Saturday, March 24, 2012
A Place for Love
I miss my son. Those words are at once insufficient to describe how I feel every day, and the best I can come up with. To say that it feels wrong to go on breathing when Gabriel doesn't is true, but then I feel guilty. To say that a piece of me is missing is also true, but it's not something that can be seen on me and so that description too seems to fall short. I miss Gabriel. I miss my son. I long to hold him again and the pain of longing for him is visceral, and it's real, and it grows more intense every day, and it is a reality that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I fear my missing Gabriel is being interpreted as my not moving on. It is a fear based on what I am sure are well-meaning suggestions that I must learn to move on, or that Gabriel would want me to go on. I guess all I can offer in response is that moving on from a child's death is not something I would wish on anyone, but it is also something that can't be understood unless one is standing in similar shoes. Figuring out how to move on is something I grapple with every day. Gabriel's memory should be honored and as his mother it is something I am compelled to do, but it is hard to do under such scrutiny. I read of mothers who have shrines to their lost children in their home, which I don't have, of families who have birthday parties for their lost babies, which I have been criticized for wanting to do, or families who organize March of Dimes teams in their departed children's honor, which I have been discouraged from doing for fear that people will feel I'm hanging on to the past. Just yesterday I saw a tribute bumper sticker in memory of a baby girl, Annabelle LaRae Lynn Hernandez, who lived seven days and passed away two years ago this week. My parents have a similar bumper sticker in Gabriel's honor, but I have always felt I couldn't have one of my own -- Ben would hate it, and I would feel I lost something all over again when it began to fade and had to be removed. But when I saw Annabelle's sticker I didn't think her family was strange, or clinging too tightly to a memory. I thought, "She may have only lived seven days, but she still lived."
I take too many pictures of the dogs, I stare at other people's children (especially, right now, nine-month old baby boys) a little too long, I sneak peaks at pictures of Gabriel throughout the day, I find reasons to talk about him or to talk about the pregnancy and all of those are my way of coping and maybe it's weird or maybe it means I'm not moving on or that I am moving on in a way that is unhealthy, but I challenge a stranger to this experience to tell me how I can "better" grieve.
Through the separation process with Ben I have been reminded constantly, again by people who are probably well-intentioned, that men and women just grieve differently. I don't think our differences are really that simple, just a matter of men being from Mars (and completely alien to me), and women being from Venus. In our case, I think the opposing qualities that we found in each other were just SO extreme, and clashed tremendously with Gabriel's death. Ben is private and reserved and even he will admit that he tends to stuff his feelings. I am driven by my heart, and open book, and sometimes a little too impetuous. There have been times I wished I could demand of Ben that he teach me how to turn down my love for my child, and my resulting longing for him. But we are parting because that is not a feeling I want to turn down. I know that eventually this hurt will be easier to live with, but until then I want to feel everything.
I realize more every day that I love my little boy so deeply, that all of that love can't just disappear. I had hoped to direct it towards my husband, and towards another child. My hope hasn't played out, but I know that my love has found other places to go, that it is poured out on my family, my friends, my pets. The passion with which I love my sweet Gabriel was reflected in the way I attacked the creative writing class that I just finished, and in my dedication to my criminal client who is facing trial soon. I know that I'll continue to see my love for Gabriel in unexpected places. Love can always find a home.