It has been 14 months since Vivienne died. As I look at that number, and think about where I am, I am struck by how that number seems like such a long and short period of time, all at once. In one way, it feels like forever since I knew what it was like to carry and hold my daughter. And in another way, I wonder how it’s possible for a life to change so much in only 14 months. Time stands still and soldiers on all at once.
Over these past 14 months, I have had many people tell me how strong I am. I struggle with that label a lot. Partly, it's because I haven't had any choice about this strength. It was never an option to crawl into a ball and completely withdraw from the world. Trust me, on many occasions, I wanted to, and often, I still do. But, the world keeps on turning whether I want it to or not, and so I have been forced to figure out how to jump back onto this spinning world.
I also know that I’m not doing anything particularly special here. It’s been largely about survival for me, not strength, and the things I do and choices I make are only because that is what I need to do to work my way through this. It has nothing to do with strength – it’s all about necessity. And I know that if any of you were faced with this tragedy, you would do the same (and for many of you reading this, you have done the same). I know that no one likes to imagine losing their child. A friend once told me that she tries to think about what it’s like for me, and that her brain just won’t let her go there. It is impossible to imagine, but I feel confident in saying that any of you would survive it – you would figure out your own necessities and how to navigate it. It isn’t strength, it’s just surviving.
Recently, someone said the opposite to me. They told me that didn’t know what to say to me because I’m fragile, and they didn’t want to say or do anything that would add to the hurt. Initially, I felt a little defensive at the label of “fragile.” But, as I thought about it, it is appropriate. It is an understatement to say that I’ve been through a lot over the past 14 months, and it would be expected for one to come out of that emotionally frail. No one ever likes to think of themselves as weak, but I would have to say that it’s how I feel most of the time.
And so, as I think about this, I have realized that it is possible to be completely weak and broken, while also being completely strong and tough at the same time. There are certainly times where I feel more strong than weak, and others where I feel more weak than strong, but as I sit writing this, I feel both equally. I feel emotionally battered and weathered, but I also know that tomorrow, I will wake up, get dressed, and go about my day. I will see the baby announcements, ultrasound pictures, and baby photos on Facebook and feel the wind knocked out of me again. But I will still keep going. Both fragile and strong – another part of my new normal.