I haven’t written for ten days. Not because I haven’t needed to or wanted to, but because I was having trouble putting my finger on how I’ve been feeling. I told Jess that I might say I have been feeling “incomplete,” but that word seems so inadequate. My next thought would be “empty,” but that word negates the joy that I feel with Jackson during so many moments of each day.
I finally figured it out. More than anything right now, I have been feeling incredibly lonely.
Some of this loneliness is just situational. I’m at home with an infant during an excruciatingly hot summer here in DC. Most days are not decent enough to spend any time outside with him, I’m paranoid about taking him to any crowded places or mommy and me-type classes, and he hates the car seat so much that I’m not too keen on driving him anywhere either. So I’ve spent a lot of time in the house by myself with him.
But most of the loneliness I have been feeling is psychological—it is loneliness bound up completely in the grief. Grief is so incredibly isolating—the “aquarium” effect that Aleksandar Hemon described so well in his New Yorker essay. Grief of any kind has the tendency to isolate because it is so very difficult to relate to others who have not suffered your loss. But the loss of a child is isolating in the most isolating way, because it is so very rare. Not only is it difficult to relate to those who have not suffered the same loss, but there are so very few people who have.
The situational loneliness can be cured rather easily by getting out more and spending more time with friends. But paradoxically, the cure for the situational loneliness has the unfortunate side effect of compounding the psychological loneliness. Sometimes the loneliest I feel is when I’m with others.
More than one fellow bereaved mom has told me that the second year would be harder in many ways than the first. I am finally starting to get some sense of that. I spent more than half of the first year in shock, thinking that if I could just get past that year of firsts, it would get better. And some things are better. Jackson, of course, has changed the texture of our lives in beautiful and amazing ways. But more so than ever, everyone around me is moving on. The first of Hudson’s friends will start turning three soon. Three. They are all running and jumping and talking in complete sentences and palling around and doting on their younger brothers and sisters. It’s not that I fear that Hudson will be forgotten—I know for certain that she will never be. But no one else remembers and misses her in the same way that I do. No one else lived with her and fed her and diapered her and dressed her and bathed her and clipped her fingernails and folded her clothes and took her to school and let her press the elevator button and giggled with her over the mouse in “Goodnight Moon.” Even my dearest Ed, the only person who was as close to Hudson as I was, and who is an incredibly good companion in grief, is at a very different place on his grief journey than I.
So often when I am with others now, I feel as though I am in a bathroom with the door closed and the hot water running, steaming up the entire room. The steam chokes my lungs and my throat and coats the only window to the outside with a thin film so that I can barely see what’s on the other side. I try to write messages in the steam only to realize that from the other side, everything I have written is backwards, yet when I try to write backwards, everything just gets garbled, and in the meantime, every time I write anything, the steam keeps billowing out behind me and fogging over my letters so no one can see them in the first place. There is just no way to make myself understood, because there is just no understanding it unless you have lived it yourself. And even those who have lived it didn’t live it with my sweet Hudson. In this one way, I am entirely alone and so very lonely in my grief.
And yet I remain indescribably grateful for all the love and support I’ve received over the last fifteen months (oh, my—how can it be that we will soon reach the point where Hudson has been gone longer than she was here?). When all of this was really settling in with me on Wednesday night, I posted one word as my status on Facebook right before I went to bed: “Struggling.” By the time I woke up on Thursday morning, I had dozens of kind messages of support waiting for me. And that, even on my loneliest day, is certainly One Good Thing.
If only it could cure the loneliness.