THE PRIZE FIGHTER
I have the unfortunate privilege of being a part of an on-line community of hundreds of amazing and brave bereaved mothers who seek the comfort and understanding of other women who are trying to survive the loss of their child. They seek this comfort largely because there is acknowledgement and understanding. People who “get it” 24/7. There are many common threads in the conversations including the frustration and pain of people trying to push a silver lining into your child’s loss (“But think of all the memories you have!”), being misunderstood because many think there is an end-point in the grief of child-loss, wishing the ones they love could understand what it’s like to just get through a day, and of course, the indescribable pain.
This is for them.
THE PRIZE FIGHTER
She is up against such a heinous foe. It’s taking her, unaware, like a raging sandstorm pounding about her head, blinding her, choking off her air and dropping her to her knees. The blows are eroding her already tenuous shell, she’s left opened again, chest heaving and desperately drained. She is beaten, waiting for it to come back for her. The next wave. Her grief. Her child. How is she persevering against such an unrelenting force?
She’s a prize fighter. Giving everything she has for the “win”. Except the win isn’t a prize of money, glory or fame, it’s just making it to another day.
Child loss eats at every part of who you are-physical, emotional, mental. It’s a dirty, rotten fight that shouldn’t ever have to be fought. The opponent will gut you to the bone if it can, leaving nothing of your life “before”. Security, time, money, love, living, peace, laughing, family, hopes, future, contentment-it wants it all. This marathon requires of it’s participants vigorous endurance, strength and resiliency. Singular athletic (emotional) prowess. Daily. For the unforeseeable future.
The rounds are days, sometimes hours, but the fight is forever. Astounding stamina isn’t optional. Most endurance athletes make the choice to train for the challenge and the pain of the race. Not this athlete. She does not want this, but it’s her’s. She would give anything to make it stop, but it won’t. She isn’t prepared, isn’t willing, yet she’s been tossed in the ring with Satan himself. Tired and vulnerable, fighting an unfair battle for her life, future and what’s left of her heart.
Her body is not built for this and the internal bleeding is taking it’s toll. The odds are not with her.
She’s keeping a home that is filled with the memories, belongings and those little things that kids leave around- chewed pencils, post-it notes, doodles of art work and soccer-ball shaped erasers stuffed unsuspectingly into desk drawers. The things that steal her breath and pound her heart. “Ghosts” of her lost child. Yet each day she wakes up, puts on a face and goes to work. The bravery it takes some days to just step out of bed and enter the ring. Her sleep deprived body and her aching mind needs to just stay home and crawl into her child’s bed in hopes of breathing in one precious molecule of his remaining scent, or to rock in the chair that she rocked her baby to sleep in, but she can’t. So she acts like all is well with the world, talking and laughing with co-workers, faking it like a pro. It’s almost like any “normal” day, but there is no “normal” day for her, so she powers on like a champ. Merely existing makes her a formidable player in this new life. No choice. As the day goes on her chest gets tighter, her stomach sicker as the strength required is waning. She’s fatiguing and can feel it welling up. She needs to be alone. Cries of anguish will bellow from her core, but she’ll keep that little defeat between herself and her car. In her state she shouldn’t, but she drives home anyway because she is battle weary, tempting fate because it could mean being with her child again. It’s strange how fearless she has become in her new self. Death isn’t nearly as worrisome as it once was. She needs to rest for tomorrows brawl, but today isn’t over yet. She’ll hold it together and keep on swinging because it’s dinner time, and the family needs to eat and have clean underwear. They need her. She’ll make dinner and fold the laundry to the sound of voices playing in the street.
Voices but one.
She tries to appear like her old self. Maybe if she looks normal, something will feel normal. She yearns for the familiarity of “before”, so she holds her head up and will step in and do it again. But in both the quiet and the chaos of her mind, she knows she is not, and won’t ever be again. How could she be? A gymnast without her limbs. A runner without her lungs. A mamma without her child. The things that mattered, just don’t anymore. The dreams she doesn’t dare to dream lay in the distant recesses of her mind awaiting resurrection. But dreams are no longer dreams without her child. She hopes her friends can still love who she’s become because this athlete desperately needs them in her corner. Stitching up the cuts, giving her a pat on the back and pushing her out for another round. She can hear their voices and see their faces in her periphery as her weary arms lift to cover her face once more. They are the ropes that hold her up.
Finally, in the still darkness of night,
with nothing but scattered pieces of moon sprinkling through the shades,
there’s nothing between herself and her brokenness.
She stands before the mirror
and see’s her naked disfigurement. No masks, no pretenses. Unrecognizable.
The hole that holds her through the night is there waiting.
She can crawl into it now and so she does,
praying for a dreamless sleep.
For tomorrow she’ll do it again.