"Most days I feel like I'm living someone else's life. Like this really can't be happening right now..."
"I'd rather have it this way cause I really don't want to be living this life."
- Heather Miller
These are the words of a recently bereaved mother of a two-month-old baby girl. There's something very stark and all-too-real in these words; something tantalisingly hellish like, "This cannot be my life I'm living; this, what dominates my mind, and cavorts with my heart, and has taken over my life, is worse than I could have imagined life could ever become."
This sort of experience of life - the death of a life that was - is an antecedent to new life in this same person. But how are they to know? They hold on in faith - that there is meaning in this - and even if that sounds insulting, that they can hang on in hope that this pain won't be an utter and meaningless waste.
Living in shock of grief - which is waking up knowing the nightmare has recommenced - stretches your understanding for goodness. Suddenly your world is stormed by terrorists who attack from within; mind, heart and sinew are cocooned in grief.
Living in the shock of grief is a rare place to be, and its timing is often irrelevant, because with calamitous grief there's generally the sense of total devastation to connection to life. The world continues to turn, but our shades are drawn and no light nor life can enter in.
The grief of losing an infant, and in this case an infant with complications, leaves us with a grief that's most difficult to reconcile. A pregnancy long sought for, and in some cases a decade or more, and what comes at the end of it is inextricable loss. How can such things be? Even as I communicate with this bereaved mother I have no words of comfort without sounding brash, cliché or false. All I can offer are my prayers and kindness (which are enough, by the way). All I can say is, "You inspire me... you're so courageous to keep stepping through this." Yet that is enough to say.
An imminent grief is a grief all too real. It leaves us feeling we're living a life that's estranged to our own. We may feel all the goodness in our own life has died. Waking from our slumber is about as bad as it can get at times, for at least unconsciousness is a brief reprieve from torrential thoughts and feelings of loss.
Although such grief appears to be rare in its occurrence, suffering like this is around, and probably within our social orbit somewhere. Remind the person that their experience is real, and that, even though you can't know the depth of their anguish, that it is real, and that you admire their courage. It may not seem like much of an encouragement, but to someone grieving, to be called courageous is a great encouragement.