A few years ago while our family was together I let it slip (it wasn’t really a secret, just something we never considered important) that Caleb was our only unplanned child; his siblings found this quite amusing. We were half heartedly using natural family planning and surprised ourselves with a pregnancy when our first baby was only five months old. It was a shock (shouldn’t have been) and a wonderful gift wrapped up in the same moment. We loved him as soon as we comprehended the two pink lines. I did my best to contain the news until the twelve week mark, but i was so excited about this unexpected baby. Oh what a gift he was.Read more: Twelve Weeks
We just passed the twelve week mark since his death and it seems to have opened the dam of grief and tears for everyone in his inner circle. Most all of us have shared that this last week was unexpectedly tough. I know I shared the same sentiment at the two month mark, but we are finding that time is only bringing more revelation of our loss and a greater intensity of pain. Just as our joy and excitement grew as he developed inside the womb and the date of his arrival grew closer, the heaviness of our loss is increasing as his presence with us is growing further away with each passing day.
Every time I looked in the mirror the last couple of months of pregnancy I couldn’t imagine my body being able to stretch any more- but it did! On and on the growing and stretching continued. I couldn’t believe my body was capable of carrying such a load. Sometimes I felt a bit claustrophobic with this huge belly I had to navigate through life. I would walk into walls and furniture and I struggled to keep my balance as my center of gravity was continuing to change. There was no break from it- every move I made had to accommodate what I was carrying. Work, home, sleep- me and my baby belly.
Now I look in the mirror and can’t imagine carrying anymore sadness; it seems impossible to feel more grief than I already have, yet it keeps growing. Again, the burden feels impossible at times and I desperately want to run away from it, but it’s a part of me and I have to learn to navigate through life with it. I’m finding I need to make space for my pain- I can’t walk through doorways like I used to, I cannot sleep like I used to, I cannot plan my future like I used to. Strangely, there is a necessary nourishing involved, a respect the pain demands. I’m learning to accept this, there is no running away and leaving it behind. I’m rearranging life so there is more quiet, more time to sit with the pain and the sweet memories, space created for the processing my brain and heart are demanding.
Josiah was still a baby when I was pregnant with Caleb, so I often carried two babies at once. It was challenging as my belly grew and I had to get creative, but I was alway strong enough to do what had to be done. I’m learning again how to carry two different things at once, as there is also goodness, joy and sweet gifts in my life alongside the pain. It’s not so much switching gears, as one never gets to set the pain aside in order to only feel joy. Its more learning to accept the continual presence of pain while giving space to something else.
Throughout my career I’ve worked with many chronic pain patients, and while some lost their existence to the loss, anger and addictions their pain pushed them to, others managed to live full lives by accepting it’s presence while pressing forward – not pain free, but also not void of joy and goodness. Some of these people are the strongest, most beautiful and compassionate humans I’ve met. Instead of shriveling up and breaking down, they accepted the hardship, as unfair as it was, and grew to meet the challenge.
I realize I’m never going to get over losing my son- I’m carrying this pain until the day I die, but I also have a life to live that has so much love and goodness in it. Three weeks after Caleb’s death, his sweet niece, Selah, was born. Holding her often opens the floodgates, as my heart and body vividly remember holding baby Caleb, and at the same time some of those tears are from joy of her existence and the perfect gift she is to us, especially during this season. I can’t separate out which tears are which, they blend together as they fall. When I cry with Erin, Caleb’s widow, most of those tears are pain for her loss, but mixed in are tears of gratefulness that he experienced such amazing love because of her. When I cry with my husband and children, mixed in are tears of joy from our memories and the years we had with Caleb and the things we loved about him and the difference he made in our lives. Since Caleb’s death we’ve been blessed with a beautiful daughter in law who is everything we wished for our son Josiah, and when I think about what an answer to prayer she is, my tears of joy for our new daughter are mixed with tears for our missing son. I wish we were all together and Caleb was here to welcome his amazing new sister in law into the family and hold his sweet baby niece, but that will never happen.
. I don’t want to miss out on the rest of my life, overcome with resentment of the pain I will always live with; on the other hand my pain needs a proper place- a healthy space where it can exist without crowding out all the other elements of living. I’m a bit uncoordinated carrying both joy and pain, but I trust with God’s help I will develop the capacity to do so.