“The new normal” is a phrase that I hope you never hear in connection to your own life. Unfortunately, it seems like “the new normal” is used in the aftermath of big, world-altering stuff like Pearl Harbor, 9/11, or COVID, and it’s also used after the loss of a loved one. Sure, I know losing my babies affected me, my husband, and my family; but the reality is, nobody else knew. The world didn’t stop out of respect for their loss. The day after we lost Faith, we drove home through bright October sunshine. The gingko tree in front of our house was a blaze of gold. My baby was dead, and the world was full of sunny indifference. It was brutal.
I’m still struck by how beautiful October is in my area of the world. It’s still, somehow, against all logic, my favorite month of the year. Faith died in October and Elijah was due in October, and I still love the colors and vibrancy of fall. I have no explanation for this.
Anyway. My husband and I have lived in our house since late 2017, so almost three years now. We’ve both been sort of restless for awhile, and are thinking of moving. [Ah yes, the fun [?] and excitement [?] of packing up all your worldly goods, cramming them into vehicles, and reversing the process at your destination. Truly, the best.] We’ve been in contact with a lender, and have conferred with realtors. We have found what may well be my dream house— an 1870 Victorian in a nowhere little village. [Ah yes, the joys [?] of loving “good architecture”, the old, expensive kind. Couldn’t just settle for a normal suburban ranch house, oh no!] It’s in our price range. It’s gorgeous. It has three fireplaces. I want it desperately.
Part of me–the cautious Enneagram 6– is appropriately skeptical of this potential move to this particular house [Rebecca, you’re being dumb, this house isn’t right for us, you just want it cause it’s pretty and your “dream house” but you need to get real and let this go.] The other part of me, the still-in-progress new me who knows nothing is guaranteed and even if you do everything right you can still lose, wants to take a big ol’ chance on this huge [too big for us?] house with all its problems [leaky roof, soft spot in the floor, waterlogged back deck, strange faux-stone wall treatments, wallpaper on the ceiling].
All this is to say, this is a stage of grief I wasn’t prepared for and honestly didn’t know existed: The part when you realize you have the rest of your life to live.
I’m a Christian and I believe in life after death. I believe my babies are safe with Jesus, waiting for us to join them. I know I have no guarantees of a long life, or a happy or safe life. I could die in two minutes, or I could live for another 60 years. I have no idea about, and no control over, the length of my life. That being said–I have the rest of it to live. I don’t want to let my grief and my inner fear control the rest of my life. How would it honor my babies if I spent the rest of my time on earth as a living ghost?
I spent a long time thinking that I had no future and my life was over. Sometimes, on really bad days, I still feel that way. If you’re in that sad, dark place, I’m so sorry. It’s not true. I know there are many schools of thought on God, who He is, whether He exists, etc, but in my life I have seen Him in the faces of my friends and family who brought meals, the funeral home and the cemetery who [twice!] refused payment for their services, the people who gathered graveside with us and wept with us then and into the present. I see Him, even, in the chance as a bereaved mother to comfort friends who have had their own losses. [Maybe that’s weird, or I’ve phrased it badly; but until you get to the point when you can comfort others, even while you’re grieving, I don’t think I can put it into words, sorry.]
What I’m trying to say, with my usual lack of direction and clarity, is that someday, maybe someday soon, you’ll be faced with the fact that you MUST live your life. You can’t shut it down and live trapped in your grief. You just can’t. You’ll break the hearts of the ones who love you, and you’ll break yourself.
My darling, you must live. Don’t hate yourself for that. You can even be happy; you can still have joy.
Maybe we’ll get this huge, rambling barn of a house, and I can spend the next 10 or 60 or whatever years I have left there. Maybe we’ll stay in our little fixer-upper until we find another opportunity. I don’t know what the rest of my life holds, but I have it to live, and I’m going to do it.
A side note:
Today is All Saints or All Souls Day. I intend to light a candle and pray for my grandparents and Faith and Elijah’s souls today. I don’t know if that’s “superstitious” or not, but I’m doing it and it will bring me comfort. Do what brings you comfort.