Monday, February 2, 2009

The struggle of isolation

Cynthia and I went for a walk today and talked about what our grief journey has been like these days.  Overall, it's a pretty lonely time right now.  Ten months out from losing the most precious part of our lives, our very own daughter, and the reality of a life without Cara has left us empty and alone.

I shared this sentiment at Compassionate Friends last week and everyone there understood exactly where we're at. There comes a point in every grief journey where you notice more and more that the world around you has kept (and will keep) moving on, while you're left standing still, wishing that you could turn back time.   

We have carried our grief in community with family and friends for which we are extremely grateful, but there is a part of our grief that only Cynthia and I are left to bear.  I think Joan Chittister in her book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope describes this "struggle of isolation" best...
Struggle is a very private thing.  It happens in the very depths of our souls.  It comes with the loss of what we have thought to be of such significance that we cannot abide the thought of life without it.  Other people commiserate, of course, as they watch us struggle with the pain of losing, the meaning of endings, the shock of great change, the emptiness of the present.  But they cannot really share our pain because what we have lost, however significant to us is not really significant to them.  What we lose is ours and ours along: our dream, our hope, our expectation, our property, our identity.  All private.  All personal.  All uniquely and singularly ours.  Our friends look on caringly, of course, but there's little else they can do.  They advise but they cannot possibly know the cost of every step. It is not their arms that are heavy, not their legs that have gone to lead, not their "knees that are weak" (Psalm 109).

They talk to us about going on but they do not understand that the thought of going on is unimportant to us now.  If anything, it is what we least want to do; indeed, it seems impossible.  And, as far as we are concerned, it is certainly not desirable anymore.  Go on for what reason? Those others who stand at the edges of our life at such a time as this cannot realize the sense of deep, deep isolation that comes when life as we have known it has been suddenly extinguished.

Desperate to help, they may tell us how insignificant the thing was that we staked our lives upon.  "It doesn't matter," they say.  "You'll have another one." As in child or house or job or lover or dream.  "It isn't worth it," they tell us.  Or, at their best, they remind us that "time will heal the pain," and how we "will learn to live with" the loss.  But, oh, how wrong they are!  I gave my life to it.  Surely my life was worth something.  "This is unjust," they agree, but injustice happens nevertheless.  No one changes it.  No one confronts it.  No one does a thing but commiserate.  And that only for a while.  In the end, we are alone.  Just I and the struggle.  Just I and the violence, the emptiness, the rage within me.  "And Jacob was left alone," the biblical story tells us.  Indeed.

1 comment:

Carly said...

I know you both feel alone. What a hard place this is. Especially when people don't make thoughtless comments.

I found people would make the most insensitive comments after we lost Christian.... I found myself getting so angry and then one day Sam said to me "They just don't understand".

I thought about that for a while and I was glad they didn't understand... I don't want anyone to have to understand such misery. I wish we were the first and last to lose a baby, but we are not. There are millions of us out there and yet we feel alone.

Sending you both my love. Holding little Cara in my heart tonight x