I react if I were on the other end? It’s a bit hard to be objective, but I would LIKE to think that it would add more to that person, their experiences, heartbreak, the love, the challenges. That it would help explain the glimmer in their eyes, or depth at which they view the world. I mean, if someone sat down and right outta the gate told me their kid was dead, I would probably be like “how about we pick the wine first.” But within the first couple of conversations I don’t think I would hold it against them. BUT, playing devils advocate (which is my favourite game) would I want to get involved with someone who had such heavy emotional baggage? We all have our stories but a dead child is a doozy. Would it put too much pressure on me? Could I even be someone who could make this persons life better? We don’t always think about the future on a first, second or third date, but sharing something like that is such an intimate thing, I think it would throw you into a spiral of questions, what if’s, and could I’s. So would I go on another date? Or would I run for the hills because I wasn’t sure if I could handle someone else’s intense grief?
I’m not an unload-er. I share my actual real-in-the-moment-feelings with very few people because A) I know they are hurting and I don’t want to make it worse. and B) If I don’t speak it, or if I speak its opposite, maybe it will be better, or maybe I’ll start to believe that it is. Plus, since the split with Lil’s dad during her treatment, I have conditioned myself to grieve privately; its less messy. But I’d like to think that if someone came along that meant enough to me that I could be vulnerable with them, unload a little, or maybe just sit in silence curled up in a ball with my grief (like I often do), but be comfortable with having someone curled up with me. So even though I wouldn’t be one to put the responsibility of my happiness, comfort, or pain onto someone else, they don’t know that, so that now becomes a factor at the beginning of the relationship because it is a massive elephant in the room. I am not fragile, but that doesn’t mean people don’t look at me that way.
So after all of my over thinking, after recently re vamping the way I see the world and the way I see myself, and after listening to a wise and gentle soul:
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”-Winnie The Pooh,
I can see that as a human, I consist of many things. Cells, plasma, guts, organs, skin hair, eyeballs… you get the point.
But I am also lucky enough to consist of something called love, and every time I am blessed with even a little of it, it adds to the makeup of my very being. So can you imagine how much of me has been created by my love for my Lilee, and her love for me? My guess is a LOT.
I constantly look at pictures of her and, not surprisingly, I am in a bunch of them. I have noticed, that I look aesthetically the best when I am with her, being silly, doing something fun because her love radiates out of me. What I see isn’t my hair or makeup being on point, it’s love. It’s her love for me and my love for her. That’s when I’m at my best. And even now, even after, on days I know I was hurting a little extra, missing her just a little more, or thinking of her just a little harder, I am more beautiful. It’s not just a mind trick, you can actually see the love, and its amazing. I wouldn’t be broken if I didn’t love her with the instinctual intensity that I did, that I still do. When she was alive, it was her love that made me beautiful, but now, because of that love, its my brokenness that makes me shine. It might seem a little backward, but to me it makes complete sense.
So while I still fight to navigate this life in correlation with my grief and my past, while I still decide whether to listen to the angel or the devil on my shoulder, I have to (and I encourage those of you out there who are feeling the same) remember the courageous, incomparable and devastating beauty of being broken.
Because no matter what, You. Are. Loved.