Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Memory of Hope

Life moves inexorably forward. No matter what might be of concern to me at the moment, in the greater picture, my woes will not matter a whit to the universe. Life and death are a constant reality on this little ball that we call the Earth. That my son was born early and did not survive the hour, while a ripping tragedy in my life, has no real consequence outside my sphere of influence, let alone the path of the planet.

I'm in a difficult place right now. I am working to move forward in life while at the same time, still feeling the pull of the loss of my son.

According to the Kubler-Ross model of the stages of grief, people go through the following stages of grief:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

K├╝bler-Ross also claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two.

As I think back over the past 13 1/2 months, I can see times when I experienced different aspects of this psychological model. Heck, I cycled back and forth between stages at times. Times when I (months afterward) didn't want to accept Gabriel's death, or wanted to just sit in a sullen cloud of doom, doing nothing. Worse was when I thought I was in an state of 'acceptance' and then found myself slipping back down the ladder.

I've felt like my sense of self, as newly defined as a dead-baby-dad, was in a fluid state. Times like that I wasn't sure what I wanted anymore. Not sure of what to do, how to act, who to be. I'd be feeling generally fine, and then I'd watch Mrs. Spit get set injured by the selfish actions of someone, or by the sight of a newborn and have to stand with her in her pain. This invariably would prick at my own mental stability. Sometimes I could help her weather the storm without much effect - a boulder of granite. Other storms I would help her with effect - a boulder of siltstone.

Of late I am feeling more lingering sadness that my son is dead. Instead of being forefront in my waking consciousness, it rests on a ledge in a corner of my mind. It is similar to how my son rests on a shelf in my dining room, contained in a tiny urn. It's a tacit, permanent location, but it doesn't overwhelm me.

A huge part of healing, for me, was completing the bookshelf construction. Whereas Gabe's shelf is a small reminder of his passing, the zone of construction that constituted 70% of the floor space of my little house was the hulking brute of a reminder of his passing. Every month that passed with it not done was a reminder that it was started when Gabriel was a little ball of growth within Mrs. Spit. Hope for our future as a family, and hope for the renovation were wrapped up together in my mind. Finishing the renovation not only allowed us to start enjoying our house again, it allowed me to leave that ugly, unhappy part of my life behind me.

Today I truly feel like I'm at a point of acceptance. Not resignation, not hopelessness, but acceptance. Gabe's death affected me more deeply and more widely than I would ever have imagined prior to his birth. The new normal is starting to settle around me like a comfortable old coat. I could never have worn it two years ago, but now I can.

I have hope for the future of my family, but it's different now. Thinking back, the hope that I nurtured around Gabriel was shiny, bright, and innocent. If we succeed in trying to conceive again, there will be a new hope, different in so many ways, yet strangely similar. My memory of hope past will never be made more than a memory again.


Mrs. Spit said...

Yes my love, yes.

and you are right about the bookshelf.

Donna said...

Here's to hope for the future and the wearing of very comfortable old coats!

Two Hands said...

Beautifully and eloquently written. My thoughts and prayers are always with you and Mrs. Spit.

Ya Chun said...

yes, not all rocks are the same material. Some weather, some crack, some tumbled in the creek, wearing down the others and becoming smooth.

And while life is impermanent, that grief is rather permanent.

And every word in your last two paragraphs rings true.

**gets a star in my google reader!**

excavator said...

I'm struck by the metaphor of the project which was an all-consuming reminder of your loss, to your journey of healing.

Very beautiful writing, Mr. Spit.