Writing has become more and more difficult as time has went on. I don’t think about writing even close to daily anymore. When I choose to write I feel like there are basically two paths I can go down. I can either go down the path of talking about the unpleasantness of Ava not being in my life and everything that has come along with that, or I can choose the path of hope. Hope usually inspires others and it usually gives other people who have also lost a child some sense of hope. That’s why it’s hard when you just want to talk about the heap of crap life can sometimes be when your only child happens to be gone forever.
It has been almost seven months since Ava passed away. That blows my mind. I look back on the moments in the hospital and the intense, insane pain I felt for some time after and wonder how I am where I am. I think the human mind just does things to protect itself from tragedy even when you aren’t consciously aware of it. I have this part of my brain that I think just shuts off when things get too intense. I almost never let myself fall into the feelings that I felt when Ava left us. I may be incorrect in saying this because certain parts of my memory are terrible, but I am pretty sure that I have only cried once since I “got through the worst of it.” I use that phrase very carefully because it’s not like a phase that you just get through. I just know there’s a difference between sitting in your grief days or weeks after you lose your child and months after. Everyone is different but this just happens to be the case for me.
Although I don’t cry, I’m just less happy. I still think about Ava on a daily basis, I still have a shrine of her photos at work, and I still visit her grave every day. She has become so much a part of my life. I’m just generally not happy. The kind of happiness I am referring to is the kind where you are content with life and you don’t have any real complaints with the world, or you just don’t care. I may have just described what 99 percent of the earth’s population is suffering from, but for now lets just say I’m special. This kind of unhappiness can weigh your soul down like nothing else. I may have learned how to live life without my daughter here but I wish I could say that I was okay with it. Grief and all the emotions that come along with it is so messed up I could spend the rest of my life trying to unravel the mess that it is. There is no predictability and unlike anything I have encountered in life, there is not one thing that can be my certain, reliable light at the end of the tunnel. I have no idea where this tunnel goes and I don’t know when the light will appear. Even if I do find the light, then what? What’s in the light? I know Ava won’t be there.
The insanity of grief is best explained by the following statement. I miss my daughter, I hate that she isn’t here, I wish she was here, and I don’t particularly enjoy the world now that she isn’t in it. This statement has come out of my mouth in every possible form and the feelings that drive this statement have not gone away. The difficulty with my emotions is I have not found a way to channel them in a way that makes things better. There almost is no relief. What has become my way of dealing with my emotions is simply accepting that life will not be as it was before and so much of it is outside of my control. I could say the same things over and over again, but how far do those statements get me? Will I feel better if I tell anyone, or even Leah, that I miss Ava and I am sometimes desperate to make her as close to me as I can? My answer to that question is, most likely not, and historically I haven’t felt any better. I choose not to talk about a lot of what I feel because I know I am in a class of the population that isn’t very well understood.
There are many misunderstood classes of the population. I never found myself to be one of them until the day I accepted I was an addict and the day I lost my daughter. Dealing with the addiction was easy in comparison to my daughter dying. First, I had to screw up enough times as an addict to finally let it all sink in. I had to go to a lot of meetings and do everything in my power to avoid alcohol and drugs at all costs. Heck yes, there were times where it seemed like Hell. Alcoholics and addicts are very misunderstood. There isn’t a lot of patience in society for us and I have only learned that through time. Admittedly, some of what I have learned has come from the morons on the internet who have nothing better to do than talk about things they have no business talking about. That was one class of the population I found myself in but I learned to live with it.
Sadly, bereaved parents are also a class of the population that are greatly misunderstood and also avoided. I can’t begin to explain the isolation of knowing that although there are many parents out there who have lost children, the much larger proportion of the world is made up of parents who have their children and are oblivious to the fact of what life is like for someone who lives on this earth without their child. The intent of that statement is not to incite pity, but to make it clear that there is a barrier between bereaved parents and everyone else. It doesn’t make me special, it just puts me in a place I don’t want to be and not many other people get. Other bereaved parents get it, but I would have to want to talk about it, which as time has went on I have wanted to talk less and less about it.
The options for me were simple after Ava passed away. I could stay home for a few weeks, but then I would need to return to work. Once I returned to work, I would need to figure out a way, on my own, to be a valuable member of the team so that I could keep my job. I couldn’t lose my job because I needed a roof over my head and so did Leah. Work was the first place I learned that grief simply had no place. I have the gratitude for the kindness and support I did receive initially and I would never take away from that. My daughter is not a topic of conversation at my place of business. Ever. People will talk about their children and all the things they do right in front of me like I’m just another person. As far as I am concerned, I am viewed as someone who did not lose their child and I am simply a married man. That’s it. This was lesson one in the isolation of being a bereaved parent.
Maybe this all comes off like I am complaining about everyone else. It used to be true that I thought the only way my daughter would ever carry any significance in this world was if she was consistently acknowledged by our family or anyone else for that matter. Ava was to be equally recognized like she were on this earth. My second lesson in isolation was when it became more and more apparent as time went on that was not going to be the case. Ava isn’t here. It’s an obvious truth. It’s hard to accept that your daughter won’t be discussed like a normal 7-month-old. She may be mentioned when it’s her birth day of the month or the day she passed away, but other than that, she probably won’t come up in conversation. I can’t know what it’s like to have my child here on earth, or at least for any longer than a couple of days. I am guessing it would be rather difficult to find any parent who would accept or even come close to being happy with their child being treated as though they didn’t exist. That’s my life as a parent every day.
I love Ava with absolutely every fiber of my being. I love her like no one else and I know that only I could possibly love her the way that I do. At this current point in life, I am trying everything I can to keep my daughter as close to me as I can in every way possible. I can only do so many things. And let me tell you, I hope that you never have to learn what it’s like to have to figure out ways to be as close to your daughter as you can knowing you won’t ever see her again. I can send her balloons, I can go to her grave and pray every day, I can sit in her room, but I will never see her again in my lifetime, no matter how hard I try to make it happen.
Lastly, if you were one of the two people who may have read this and you are a bereaved parent and you also happened to read this ridiculously long rant, then please understand that this is the nature of my journey. It doesn’t mean I am literally unhappy every second of every day. I still laugh. There are times when I feel joy. It just doesn’t last. It never takes long for me to be reminded there’s someone in my life that’s missing. I have learned that some aspects of grief will be different and others will be constant. No matter what, I fall back on knowing that I love Ava and she was one beautiful, perfect baby that changed my life in so many ways. Even if I am not nearly the optimist I used to be.