It’s been a year since I lost her. We sit around the table—my husband and three children, my mom, dad, brother and sister—the same people who were there when I pulled the mattress off our bed and onto the floor of our bedroom (because climbing into bed took too much effort), lay down, and couldn’t bring myself to get up. For days. The same people who sat by me when I couldn’t bear to eat a single bite of food, because she never would. The same people who watched me put a doll inside my shirt, pressing it into my belly, trying to conjure up the feeling of where she had been. I look around at my family and think of her. Cara was her name. We lost her when I was 23 weeks pregnant. A miscarriage.
Since then, things have gotten easier. I sleep in my bed. I eat. I laugh, even though there was a time, not long ago, when I thought I’d never laugh again. What could possibly be funny after your life falls apart?
But I don’t feel much like laughing today, as we sit around the table for dinner. Why do the people closest to me seem not to notice how hard it is to endure another family gathering without my daughter at my side? They pull off chunks of bread, sip wine, and talk as if everything is OK. And for them, I guess it is.
They aren’t just going through the motions, like I am. If they cried all day before gathering for this meal, I didn’t see them. If their thoughts felt foggy and they couldn’t quite shake the idea this isn’t real life, maybe they are as good at hiding it as I am.
I’m pretty sure no amount of eyeliner and mascara can hide all the sadness behind my eyes. My husband says, “It’s for us to remember her today,” and I know he’s right. But it hurts nonetheless that a little over a year after I sat in a too-bright hospital room, alone, wearing a gown that matched the curtains (or at least it did in my memory), cradling my bump during my last moments with her, singing her a song in a tiny, broken voice that didn’t even sound like mine, everyone else has moved on. It feels pretty darn lonely to be the only person at dinner who is a beat away from shattering like glass.
Every day feels isolating. Walking my older kids to school, I marvel at how other moms seem so happy. I wonder if pain is laced into their upbeat smiles and waves, too. When my best friend calls to chat about some ridiculous post on Facebook, does she really believe I’m not still thinking about losing Cara anymore? Cara. We say her name all the time in our house. She is a part of our family, and has been every day, even on the darkest days, just as she was on the day we found out I was pregnant.
It hardly feels like a choice, though. How could I sweep the trauma of losing someone I was so excited to meet and love, under the rug? Even though I know so many women suffer in silence, I couldn’t. Even when my mom suggested grieving openly would be too hard for the kids. But how could I ever ask my kids to act like everything was OK when they were looking forward to meeting their little sister, and then, suddenly, she was gone? From day one, I wanted them to know it was OK to be hurting like hell. There were times we wept together, in a collective ball on that mattress on the floor. Back then, friends brought over meals I didn’t feel like eating, and took the kids out to distract them from what was happening, as if they could be distracted. People sent cards, and flowers. I couldn’t look at any of it. Now, a year later, I’m left wondering: Where did everyone go? A year later, the shock of loss has worn off. Sometimes it feels like the true grieving has only just begun.