If You're Blessed... Then What am I?
There are several reasons it has been awhile since I last made a blog post. *Excuse time!* First, I returned to work a few weeks ago, and it has been one of the single most exhausting things I have ever had to do. Secondly, I have been grappling quite messily with these massive, heavy questions. I am very cautious that I do not make things more difficult for people reading this. I apologize in advance for the fact that this blog is not even a fraction of what I want it to be. Nonetheless, I have decided that regardless, I have wrestled with these words long enough.
I am left with a certain responsibility to attempt to do some sort of justice to my own reality. And just maybe, my current reality might look something like yours too. Somewhere in which the current weather forecast is utterly stormy and quite void of rainbows. I know that many people nobly try to fix broken people, but when those people are irreparably broken, they do not know what else to do but sweep them and their problems under the rug. As the broken person, it is really easy to just follow suit and keep my brokenness a secret from the rest of the world in order to make everyone else comfortable.
You may be reading this and wondering who in the world would try to make a grieving parent feel that way, but the issue is much bigger than that. I do not think any of this is intentional, and I do not speak it from a judgmental space. Not every grieving parent feels this same way that I do and I also lived 25 years before I became a bereaved parent. It pains me to think that I probably contributed to this culture too.
I know that I have always marched to the beat of an entirely different drum and so my doing that with my grieving too is likely no surprise to those closest to me. Now, I no longer fit in with "normal" society at all. I know too much. I have fully realized just how thin the veil is between life and death. And man, what an uncomfortable reality that is for other people to be around. Blank stares, whispers, avoiding me in person or on social media, not knowing what to say so they say nothing at all, pretending like Rylea never existed, and empty platitudes that do more harm than good...
Maybe the discomfort comes from me. I must protect my daughter's memory and the grief is an equal companion in that story. I cannot relate to the carefree, non-bereaved parents. Reactions to my presence make me wonder if people think it's contagious. Or is it what I know that is contagious and therefore scary?
Yes, maybe that is what is so uncomfortable. Losing Rylea has challenged every belief I have ever had, and with my existence in the after, I think I challenge everyone else's too. I live what you think would never happen to you or what you think you could not survive.
I never thought this would happen to us. I beg that it never happens to you.
Still, I reject the idea that I have to hide any part of Rylea's life or death to make someone else comfortable. The point here, though, is a general observation of the world… Why can we not just sit next to broken people and simply accept the fact that they are broken? Can you just take our stories - the stories of the broken ones - and also help purpose them in your own life? To see our pain and sit alongside each other in that pain, side-by-side? Or to see your own season of joy and feel it sweeter without guilt? Can the broken finally exist and be accepted openly? Can we redefine what healing might look like?
Instead of trying to fix me by explaining away my pain with empty platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” and “time heals all wounds” or “God needed another angel” to name just a few, can we please just acknowledge that life is not always enjoyable or lighthearted? I say ‘we’ because I am sure this used to be me too.
But now… if you tell me that “everything happens for a reason” I will ask you for one. What reason could there possibly be for an innocent, helpless child to struggle and then ultimately die in the arms of her parents who did absolutely everything in their power to give her a beautiful, happy life? I refuse to give death the last sting, so I will make her life mean something now in my life in the “after.” But the good that I choose to chisel out of this… I would trade it all to have her back. There is no reason and there is no consolation. If we have a house full of children some day, there will never be a reason why their big sister is not there.
Yet, who am I that such a tragedy would skip me?
Time does not heal this wound. I am stronger from this heavy weight I carry each day, but the pain does not go away. I want to say this as delicately as possible for anyone reading this who might be earlier on in their journey with loss (because please do not give up). The pain I felt since Rylea died genuinely has not eased a bit. My heart somehow beats while broken. You learn to live like this - half alive and half dead. If there were a pain out there worse than this... I hope I never have to feel it.
Bereaved parents are actual superheroes.
"God needing another angel" does not fix this. God being God, could he not make his own angel instead of taking mine? You may say that prayer changes things, but tell me... If God has blessed you… what has he done to me? Does being a successful parent mean your child is still alive? Why do bad things happen to loving, honest people?
I remember sitting next to Rylea's isolette in the NICU the day she was born and Ryan asking me to pray that God would save her. I tried to pray, but I have never experienced anything quite like when I could actually feel the words getting choked, vanquished right from my mouth at the precise moment I was saying them. As I heard myself speak them, I knew that God would not answer my prayer - I could not even finish it.
I mean, does God intervene in our affairs here? Or do sucky things just simply happen?
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms [of grief]. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed).
As most of this is contradictory in nature, I also cling with so very tightly clenched fists onto the shreds of hope that there is a heaven where my sweet family will be reunited and that maybe, someday, I will finally be unbroken. That my sweet Rylea girl is looking down on me from wherever heaven is and whatever it looks like, watching me to make sure I never give up. Until then, I believe in a godly force big enough for me to beat on his chest. If you do not believe in that, I cannot hear any of it. Much of my survival hinges upon the hope that I will see her again.
My point is not to sit here and debate theology (no thanks), but to just beg that we as a society, regardless of belief or of background, can just sit. Sit alongside the broken without asking them to be healed. To sit with the questions and without the answers. To just let us be and to be with the things that made us broken. And if we want to share, to simply accept our suffering along with our joy. And whatever that looks like.
These questions... I just do not know.
And that... at least for today... is okay.