I am thinking of the statement “I can’t put into words…” or, “Words cannot express…” and I find myself thinking how the statement can be overused or this go-to for when you just don’t know what to say. I want to use that statement right now. It is difficult to describe the overall feeling of what it has been like to lose Ava. Like Leah said, I don’t even like using the words die, death or dead. The words are almost like saying the f— word right now. That may not be the best example because I sometimes enjoy using the f— word. You get what I mean though.
When I think about trying to describe what this has been like, I can’t really think of any words other than completely awful curse words that describe the situation as the seventh circle of hell. I am struggling to even type what I want everyone to understand. My thoughts just walk into this intellectual vacuum when I try to think about summarizing or describing my experiences in the last 40 days. Every emotion available to me I have felt, multiple times over, in sometimes overpowering ways. And I have hated every last second of it. That the truth of the whole thing.
I am stuck in the one and only place where I can remember my daughter. Right now, I can’t exist outside the seventh circle of hell without setting aside a lot of emotions that I feel about her. I want her here. When I see pictures or think for a little while about everything that happened, I get upset. I start to dwell on self-pity and ask myself why any of this had to happen. I want something to hate. I will take anything. I just want to direct all of the hatred of this experience towards something. We have done such a thorough job of trying to sort everything out that there really isn’t anywhere to direct my hatred. I can go after God, but that doesn’t do me any good.
Leah said quite a bit about what she was feeling in her post about venting. That has been a topic of conversation for a while between the two of us. I don’t know that I could have written it better myself. She often accuses me of being the better writer but she really described everything well.
We just didn’t ask for this. It’s plain and simple. There was no life experience that I can pull from that prepared me for this roller coaster ride. I’m sure Leah can agree. I don’t believe our family or friends were prepared for it either. I know first hand just how easy it is for feelings to get hurt or for misunderstandings to happen. The process of grief is so unique that if nobody talks about what their needs are or what their way of dealing with it is, things can get out of hand very easily. The lines of communication among those who have suffered a loss have to stay open. The more that is left to interpretation or assumption, the worse off it gets for everyone involved.
I am going to go out on a bit of a limb here, not to offend anyone by any means but to talk specifically about what my needs are from three groups of people who Leah described from her post before. The way I look at it, no one can understand how this works whether it’s Leah and I sorting it out or our family trying to sort it out, or friends trying to sort it out. So hopefully this helps anyone in whatever position you might be in. This is not a list of expectations, it is just an explanation, inspired by what Leah wrote before.
I am going to love my family always. I believe or perhaps hope that family can always sort through misunderstandings and be open with one another no matter what. This isn’t always the case but I believe family should be like this. I want my entire family to completely dispose of any fear of talking about or mentioning anything about Ava to me at anytime, any place. That’s pretty easy. I feel that there is no conversation about Ava that could ever be as emotionally testing as the moments I shared with her in the hospital and burying her. I love Ava. With every single breath I take. I am beyond heartbroken that she is gone. But like any parent, I want to talk about Ava. I want to hear her name. I want you to tell me how you feel about her. Whatever it is. There is a 99 percent chance unless you are completely going out of your way to try to offend me, you will never upset me by talking about Ava. Period. The more we talk about Ava the better. She is precious to me and I don’t ever want anyone to forget just how special she is.
I understand and respect that everyone handles grief differently. That is why I also don’t expect that you bring things up that you can’t talk about. I’m okay if that’s how you feel. You just have to help me understand that so that I can extend to you the same respect I am asking from you. It may just be that sometimes I will want to talk about her or have her included in conversations. If you can’t do that, I may not be able to be around you in that moment. But please don’t take offense. I am only doing what works for me.
I love my nieces. I love them to pieces. I only have two right now, but our family is still growing. I love that all of you love your kids (I am not just talking to the parents of my nieces here). Kids can always be around me. There is never a time they can’t be. That should be evident by the fact they were a part of our lives so shortly after losing Ava. Yes, it is true that sometimes seeing the children of our family being the sweet children they are will hurt, but it’s okay. It’s only because I miss Ava so dearly and I wish that she could be right there in the room interacting with me like your kids do with you. Talk about your kids! It’s okay that you talk about them. Be proud of them. Cherish them. You should. Yes, sometimes I can’t always hear about how precious they are to you. No matter what the situation is though, if I can’t handle or Leah can’t handle it, we will tell you and we will make sure you understand why we feel a certain way.
Bottom line, don’t be afraid. If you ever wonder, ask me. Because I promise I know just as much as you do. My pain may be worse than yours, but I have no dang clue what is going to happen from one moment to the next. I would never expect you to understand either. All I ask for is kindness, consideration of my feelings and the willingness to do what I need when it comes to grieving. I can’t put you before me, but I can at least respect that you have to handle things your way too.
No matter what I will love all of you, always. I just have to get through this and this is perpetual. This will never go away. I will never be the person I used to be. It simply isn’t possible. I hope you can help me along the way.
Friends, a lot of what I said here about family applies to you also especially if you know me well. I don’t have a lot of friends. But that’s okay. I understand you may not be close to me and you may not know what to say. I completely get it. If you do know, I hope that you can acknowledge how completely crappy it is (that’s putting it kind of lightly) that I lost Ava. It just lets me know you care. I don’t expect you to dive into the details with me or ask me a ton of questions or anything like that. But rest assured as I just mentioned, you can always ask me about my daughter. Other than Leah, she really is the love of my life. Given my age, many of you have children anyway, so all you have to do is just put yourself in my shoes.
The beauty of knowing me at a friendship level is that you know I don’t get easily offended. You can be open with me and just based on what I have written over the last 40-ish days, I will be open with you. I cherish my friendships and I know that if any of you were suffering what I am (I hope, with every bit of my soul you never do) I would be there for you. I get that if you barely know me, maybe you don’t want to say something or maybe you do. I will understand that you don’t know me well enough to understand how to talk to me. You don’t have that benefit of being a closer friend or a family member. I give you that understanding. Say the wrong thing, I will of course tell you. I can’t make any promises, but I will be as understanding as I can be.
Strangers, I have very little expectations of you. Say something, don’t say something, totally up to you. But please don’t try to tell me what you think was the upside of this whole thing. Don’t spin it into something positive. Don’t tell me about that time you lost your parakeet and it was really hard. I love animals. I love them to a fault, but this isn’t the same. If you ask me about my daughter I might say something or I might not volunteer a whole lot to you. But don’t take it personally. Sometimes telling someone about Ava who doesn’t know me can be very hard. It’s like reliving the experience all over again. You just have to get me on the right day. One thing is always okay though. If you want to be compassionate, go for it. That just makes you a good person and I commend you. I can be honest in saying that before all of this happened, I don’t know what I would say or do if I came across someone who lost a child. I think I would honestly be afraid that I would offend them. But being on the other side of this now, I can tell you compassion goes a long way. Especially if you don’t know me and you don’t have to care if you don’t want to. It’s weird to think a total stranger would read this, but hey, you never know.
So everyone, this is just a good guide to understand what I need. Leah inspired me to write this. No matter what, all I can ever ask for no matter who you are is to just recognize the fact that I am going through something pretty tough right now and it isn’t anything you can relate to unless you walked in my shoes. I sincerely hope that you haven’t. If you have, then I don’t need to say much at all. Just talk to me. And Leah too. We have to get through this one way or the other and we know that in some aspects you have to get through it to. To be completely transparent, my needs and opinions will change in time. But as long as you remember to be patient, respectful and understanding you probably can’t go wrong.
Ava will always, always, always be my first-born child. She will always be my first daughter. She will always be a lot of things to me. It will never matter how old I get or how many additional children I have. Nothing will replace her and there is not anything or any person on this planet that will make me forget her.