It has been a hard few days. No inspiration or motivation to write at all. Writing is cathartic and healing. Moreover, it prompts lots of loving responses that keep me going (and if I’m being honest, that’s at least one of the reasons why I do this so publicly). But writing also means really getting down and being with the pain. So on a day when I am already feeling low, the idea of sinking further in by writing (even though it eventually uplifts me) is daunting.
Last night, Ed and I went to our first Compassionate Friends meeting for bereaved parents. At one point, the facilitator said, “We have a saying around here that when you lose your child, you lose your future.” I had to chew on that for a bit before I could agree, because I have been trying hard to keep visualizing a future for our family—sometimes it is the only way out of despair, even if just momentarily. But I realized that when we lost Hudson, we did lose our future. We lost the future we had imagined for ourselves—a future that did not include a lifetime of remembering and grieving the loss of our child. As I said the night Hudson died, we are learning to live again in a world that is forever changed.
In this world, I can barely stand to keep living in my beautiful city, so full of Hudson memories it is. While I imagine that many parents who have lost a child do continue to live in the city they shared with their child, the instinct to flee is powerful. I have to find a new grocery store because I can’t face the Harris Teeter on Kalorama where I went with Hudson almost every week. I can hardly drive across the Mall without crying as I remember all our many adventures there and in the museums that surround it. I have to steel myself just to walk Bess on our normal route around the neighborhood. Everywhere I go, Hudson should be there. But she isn’t. Not physically, at least, and that’s how I want her.
In this world, many of my favorite songs now hold new meaning that makes them painful to hear. Never again will I be able to listen to such favorites as Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind,” or, especially, “Seasons of Love” from Rent, without a sharp stab to the heart.
In this world, one of the hardest parts about returning to work (and I haven’t been back since that first day) is the fact that at the end of the day, I will simply go home. There is no day care pick-up, no dawdling in the driveway, no taking pots in and out of the cabinets while dinner cooks, no chatter in the highchair, no splashing in the tub, no Goodnight Moon, no giggle after I whisper “Don’t go to Dook!” at the end of the bedtime alma mater ritual. Not with Hudson, there’s not.
In this world, we will raise children who never knew their oldest sister, and (hopefully) will never understand the grief we will feel forever over her loss. We will have to find a way to make her an integral part of our family while not allowing her siblings to feel overshadowed by her death. In this world, we will never be the same parents for our future children that we were for Hudson.
But, in this world, we are ourselves transformed. In this world, Ed and I have a new and deeper understanding of our love for each other. In this world, we have an extraordinary appreciation of the love we share with our friends and families. In this world, we are grateful for the magic in millions of everyday moments. In this world, Hudson is always with us. In this world, we will never be the same parents, but we will be better parents because we have an uncommon (albeit unwelcome) awareness that life is short.
We have lost one future. But we have gained another. And that is One Good Thing.