When we first started this blog, I thought this would be something that I would write in on a daily basis. This has obviously proven to not be the case. Grief changes with time. Looking back at what I have written and how I have felt I am surprised what has changed and how I have felt.
What has remained true through time is how I have felt about Ava and how much she has been such a prominent part of my life. She is on my mind every day and somehow or someway I always ask myself if I am doing right by her. It isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to wonder whether or not Ava thinks the best of me or if I am doing what is in the best interests of her memory. I just wanted her here. It has been over four months since she came and gone. Had everything unfolded the way that it was supposed to, she would only be about a month old right now. Since that reality was not meant to be I am left with my imagination. I can write what would have been Ava’s future any way that I like. Would she have been smart? Would she have been like me? Would she see good in me? Would she be proud that I am her father? What dreams would she have had? This is a book I have no desire to write. I just wanted it to be written as time unfolded. I wanted to watch Ava grow up, meet her family and undoubtedly make her father proud.
This has been the constant since the day she unexpectedly came into this world. I have had many conversations about whether or not it would have been worse to have lost Ava later in her life versus now. We attended a grief workshop recently and I think that helped solidify how I have already felt about my experience with losing Ava. The perspective of each parent is always different, so what ends up being seen as something worse isn’t for another parent. We met this couple who had lost their child unexpectedly at home, just a short time after their baby had come home from an already extended stay in the hospital. As they told their story to Leah and I, I just imagined what I would have done or how I would have felt if I would have been in their position. I had less than two days with Ava and for a lot of that time she was in an incubator. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel if Ava had come home and then I just found her unresponsive one morning. I cannot imagine it.
Some would say having so little time with her was worse. I do agree in some ways but I don’t agree completely. The majority of the memories I have of Ava are all tragedy unfolding. There are a few where, if I just treat it as an isolated moment independent of the circumstances, I can be very proud and feel a great deal of joy. It is also difficult that I never heard her cry or saw her open her eyes. There was no way to gauge what her personality was or to even know what she looked like when she looked at me, or how she would react when she saw my face for the first time. A doctor in the OR when Ava was born said that she cried, but for the life of me I cannot remember hearing it. I try so hard to think back through when or how I would have heard it. But I can’t. Every attribute of my daughter except for her physical appearance is left for my imagination. I don’t think it means that I don’t know her, I just didn’t get the opportunity to learn much about her. So from a couple’s perspective who had lost their child later down the road, they may see my circumstances as being worse. For me, if I had gotten to know Ava even a little better than I did and then we tragically lost her, I don’t know how I would have handled it, but I believe it would have been worse. I can’t picture the grief this couple who had lost their child is facing, and I also lost a child. That told me how different the loss of a child is for everyone.
In this workshop, there had to have been around 30 people. I would guess that of those 30, around 25 were women. I have this feeling that men just don’t take part in these sorts of activities when they lose their children. They deal with much of what they face on their own, probably keeping things to themselves. Maybe they talk to their wives about it, but I suspect men just don’t talk nearly as much as women do. I can admit that I am not the same that I was even four months ago and sometimes I could benefit from talking more even when I don’t want to. I talked more then than I do now.
I guess that four months from now, I may be writing about how I felt differently four months prior. I know that at this point in my life, my concentration has never been more focused on the loves of my life, regardless of whether they can both be on this earth at the same time. Our grief was so intense and so raw at first. It required such a great deal of energy and support from everyone we knew. I used to be very concerned with who was doing what, how they acted and whether or not they seemed to care enough. I wrote about it a few times before, sometimes even angry at other people for what they do. The only difference between then and now is the realization that Leah and I are the only two people who have the privilege to be Ava’s parents. Along with that privilege comes the pain of not having her here. That is something that no one else could ever understand, therefore there isn’t anyone that should be judged for not understanding our perspective. That mere difference is able to transform anger into something insignificant that doesn’t matter.
Someone said that when you lose your child you shouldn’t pass through grief expecting to come out the other side the same person you were before. You shouldn’t. If your child had any sort of impact on your life, you will never be the same person you were before. I was afraid of that. I thought that it meant that I was destined to live in doom and I would never be able to function ever again. Some days are crap there is no denying that. It doesn’t translate into being the definition of life on all terms for all lengths of time. Ava has given me such a tremendous gift. She has empowered me to believe in the virtue of being decent, the pride that comes with being a parent, and she also redefined what I hold most important in life. I do not ever want to become so overrun with darkness that it becomes the only impact Ava ever had on my life. I believe I will see her again someday and when I do I want to tell her many, many things I did as the direct result of my little girl. I would not have it any other way.
I love Leah and Ava more than I thought was possible. They are who I live for and who I try very hard to take care of. It is a conviction I will carry for the rest of my life.