Unexpected death and tragic loss affect you forever. It makes you feel vulnerable, out of control and, most of all, broken by the life you thought you were living. The grief will never truly go away but will ebb and flow and come to a point where you can live with it, not in it. Charlie’s death rocked the safe little world we created. Michael and I both followed the books on how to “do life” with the least amount of hardship. We graduated from college, got decent paying jobs (ok, so one of us has a decent paying job … teaching isn’t about the money, or at least that is what our state government tells us when we ask for a raise), dated, bought a house, and got married. Having children came after those steps had been well-grounded and we felt that we could take on the task of raising a child. Even with the best parenting and protection we could provide for Charlie, he still died. And that blow has been the hardest to recover from.
There came a point several months ago, when I began to ask myself and our therapist, “Will we ever be blissfully happy again?” We have had moments of laughter amongst the tears since Charlie died last year. But never have they been without the tinge of pain or sadness to follow it. We play with Ellie, watch her grow and smile, but the smiles quickly fade as we are reminded that her playmate and brother are not there to share them with her. My fear has been and still is that Michael and I will no longer experience those times in our life of being just happy because, well, we were.
While our therapist has said and other grieving moms have agreed that there will come a time when we will feel that bliss again, I have remained skeptical. Not because I don’t believe what they say but to protect myself from the potential that blissful happiness might not come to us. Being “glass half empty” in this situation seemed much more of a safeguard for my emotions than “glass half full.”
Then, in late February, I had my anatomy ultrasound for baby number 3. It was a stressful morning considering that at 35 or “advanced maternal age” as my mother likes to throw out there all the time, I had to go for a level 2 screening at a specialized OB instead of my normal female doctor. While there was no concern or cause for alarm, besides my age (yes, mom, I know … my advanced maternal age) there were still moments of concern that something could show up on the ultrasound that we were not prepared for.
Ellie and Michael accompanied me that day and as we sat waiting in the dim room for the ultrasound technician to come, my heart pounded. When she entered, she went straight to work, only asking the one question, “Are you all excited about baby number 2? You are going to be a big sister,” she said to Ellie. I quickly corrected her, making sure she knew that Ellie has a big brother who loves her in heaven and this was, in fact, baby number 3. The technician began her thorough check on the ultrasound machine while Ellie and Michael watched, getting their first glimpses of the new baby. I watched them watching the screen, taking it all in, thankful that each area was showing a healthy baby. Once the scan was completed, the technician left to get the doctor and our family was alone again once more. I laid there for a few minutes and then looked at Michael holding Ellie and I felt it … blissful happiness. I told Michael and Ellie that I felt all of us there in that room, including Charlie. We were all there watching our new baby move and grow on the ultrasound screen and the happiness of that moment just overwhelmed me. I cried laying there and for once when Ellie asked, “Mommie, are you sad?” I could honestly say, “No, baby. Mommie is crying because she is happy.” For a few brief moments, I actually felt true happiness without the tinge of sadness.
Even though that blissful feeling quickly passed, I continue to hold onto that moment. I hope and pray for more moments of happiness, just like the one in the ultrasound room that day. I now truly believe we will be blissfully happy again, even if it is just in moments or glimpses of heaven that shine down upon us.