I have been thinking a lot lately about this blog. I got this notification in my email a while ago that said I would have to renew this domain or whatever you might call it in the next 60 days. This only led me to think about how astonishing it is that it has been almost a year since Ava passed away. I can look back over these blog posts that I have written and I can very clearly remember how and why I felt the way that I did during those times. Today, I only wish that I could have some sort of consistency in life on both fronts: how I have dealt with the loss of Ava and all other things in life that are related or unrelated.
You develop this sense of self-entitlement over time, particularly when things don’t play out the way that you want them to. I catch myself on occasion linking all things that go wrong back to having lost Ava, saying, “Well, makes sense this didn’t go as planned why would it.” Every sequence of events that has followed the death of our daughter can be illogically tied back to that single event, leading to the conclusion that all things crappy in life are expected or not a surprise. Perhaps this is less about correlation and more about lowering expectations. I’m not sure. I almost have to tell myself, even if it is from a survivalist’s perspective, that at some point, the universe should unfold in my favor. It kind of owes me one. This is self-entitlement in my mind and it is difficult to look at life any other way after the loss of Ava. But I do try not to feel this way because I don’t think it is either productive or “right” if that is the appropriate word choice.
This is how truly messed up your mind gets when you traverse the always changing, never predictable landscape of grief. I find it to be a landscape full of tall mountains, deep canyons, the occasional flower-filled valley and then more mountains and deep canyons. All of them with breathtaking views from steep, rugged cliffs you can (and probably will) fall off. Does this make me seem pessimistic or cynical? I hope not. It is more about realization and then acceptance that this just keeps changing and will probably never be something that is consistent. Bearing all of this in mind, I also have these periods where everything is ‘okay’ and I can experience the joys in life and find gratitude and appreciation for the good things that do happen. This is a never ending psychological process bound to loop in perpetuity until I am no longer alive.
Good things do happen. I still have a roof over my head. Somehow, through all of this insanity and devastation, Leah and I both have managed to hold our marriage together and be there for each other and keep ourselves financially healthy– and at least cognizant of the importance of our future. We have revisited the devastation of having lost our precious daughter countless times and have also experienced immense pride that we had such a beautiful daughter. We have found joy in doing things in her memory or spending time at her grave or in her garden, or simply hearing our family talk about her in the simplest ways. We also have found joy in doing other things. It’s not at all complete misery. Our marriage has survived the loss of Ava through a great deal of patience. I know that statistically we were pretty much doomed the second Ava passed away. Most couples don’t survive the loss of a child. There can be lots of things that can play into that.
It is certainly no secret to anyone close to us that our marriage has faced difficulty in some ways. We have been challenged sometimes by our own mistakes and other times for things outside of our control. We were two people with good intentions with an equal lack of preparedness to live in an adult world while under the same roof. I don’t honestly believe either one of us grew up (still more to do here) until Ava came along. Even then we still had our struggles. We have went to Hell and back too many times and I know many couples would have quit long before now. Heck, I think some couples would have quit before we even got married, living through the circumstances we have. That would be more my baggage than hers, admittedly.
My hope is there is one person who has recently lost a child reading this. My hope is you will understand the reason for not giving up hope even when you yourself have reached a point where you just want to break and you don’t think you can do it any longer. Leah and I have faced challenges and difficult times after the loss of Ava– circumstances out of our control most of the time, but some still within our realm of control. The sense of self entitlement you might feel because of your circumstances can become a safety net. It can be a source of hope that the universe owes you one and you will get what you are asking for or what you feel you deserve, because God knows you have suffered enough. I strongly caution against this ideology because it is dangerous when it comes to sending you right back into your misery like it’s the day after your child just left your arms.
The alternative approach, in my case learned through experience rather than intuition (how I wish it could just be intuitive for once), is working hard towards accepting the fact that the universe doesn’t owe you anything and God (if He is in your life) is not going to hand you what you want just because you have suffered as much as you have. I have felt a Hell like nothing in this world too many times and not just because of Ava passing away. Hers was a Hell that felt the worst, no doubt. I have been in a lot of bad places. I don’t want to minimize the degree of your suffering or question its relevance because it does matter. It has likely made you the person (dare I say, better person) you are today and the pain of losing a child goes beyond the simplistic statement of saying it is heartbreaking.
Reverting off my tangent, knowing that the universe doesn’t owe you one puts you in a place of understanding that more unpleasant, hopefully not horrible things can happen to you. It doesn’t mean they will, but they can. It’s as honest and as clear as I can say it. The intention is not to instill fear or pessimism into your mind. I want more than anything to be a father to a child on this earth. Ava gave me such a short amount of time to experience that. But she got me hooked, that’s for sure. One of the many things she gave me. I have no idea if I will ever have a child on this planet. I am guilty of thinking on many occasions God and/or universe owes me this. My child was taken from me involuntarily and without warning. I am entitled to have a child on this earth. It isn’t unreasonable to think that. But it’s also scary because it may not happen. I don’t know. That’s why I try to avoid this entitlement, as it can apply to all things in life headed your way. I do hope that you experience the good things that can happen. I really do. The beauty of this unknown is that these good things have just as much of a chance of happening as the bad. You just never know. And that has to be okay.
So I am left with hope. Good-ole fashioned hope. I have no idea what life has in store for me. But I do know that my survival is directly dependent on holding on to what is so dear to me as close as I possibly can. I would not be here without Leah and the support and understanding of those in my life that have still stuck around. I hope that if you are in a position where you have lost your child and you are holding on by the thinnest thread possible that you know all you have to do is be there for one another and be patient with each other. One of the reasons grief can get so rough is when husband and wife don’t exercise patience with each other on all fronts. I continually learn that Leah experiences grief differently than me. This alone demands patience from each of us. Unfortunately, the loss of a child happens on top of everything else which is where patience becomes even more important in my experience so far. Missing Ava makes everything that much harder to deal with. The only way you survive it is helping each other through it and I promise you it is not easy to do. I know Leah and I have had to sacrifice quite a bit to make sure we make it through this.
So don’t lose hope. Just be there for one another and do what you can to make sure you aren’t a part of that dreadful statistic. Life doesn’t owe you one. It doesn’t owe me one. You can live your life together and handle the loss of your child your own way and still make it. Leah said to me very recently when I was down that she didn’t want Ava’s legacy to be one of misery or pity. She didn’t want people to look at the two of us and see us as broken solely because we lost the most precious person in both our lives. The only way that can happen is if you don’t give up on each other or on your future. You will never do this perfectly and you will never get it right daily. But as long as you keep trying and you never give up there is hope, and there definitely is a universe with endless possibilities. Never would I have imagined in a million lifetimes I could have a daughter so beautiful and so perfect. But I did and I definitely didn’t expect it, and I definitely wasn’t entitled to it.