The last couple of days have been tough.. really tough. We had good days Friday and Saturday, so I guess it should come as no surprise to us that eventually our world would feel like it was crashing down again, but it seemed to come out of nowhere. We spent Friday night and Saturday night with friends. It was nice to laugh, to talk about regular things, to talk about Ava without crying. I felt almost normal. As normal as could be expected I mean. There truly is rarely a moment that goes by that I don’t think about Ava, but I seemed to find more happiness than sadness when I thought about her Friday and Saturday. Friday, we went to dinner and a movie with friends. Ryan already talked about that in a previous post. Saturday, we started out the day going to some antique shops in Mattawan and Paw Paw. There was a vintage trail event going on and I just wanted to look around. The most amazing thing happened. We were walking around some booths in town, and we stopped at a booth in which a woman was selling paper watches (weird concept, super cool). I was telling Ryan that it would be nice to have something like it for nursing because the watch I have is too nice to wear to work. The lady asked where I was a nurse and on which unit. I told her where I worked, but told her the unit I was currently on wasn’t where I wanted to stay. She asked what kind of nurse I wanted to be. I hesitated for a good few seconds. Before this, I hadn’t talked to anyone I didn’t know pretty well about Ava. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, and I didn’t know how I would handle it even if I did want to. Before too much awkward silence passed, I told her that Ryan and I had lost our daughter a month ago, so I wanted to do something in nursing that would honor her.. maybe a NICU nurse eventually or something. She gave the typical “I’m so sorry response.” But she didn’t stop there. She asked if I would be willing to tell her what happened to Ava. She asked her name, and offered to pray for her. She wanted to see pictures and our tattoos. I talked about my daughter with so much pride, so much joy. My heart was the happiest it had been since Ava’s death. She, a complete stranger, cared about our Ava. She told us about her nephew, and how he was born prematurely in the NICU as well. He survived, but 18 years later his life was taken due to a motor vehicle accident. She shed tears for our loss, and for her loss as well. It was one of the most inspiring conversations I have ever had. I thanked her for asking about Ava. I admired how brave she was to go out on a limb and ask questions not knowing how I might respond. There’s a chance I may never see her again, but I can’t tell you how much her questions, concern, and her tears meant to me. As Ava’s mom, I need those things so badly. I remember telling her near the end of our conversation that I had the most terrible fear that Ava was going to be forgotten; that my family, friends, and everyone else would eventually stop asking about her and celebrating her. She said that her sister-in-law felt the same way after her nephew passed away. I think it’s a common feeling among mothers who lose children. When your child is your whole world, it’s scary to think that you might be the only one to remember him or her for a lifetime. This fear is what led to the last couple of disaster days.
I am a control freak. I always have been. I have a “my way or the highway” attitude, and I tend to believe that people should act, think, and feel like I do. I’ve been working on it, and I think I have gotten a lot better since Ava left us because I realized that a lot of what I was trying to control was stupid and a waste of time. Besides, no one likes a control freak. However, when it comes to Ava and how family and friends handle her being gone, I want to control everything; everyone’s feelings about her, everyone’s actions. I am dealing with the grief of losing Ava by facing it head on. That’s what I do. If I try to hide from it, minimize it, or avoid it, I know it will catch up to me, and when it does it’ll be 100x worse. Not everyone handles it like this. And some people face their grief by dealing with it differently. This is hard for me to accept, because sometimes I take what I attribute to a lack of grieving as a sign that someone doesn’t love her or care to remember her. I’m not saying these feelings are true, I’m just being fully transparent when I say that this is sometimes how I analyze things. When I start to feel that way, I start to become irrational and I lose control quickly. Ryan is different. He gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. He believes in the good intentions of everyone. He doesn’t have expectations of how people should act. I love this about him. He balances me in that way. But yesterday, my controlling behavior and his desire to extend a benefit of the doubt to everyone caused an explosion. We both did and said things neither of us are proud of. We let our daughter down, which hurts more than anything else. We defeated ourselves and each other. To put it bluntly, it sucks to know that we are still capable of hurting each other while we are mourning the loss of our daughter. We need each other, and our marriage can’t handle many arguments like these. But I know, for a fact, that all of our harsh words and actions boil down how devastatingly much we miss our daughter. It’s no excuse for our behavior, but I certainly wouldn’t go as far as to say that lashing out was totally unexpected. I think deep down we knew it would happen eventually. No one teaches you how to deal with losing a child. In all reality, there is no right way. You go into survival mode and just pray that one day you’ll find a way to crawl out of the darkness that surrounds you constantly. Today, we are trying to heal from the hurt we’ve faced the last couple of days, and we are working to put the focus back where it belongs. We lost a beautiful baby girl. But we want her to be proud to call us mommy and daddy. Tomorrow is a new day.