Grief redux

Photo by Iewek Gnos on Unsplash

Trigger warning: This post discusses the death of a child.

As I sit here, I’m heartbroken. Torn apart. It’s been a rough week, what with Beirut blowing up and all. And the mess we’re in. But today I read something a friend of mine had written, and I am devastated. My heart is a smoking crater. I don’t know how else to describe it. Grief is like that. It hides, sometimes for a long time. Then it flattens you. Like Beirut was flattened.

I’ve written about this friend and her loss before. We overlapped for a bit in grad school, and she married another grad student in my program. And he became a murderer. But this isn’t about him. This is about her and her daughter, who died when Emma and I were in Mongolia. They deserve all the love and compassion and care we can muster. I want to write to her directly, and I will. But I need to find the words. It’s been over a year and a half, and I still don’t know the words. Grief like this makes everything sound like a platitude.

She posts about her daughter on social media, and it was one of these posts that blew me apart this evening. She wrote about her and their dog, and how they had settled into a new home but made room for her daughter. For Ela. Ela Deniz, which means “Hazel Sea,” as I learned in another post. Hazel Sea. How beautiful.

My daughter has hazel eyes. I can still look into her eyes. I hope I always can.

This is still the most devastating thought to me. Maybe we shouldn’t have such small families. Maybe we shouldn’t put all our hopes and dreams and love into one child. Our ancestors had many children in the hopes that some would survive. The loss of a child was a terrible thing, but there were others to love as well. As our families have gotten smaller, more and more of our love is focused so narrowly. Maybe that’s not a good thing.

But it’s what we have, me and my friend. One single child, in each case a daughter. Hers was only three when she was taken away. Ela Deniz will always be three. Or two. Or one. Or a newborn. We can only imagine: this is how old she would be now, so this is what she would be like. We will never see it except in our mind’s eye.

Now, she would be four and a half, coming up on five. Those were my most challenging years with Emma. She had a mind of her own from birth and made it clear. But when she was four and five, she wouldn’t take anything from anyone. It was extraordinary. Sometimes I’d worry about what raging force I’d given birth to. Not all the time, but enough of the time that I couldn’t relax. You’d never know to look at her now. She’s certainly not all sweetness and light, but she is a thoughtful (in all senses of the word) person. I’m sure Ela would be, too, if she had the chance to be 14.

But that chance was taken away from her and her family.

Now it’s the next morning, and my grief has subsided to a dull sadness, as it does. The quiet after the explosion. I am glad that my friend expresses her grief, and that she has a supportive community holding her up and honoring her grief. Feeling a fraction of it with her. Now, during Coronatimes, I feel so much for people who have lost someone (and there are so many people losing loved ones right now to just this virus, though the president and right wing media try to deny it). There’s no chance for a physical community to come together to support people in their grief. No visiting. No hugging. It must all be virtual, from a distance.

But love carries across distance. And I hope Ela’s mom can feel the love.

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