Friday, February 10, 2012

A Lens of Loss

Tonight we decided to go out to eat.  Seeing as we have no food in the house, it seemed like a reasonable solution for dinner.  I put on real clothes (as in, pants that are not preceded by the word "yoga" or "pajama") and we headed to a local sandwich place called Isaac's.

We talked throughout dinner and I actually enjoyed eating what I ordered.  We even splurged on dessert.  And even though the Salted Caramel Vanilla Crunch Cake was everything I hoped it would be and more, we left with slightly heavy hearts.

You see, when you are hurting inside...being out in the world can hurt.  Sometimes it hurts a little.  Sometimes it hurts a lot.

I remember going out to lunch at a diner only eight days after William died (and was born...I use the words "born" and "died" interchangeably.  What word do you use when the events happen at the same time?)  We sat there as I pushed the food around my plate.  My husband and I just stared off into space, still unable to really find words to fill the immense silence we felt after losing our firstborn.

The woman in the booth behind me was happily talking to her companion about her baby.  She was pregnant with a girl and couldn't stop gushing about feeling her kick throughout the day.  I wanted to block out her voice, but we were practically sitting back-to-back. 

Each of her joyful words wounded me.  When she started describing how she and her husband would put their hands on her stomach and squeal with delight when their daughter kicked, I silently started crying.  I put my hands over my ears and shook my head back and forth.  I wanted to run out of the diner and scream in the middle of the parking lot.  I was sure my grief was going to kill me...right then and there.

I've had many moments like that over the past three months.  When you feel so heartbroken, you wonder how it's possible that your heart continues to beat at all.

That woman had every right to be joyful.  She had every right to talk about her pregnancy to her friend.  But it hurts to hear those things after your baby dies.  The happiness of others can sometimes magnify your pain. 

This doesn't mean that people shouldn't be happy because others are hurting.  It's just part of life.  Your best day could be someone's worst.  Your worst day could be someone's best.

After you've suffered a great loss, you see the world through a lens.  A lens of loss.  For an undetermined amount of time, there are many things (some expected, some unexpected) that remind you of your loss. 

Sometimes looking through the lens of loss gives you compassion.  You see the suffering and pain of others in a new way and you feel new levels of empathy.

Sometimes looking through the lens of loss makes you angry.  You watch other people have their hopes fulfilled, while your dreams have been shattered.

Sometimes looking through the lens of loss causes you immense pain.  You smile back at the pregnant woman in the grocery store, and then you go sit in your car and cry.

As we sat in Isaac's tonight and shared dessert, a large family sat beside us.  One of the little boys was seated with his back to me, but soon turned his entire body around to stare at me.  He couldn't have been more than one or two years old.  He had beautiful big brown eyes.  His mom kept trying to distract him to make him turn around, but he wouldn't take those eyes off of me.

In an alternate reality, I would love this.  I love children and typically delight in interacting with them.  I attempted to smile and wave at him, but my lens of loss makes these familiar responses feel foreign. 

His mom smiled at my husband and said, "I think you have some competition! My son can't take his eyes off of her!"  We both smiled.

We didn't tell her how we were really feeling.  We didn't tell her that our son has just died.  We didn't tell her that her son reminded us of what we'll never have with William.  How we won't take him to restaurants.  How we won't see him grow year after year.  How we'll never know the color of his eyes.

Because you don't force others to wear your lens of loss, your lens of grief.  They see the world through their own lenses.  Perhaps they've already known great pain...perhaps they haven't. 

That family in Isaac's seemed to be enjoying a nice evening together.  I sincerely hope they were all as happy and healthy as they appeared.  And even though our brief encounter reminded us of our loss, I hope it reminded them of what they have.

And, for their sake, I hope they ordered the Salted Caramel Vanilla Crunch cake...because it was truly delicious.  


  1. Oh yes, the lens of loss. It makes me feel so many things. And not all of them are necessarily bad. But how I wish I never had to wear this lens...

    We didn't find out the color of Eve's eyes either. This is something I regret. *hugs*

  2. so true! I remember walking through Target and every stinking corner I turned was a pregnant woman! I wanted to run and scream. It's been almost a year now, and I'm finally "ok" with seeing a pregnant woman. I still struggle with seeing little newborns...but since I work part-time at a the infant room...I've gotten used to it, I had to.

  3. Ali - you have such a way of putting into words what bereaved mothers feel. One day, shortly after losing Kyle, I was driving home from a visit to the cemetary, which I did often, and saw a mother on the sidewalk acting out and screaming at her child. I stopped right in the middle of the west bound lane of Lincoln Highway, rolled down my window and heard her complaining. I had my hand on the door handle -- I was seconds from jumping out of the car and screaming back at this lady "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO JUST BE ABLE TO WALK DOWN THE STREET WITH YOUR CHILD?!" It wasn't until other cars starting honking and beeping that I got my wits about me and continued driving home. I pulled into my garage and sat in the car and sobbed. At the time, I thought my deep pain could be seen on the outside of my grief lens. I thought everyone should have been able to see my devastation and sadness and count their own blessings because of it.

  4. Such a beautiful post! I just found your blog from walking with you. I am so sorry for the loss of your firstborn I can not imagine you pain. I recently gave birth to my stillborn son on 1-24-12. I love how you put born and died interchangeably it is difficult to know what to say. Sometimes I say my son died some times I say he was born. So true what you said about the lens of grief, my vision is definitely changed by it. Like you said sometimes for better and sometime for worse. We are a large family but it dose not ease the pain of losing my Jonathan. It is very difficult for me to leave the house right now, funny how some symptoms of grief seem universal.
    I really appreciate you sharing your story. Sending a prayer your way tonight.