Fourteen months and four days ago, my daughter died. In a freak accident, in my front yard, a week before she was due. I can say that now without crying, without wanting to crawl into a hole, without my guts doing somersaults. I can say that from the standing position, my back vertical, my toes curled up against the ground. I suppose this is one way to sum up right where I am:
However wobbly, however shaken, however much I lean to the left, however much my shoulders hunch and my heart sags, I'm standing.
Gone are the days of slogging through the thick mud, on my belly, in the darkest of dark, pulling myself ahead by my fingernails, one tiresome inch at a time. Gone is the feeling of being hit by a bulldozer every time I wake up and remember what happened, that yes, my daughter really did die, and yes, this is my life. Gone are the screams, the meltdowns, the desire to dress myself in black and the insistence that every single friend understand my pain.
Call it progress or evolution or acceptance, but something changed after twelve and a half months, something shifted in my grief, tectonic like. The mud turned to dirt and the slogging turned to crawling and I found myself opening up again to the world, seeing colors, dreaming again, finding enjoyment outside of my wife and living daughter. I could tell even then, six weeks ago, that this wasn't going to be one of those brief moments of respite before going back to the mud again.
Margot - or at least the idea of her - is so much a part of me now, so integrated into my being, into my story and conversations and friendships and daily life, that the longing for her has subsided. The deep ache I once had for her isn't as intense because of this integration, this beautiful and abstract coalescence of our stories coming together. I don't physically feel her presence, or see her in rainbows or birds or visions, yet her story has altered my own so thoroughly that it feels like I carry her with me wherever I go. So much of who I've become over the past fourteen months is because of her and I am grateful for the transformation that has taken place within me, the gifts from her story, from her brief existence.
For the first time in my life, I feel the full range of human emotion, both the elation and the sorrow, and it grounds me to the earth, to suffering in a way that I only knew in the past on a rational level. It's like seeing the color black for the first time, without turning my head away from it or wishing it away or dismissing it. And the color may be black, but acknowledging it feels like something, and the black sure makes the reds and shades of purple all the more beautiful.
Her story has also taught me how to live within the complexities of the happy and sad confines, knowing that each has it's limits and each could be followed up with the other, even in the same moment. I am sad and I am happy and some days these two emotions live together and some days they are lopsided, tilting me toward one or the other. But to be okay with sadness, to sit with it and process it and feel the heartache, without pushing it away or trying to get over it, feels so profoundly freeing.
There are moments when the pain makes all of these gifts seem worthless, moments when I miss her with the vivid rawness I experienced in the early days, moments when the normality of her death is met with an equal measure of incredulity. But they are moments now, spaced between the integration of her life into my own, spaced between the gifts, spaced between the beauty, however black and red and yellow the beauty may be.
This post is part of Angie's epic Right Where I Am Project that was started last year. It's a way for the community of babyloss parents to capture the current state of their grief. I wrote a post last year, 67 days after Margot died, and then took on my own project to capture the other 178 people who participated in the project last year.