Sewing a burlap sack called grief
….into something that might fit someday
My daughter died some months ago. She hadn’t been born yet. Nothing could have prepared me for what her totally unforeseen loss did to me, my relationships and how I looked at the world. And yet, my husband and me made it through so far. In hindsight, my grief feels like a burlap sack that I sew into something better fitting as I go along.
After my daughter died, life left me outside in the rain covered with a sheet of coarse linen. It was scratchy. It did not warm me. It barely sheltered me from the rain. And it did not cover me nor fit me, no matter how much I tugged on the edges. There I was, my new life chafing against my soul and my self and my husband and lots of people around me. A sodden piece of cloth, making me feel cold and wet and miserable. But not at first.
What I saw at first was the rain. I had not yet discovered the burlap sack. Nor felt how sracty it can be. At first, I felt strong, proud even in my husband and me for delivering our child inspite of everything. Grateful for holding her. Moved by the compassion we experienced around us.
What did people see when they looked at me? I still wonder.
What I did NOT see at first: After a few weeks, the chafing of that wet and heavy cloth left me more vulnerable than I had been initially. I lost the strength, pride and gratefulness I felt in the first few days.
It took me a few more weeks to realize something else. I was starting to tag in the edges of the heavy cloth that was my shelter. It did not yet shelter me from anything life chose to fling at me. My coarse linen did not feel any warmer and it was still scratcy and wet. But not every gust of wind found a way in anymore. I was starting to make it fit me better. It had happened by talking to people about my loss, a lot of crying and accepting that my grief was larger anything I had to cope with so far.
I try to work on my grief one piece at a time. For example: For quite a few months I struggled with the finality of death. That I will never again see my husband hold our daughter. That we will never see her grow up. That she will never again be in another family picture. She is dead forever. I could not cope with that. Because yes, I am used to second tries and replacements and save copies. All of which do not apply here. So I allowed myself some time each day to despair over the finality of death. I made myself say aloud that we would never see her again. Usually, I cried my eyes out. I complained to myself how unfair it is. Some minutes each day I would allow myself to wallow in my grief. I asked myself what I felt exactely. Loss? Pity? Self-pity? Hopelessness? Fear? And I chose to not brood over my fears or allow self-pity to rule me for the rest of the day. And after a time, the finalty of death became easier to cope with it.
Like that, I try to face my grief. I let it exist. I admit that I am afraid of it. I talk to it. Or about it. I try to figure out what it is about. I try to stare it down. I try to annoy it with my crying. Or I shout at it to leave me alone. I try to wear it down. And if it needs some more time around I leave it be. I tug at it again the next day. Not every day but on the good days. By tugging, my burlap sack becomes a bit more snuggly. I draw on the edges and take the seams in. I can anticipate a shape. The constant chafing makes it softer. Or helps me develop a horn skin, who knows.
People react to that. They look at my face once more, instead of my grief cloth. And I guess, some even forget about my daughter. More than 10 months might seem long to some.
I hope that one day I will bear my grief cloth like a second skin. I will have sewn it so thight that my skin can overgrow it. Heal over it. I will incorporate my piece of coarse burlap cloth into my skin. People might still recognize the web pattern in my face when they look closely. But on first sight, I will look unscarred. And hell, yes: I hope that life will have thrown me a few more clothes by then.