Saturday, March 24, 2012


Two weeks ago, I returned to work for the first time since September.  Typically, I hardly ever miss more than one or two days of work at a time.  As a teacher, I find that the planning required for calling out is often more work than just going in. 

It was so strange to walk into my classroom after such a long absence.  It felt like returning home to find that someone else had been living in my house for six months...rearranging the food in the cabinets and eating at my kitchen table.  I don't mean this as a negative statement.  Having been a long term substitute at the beginning of my career, I fully understand the balancing act required when you are filling in for another person.  My substitute did an excellent job of respecting my space while also running the classroom in a way that worked for her.  It wasn't was just different.  It was a familiar place that felt unfamiliar.

So many things were different and some things were exactly the same.  My reusable lunch bag was still sitting in my little refrigerator behind my desk (thankfully, my sub threw out the perishable food!).  My picture frames were still sitting on the window sill.  The little slips of paper found in fortune cookies years ago were still taped above my computer screen.  My sub plans for the morning of September 22nd were still saved on my computer's desktop.

I left school that Thursday morning for an ultrasound, planning to return by lunch.  An hour later, we found out our son was going to die and that my own health was at risk, too.  I didn't step foot in my classroom again for almost six months.

My school has been tremendously supportive to me during the time of my absence and during my transition back to work.  My husband, family, and friends encouraged me and prayed for me as I struggled through the first few days.  Bit by bit, I got used to being back in the school environment and taking on the responsibilities my job requires.  Overall, it's been a fairly successful two weeks.

But each time I add something "normal" back into my life, I feel as though I'm being divided into pieces.  Whether it's something small like buying food at the store, or something big like returning to work...I feel like I'm living two lives at one time.

In the one life, I function in a way that is familiar...I smile at coworkers in the hallway and casually converse while waiting for the photocopier.  I help my seven year old students talk out their disagreements over who is "it" during tag at recess.  I read them stories and plan lessons for them.  I chuckle at the cute things they say.  I come home and empty the dishwasher and fold clothes.  I joke around with my husband and get angry when people don't use their turn signal.

But then there is this other life I'm forced to live.  The life where my baby died.  The life where William's absence scratches at my heart every minute, leaving me raw and exhausted at the end of each day.  In this life, I plan what I will place at his grave the next time we visit the cemetery.  I send a picture to CHOP to include in the memorial service they have for children who have died.  I get on the scale and mentally tally how much weight I've lost since having my baby.  My baby who doesn't live with me.  My baby who I don't get to watch grow up.

And even though I've had so many moments where I feel successful in the one life, the other life is always there.  When I teach a great lesson to my students...William is still gone.  When I fold three loads of laundry and tidy up the house...William is still missing.  The moments of normalcy and functioning in the one life fail to undo the pain and grief in the other.  

I can imagine it's common for the bereaved to feel function in the different roles they fulfill while wondering if they will ever feel like a whole person again.  I find myself looking at strangers in stores and restaurants, wondering if they also have pain scratching at their hearts while they order their lunch or pick out their produce. 

As people so often say, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I will grade papers.  I will laugh with my husband.  I will miss my son. 

And I will have faith that God is holding every fragment of my life and my heart in His hands...staying by my side as I adjust to my new "normal".


  1. I have been thinking about you often, Ali. And I know you don't need me to tell you that everything you are feeling is normal. And I hope that one day those two lives will be one - where you can live in the same life with joy and grief. In one life, looking FORWARD with hope. Step by step, day by day, minute by minute, friend. Take it one small moment at a time. Those moments will grow, and soon living will be like breathing again.

    Thinking of you.

  2. "the new normal". i've heard it called that before, and i find it incredibly accurate. yes, you remember how to smile, and laugh, and enjoy moments again, but there's a.......hollowness that follows after. grieving doesn't mean crying forever, but it means a part of you is always hurt. sometimes, that part is just beyond your conscious moments, sometimes it's brought front and center. but it makes you a different version of you -- not necessarily better or worse, just different. and in all of it, God is working.

    i hope this writing is truly cathartic for you. i can see the blessing William has already become to so many lives, and it's easy to be thankful for him. we continue to pray for you, that God allows you and Sonny the opportunity to once again be excited for a child and to feel the joy of pregnancy again....and, if it be His will, again and again and again.

    my offer to meet still stands whenever. i know with being back to work you're busier, but if it would be helpful/beneficial/welcome, you know how to find me <3

  3. I find it so devastating when things from 'before' are unchanged -- like finding the lunch bag and frames and fortune cookie papers. Because I totally feel the same way as you -- like my existence is broken, fragmented. I guess it's probably normal, and not unexpected. Just weird, and painful. Big hugs to you. I was wondering how your first day back went. xoxo