How Dying Works

I was sitting at my desk, during lunch on Monday. I heard 2 co-workers talking about death.

Specifically, they were talking about the death of someone close to them. They were talking about how it frightened them. How they didn't think they could manage, deal with the death of someone close to them.

"I'd curl up and die.

I'd never get out of bed again.

I couldn't cope."

I find myself - frustrated isn't quite the world, but neither is angry. I'm not sure discontented is right, and livid doesn't explain the depth of my resentment and their lack of understanding, leaving me throwing up my hands. I'd make up a word, but without the commonness of words, you still wouldn't understand. Perhaps, perhaps it is enough if we just say that this conversation has stayed with me.

The sentiment is just so completely wrong. You wouldn't die. You would get out of bed, and you would cope. And whatever would make you think, just because you couldn't cope with the death of your husband, your child, your mother, that you won't have to? Do you honestly think my son died, because God on high looked at me and said "Oh, she'll be able to cope". Innocence, credulity, they do not protect you from tragedy and death. There is no insurance from pain. You can't avoid it forever.

I am not a miracle worker. I am not the iron woman. I am not all that remarkable. I am not especially resilient. My faith is not amazingly strong. I am only human.

I did not die - however much I have wished I might have. My dreams of life with my son are dead and gone, my faith that once you get past 12 weeks you will go home with a baby, my faith in a world that babies don't die, my faith in a world where women don't die in childbirth, that's dead. My smug sense of morality about the choices we must make on the fringe of life and death, that died. My ability to look past those who are hurt, the grieving, that died.

I got out of bed - every morning. And it isn't getting out of bed that's the problem. It's the waking up. You don't have to get out of bed to wake up, and you can't sleep forever. Waking up is that terrible moment when your conscious mind returns, and you realize that your child is dead, has died, is still dead, and you are the mother of a dead baby, and this really is your life, and it will continue on today. And in that horrible moment you go through your baby's death all over again. But, you get out of bed. It makes no difference where you are, it all just hurts.

I coped - I went from days where I sat at my kitchen table, sitting staring at nothing, unable to move, unable to stay still, to knitting a shawl for my midwife, stitch after stitch, row after row. Obsessive. From there I ventured to the coffee shop, where I held a baby again, for the first time. I ventured into public, into an event filled with families. You return to work, to school. You venture back into your old life, with a new you. For the first time, someone you called a dear friend says or does something thoughtless. And you survive that. You make plans for the future, you go past milestones and anniversaries. Due dates. When your child has been gone longer than they have been alive, their first birthday. My birthday. Perhaps you begin to plan to have another baby. You realize that the world has moved past your grief, long before you have.

One day you realize that life is for the living. One day, you wake up without reliving the death. One day you realize how much time has passed. You realize that you have coped. You are coping.
And that, that is how you make it through. It's not glamorous, it's not exciting. It's hard, moving in fits and lurches and false starts. But, it's how we make it through the death of those we love. It's how dying works.