I volunteer as a facilitator for a pregnancy and infant loss support group. Although hearing the stories and witnessing the raw grief is very heavy, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get something out of it too. I get to talk about my son who died, Oberon. I know how important it is to provide a judge free zone and an ear from someone who has been there – it’s a good feeling to have done something I know is worthwhile.
And sometimes something is said that I take home with me. That happened this past week.
It’s only a moment.
A woman with a recent loss was explaining how she comforted her older children. It was something she’d used in general to help them through tough emotions, and she was turning it on herself. It’s only a moment – I can get through.
Of course, part of my mind was screaming, “You’re still in shock! It could get so much worse from here!” That is true, after tragedy there are often sudden drops when the shock wears off. But this woman was also right – for better or for worse, it’s only a moment.
It’s rare that circumstances stay exactly the same over days, weeks, months, and years. As the world shifts around us, our emotions are bound to shift too. As the distance between now and when my son was alive extends, my memories shift and my relationship with him changes. I still love him, dearly. I still miss him, always. But the moment is different. The way it feels changes.
What I needed to hear.
I heard stuff like this when I was in my early days of grief. Most often, it was a variation of “time heals all wounds.” That isn’t what I needed to hear. In the early days, I craved confirmation that my son had lived, that he mattered, that the world would NOT be the same as before he existed. I didn’t want to talk about healing or growing or getting better. My world was shattered, and I needed acknowledgement that it was shattered. Not fixing.
Any article or person talking about getting better made me feel physically ill. Getting better meant time was moving on without my son. Healing meant accepting that he was dead.
The words that didn’t make me quite as angry were ones that tried to balance remembering and honoring with letting go of the most intense and debilitating parts of grief and depression. The ones that validated – if you feel a moment of joy, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. It will be horrible and tragic for the rest of your life, but it won’t always feel exactly like it does now.
What is true.
Things change. Even if things seem to stay the same, there are always changes. Sometimes it is comforting, sometimes it is painful. But the way you’re feeling – right now – whether it is intense or subdued, desperate or calm, frantic or balanced. It’s only a moment.
Using that thought is freeing in some ways. Of course, I can use it to help me through the darkest moments of grief, self-doubt, anger, and pain. I can also use it to justify finding the happiness and joy in my life. After all, it’s only a moment. A moment of excitement, laughter, or relief does not negate my grief and longing. A moment of exhaustion does not negate my appreciation for my life after loss.
It’s only a moment.