Grief is often called a process, but that, like the journey, suggests an end, and I doubt I can ever expect this to end. To be honest, I'm not sure I want it to. In the beginning when everything was so so raw I could never have said that, but after a year I'm more comfortable with it.
"She was no longer wrestling with the grief,
but could sit down with it as a lasting companion
and make it a sharer in her thoughts." ~George Eliot
I do think of grief as a lasting companion. I have to learn how to live with that companion, because I believe it's here to stay. And I guess that's OK. I don't have a choice, so it has to be OK.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm grieving the way everyone else does. Intellectually I know that he answer is "no", because grief is such an individual thing.* Still, I wonder.
I talk to other parents who have lost children and they can't change anything. Their child's room and belongings are left exactly as they were. I feel the opposite. If I don't change things I am stuck in the worst day of my life like Bill Murray in the movie Ground Hog Day. We have removed most of Maggie's things from her room, painted it, redone the floors and are ready to put it to a new use. We sold the van and bought a little car that would have never worked for Maggie. After a year of looking at it longingly and waiting to hear Maggie's "voice" again, I donated her dynavox to someone who could make use of it. Keeping it and keeping everything the same doesn't bring her back.
Some parents can't bear to look at pictures of their child because it makes them too sad. I can't look away. I draw comfort from the incredible happiness that radiated from Maggie in every photo. I see those photos and watch the videos and laugh instead of cry. If people don't want to see pictures, they better not come over here (or read my blog or look at my facebook page) because Maggie's pictures are everywhere, just as they were before she died.
Then I type the words "before she died" and I stop and look at them and shake my head in disbelief. How can that be? She's here, She's part of me, She can't really be gone, can she? It's been 395 days and I'm not sure I believe it yet.
Maggie not only lived her magical life, she defined mine for the last 20 years. I am very much at sea without her to anchor me. It's not just sadness, though that is a huge part of it. It's everything. It's what I did and who I was and I've lost that as well as my amazing daughter. Part of this Journey, or process, is to figure out who I am without her. Instead of Maggie as my lasting companion, I now have grief. It's exhausting, but it's helping to redefine me - again.
I know who I was before Maggie was part of my life but I'm not that person anymore. With or without Maggie's life or death I would be a different person now than I was 21 years ago. Time and experience change all of us. Now that she's gone I have to figure out who and what I am in a whole new world. Maggie shaped and molded me into something new and I have to figure out how and where I fit in.
So the journey continues. The process goes on and on. My companion stays with me. All I can do is keep going. As Winston Churchill said, "If you're gong through hell, keep going." The secret, though. It's not hell. Hell was losing her. Even though I don't want to believe it, that already happened. The worst thing has already happened.
It can only get better from there.
*For more insight into the individual nature of grief, check out this opinion piece from the New York times called Getting Grief Right