Week 5: Floating and Clarity

Just recently, I came across Alice’s favorite shoes—the light-up shoes she received from Teresa and Sal for her birthday just days before she passed. I turned them over and saw the dirt stuck in the treads. I just sat there, transfixed. How could the dirt from only 11 days of wear be there, but not the wearer of the shoes? How can she just be GONE, poof? The mind is just not equipped to deal with this kind of thing. The heart is even less equipped. You just have to pray your soul and divine providence pulls you through. 

Week Five

I don’t remember everything from this time.  If it isn’t written down, I can’t recall what happened what day from here on out.  I can still basically remember what happened what week. I can, upon seeing someone, or seeing their name, recall exactly all they did for us, but my total recall from this time period is not so good.  I appreciate everything that everyone did for us, more than I can say, whether I write about it here or not.  I would not be here today without a lot of help, a lot of love, from a lot of people, and I am forever grateful.

I do know I was still “singing Alice to sleep” many nights at this point. I was still imagining her sitting in her high chair, laughing hysterically and kicking her legs when I would blend my morning protein shake.  I could still see her run towards me crying “MAMA!!!!!!!!!” at the end of the day at school.  I still remembered her walking into my room in the morning, saying, “Up-a, Mama, up-a!” while pressing her open palm to the ceiling. I was still imagining my day-to-day activity with Alice and Grace together. I still felt like there was incredible hole in the family, because, let’s face it, there was.

I was still suffering from intense guilt, but not 24/7.

At this point, I was still receiving meals from the community.  What a help that was.  I am grateful to each and every person that brought food.  I am not sure I would have eaten otherwise.  I didn’t have it in me to go about all of the mundane parts of life just then.  For instance, I could not look at pop magazines or anything like that. I couldn’t take the trivial things in life just then.  The people in those magazines are not trivial, but what is printed about them is, and I just couldn’t muddy my brain with the trivial at this point.

OK, some of those people aren’t doing much to stop their lives from being trivialized, but you know what I mean.

I was still getting near daily visits from folks.  I had trouble keeping up with the visits. I wanted to see everyone, and the visits were so appreciated and helpful, but I would get to points where I just couldn’t talk anymore. That still happens, but not as severely as it did then. Again, I didn’t beat myself up about it.  Well, much. I did a little, but not as much as I generally have in the past.  It was just very clear to me when I was spent.

The wonderful Mandy Schutt hosted a series of yoga and kid classes in her backyard during the September month to raise money for the family so that we could obtain any sort of assistance we might need. There was clearly some extended therapy in my future, and likely Grace’s as well. I was so deeply touched that she organized that special month of classes and I will be forever grateful to her, Diane (the yoga teacher), and all who participated.  The funds were a godsend, and seeing the community come together, for my family, lifted my spirits more than I can say.

Also around this time, Cara, who set up the memorial fund for us, wrote to tell me that key bank officials had become aware of our situation and personally donated to the fund.  One of the bankers had also lost a child. I was floored by the generosity of strangers.  Thank you, strangers, from the bottom of my heart.

Cards and notes of love were still pouring into the mail slot. I saved them all. I want Grace to be able to read them one day.  Hell, I want to be able to read them again one day.

It all matters, folks. It all helps. It really, truly does.

I was still waking up early. I was sleeping, but waking early.  Sometimes, I could go back to sleep. Some days I returned emails while lying in bed until dawn broke. I slept well when I was asleep, but I couldn’t sleep long. I would often wake up at 5:30, and then feel guilt and regret for not having bounded out of bed at 5:30 a.m. while Alice was alive. I would cry. Not for long, but I did still cry more mornings than not at this time.

I still paced. And paced. I paced a good portion of the night between Grace’s bedtime and my own, on the nights I did not have visitors.

At this point there were still items of Alice’s that I would come across unexpectedly, on occasion, that would leave me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut, and I would dissolve into tears.

I didn’t fight them, however, and then they didn’t last long. They only lasted a long time if I fought them. If I tried to reckon with them, or justify them, or stop them, it became difficult to stop the tears. If I just let it rip, it didn’t take that long at all to move past the tears. Not that I stopped being sad that my Alice was gone, mind you, but I was able to be sad without being debilitated when I just let it rip through me. I knew I just had to, at times, try to relax and let it rip through me. I don’t know how else to describe it. 

How I Write

This is about where I lose track my memories by day. I refer to old emails etc. to jog my memory, but I know do not have recall by day at this point. I imagined writing this very quickly until I became “up to speed,” writing contemporaneously. That has clearly not been the case. There are external events that contributed to this, but there are also internal ones as well.

For once, I shucked aside any notion of what I “should” do. I should write daily, I should do this faster, I should do it by this method.  Or is this method better? I should do more…

I didn’t do that to myself here. I don’t really know why. It isn’t like me, to be honest. But for once, I allowed it to just come out how it came out. This has turned out to be a gift. A gift I wish I would have attained another way, but a gift nonetheless.

It feels pretty great to suddenly observe yourself give your self a break from the “shoulds.”

I write when it comes.  Sometimes I push it a little, but if it doesn’t come, I walk away. No pressure, no judging myself. Why didn’t I do this years ago? And why am I suddenly doing it now?  I have no idea. I only know that it saves a lot of damn time and I hope I never forget this lesson.

When it doesn’t come, I go about my life.

Once I am going, however, I usually find myself in a sort of flow, and I ride it until it stops. I take a short break. I try it again.  Sometimes it flows again. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I walk away and don’t give it a second thought.

Someone asked me “how I get to where I go” when I write these.  Good question. I hadn’t thought of it. But since was I asked, I notice I go to a place at the very top of my head, slightly to the back. When I can get there easily, I write. When I can’t, I don’t.  Maybe not the best method, but it’s the one I found myself doing, and it’s going to have to do because it’s all I got.

I have always taken at least a week off after publishing a new piece. Not intentionally. I just noticed that has been my tendency.

Tuesday, September 3

That Tuesday, I was home alone for a spell in the midday and had another panic attack. I still didn’t know they were panic attacks. Again, I was doing some mundane chore when it came on. Again, it dissipated relatively quickly, but was debilitating while active. I was breathless, sweating, unable to focus, and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I can’t recall how I got through this particular panic attack. I generally either had a lie-down or got in the bathtub in the early weeks, before I knew what they were.

I know I had an appointment with my sweet Ob/Gyn that day.  This guy is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met in my life.  He called me after Alice died, which I will always appreciate.  He spent a long time with me that day. He asked about her by name, which I truly appreciated. He asked me to call him if and when we got more findings from the Coroner. I cried a bit when talking about Alice, and he just could not have been sweeter. He’s an old-time doctor, despite being not much older than I am.

He asked me if I wanted to try for another child.  I told him I thought I did, if I could feel good about it. I couldn’t endure another heartache. He asked me if I wanted one so bad I would be willing to use “heroic means,’ meaning IVF etc. I said that I did not. I didn’t want to do all the tests, etc. I just mainly wanted to know if there were any glaring irregularities that would prevent a healthy birth.

He reminded me I had easily gotten pregnant at an “older age” twice before, and that since there was no obvious birth abnormalities in Alice, that there was no reason to say I couldn’t.  He said that I could do bunch of tests to find out more information if I wanted to delve further into it. I said I didn’t. He said, “Good. I don’t think it is a good idea right now, to subject yourself to all that.” He said that he truly hoped I would get pregnant if that was what I really wanted and that his waiting room was full of people in their 40s and even 50s.

The thought if being pregnant at 50 was unappealing to me. It still is. No judgment on those who have done this, in fact, bravo!  I just knew I didn’t have it in me.

I had trouble falling asleep that night, and went outside to pace.

Wednesday, September 4 

I had a sad day, meaning, “sad” was the overriding emotion of the day. One might assume that all days were “sad” days, and to a degree, they were, but other days I would say were hallmarked as more “anxious” or “stunned” or “exhausted” etc. I experienced a couple of moments of paralyzing, breathless, draining grief, that day. The kind that leaves you unsure if you can move. I had many patients that afternoon, and again, while at work, I was fine, but I was exhausted by the time I got home.

My friend Heather had written to say that she had had something made for us, and that it needed to be delivered to the house.  The gift was scheduled to be delivered that night by a friend of Heather’s. The gift was an amazing portrait of Alice in her Fourth of July outfit, in her coquettish pose and a faint halo around her head, inspired by the photo I took of her that Fourth.

Tashina Suzuki is the amazing artist that was commissioned to do the painting. I was gobsmacked. Heather had told me that the artist felt a unique bond to Alice while she painted, and it really showed. She really did capture the essence of Alice, and I was moved by Heather’s gift, and Tashina’s talent more than I can say.  My deepest thanks to both of these ladies.

In the painting, Alice’s eyes had a distinct twinkle in them, the signature Alice twinkle. How someone could capture that from a photo, I will never know. I did notice, however, that the eyes were blue.  Alice did have some blue in her eyes, but they were more hazel than standard blue. I said nothing, however, because the twinkle in her eye was there, and that was the most important thing, and the most difficult to capture, I would guess. 

Grace was awestruck by the portrait.  “I want to take a picture with my sister, but I wish she wasn’t only in the painting because I miss her.” POW, right in the gut. We took a photo of Grace and her sister, and yes, I too wish she could have been taking a photo with her actual sister.  At one point, Grace exclaimed, “Hey!  Alice’s eyes weren’t BLUE…………”

Damn, Grace is one detail-oriented kid.  Crap.  This is just the sort of thing she wouldn’t let go of, I knew.  I debated on whether or not to tell Heather. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, or the feelings of the artist who had so expertly captured the soul of my daughter on canvas. This was something I was not immediately clear on. This was a maybe.  So, I put it on the back burner.

Grace chose to put the painting in her “office” so that “Alice could always play with me”.  Heart-wrenching.  Right around this time, Grace started her own altar to Alice on the windowsill in that her “office”. The altar and painting are still there today.  But not Alice.

The house was, and is, so much quieter.  And this hurts like I cannot tell you. It is a nagging, sinking feeling, and you cannot escape it.

The MOMS Club newsletter with my piece, “Thank you, Alice” came out on this day last year, along with many notes of appreciation.  It helped more than I can say to get that support.   The act of writing it was cathartic, sure, it was healing, sure, but it was also, well, uplifting.  It feels strange to say that.  And in the early days, I did feel some guilt on the rare occasion I could get to a place where I celebrated the life she lived rather than grieved the life she lost.  But, writing “Thank You, Alice” was indeed my very first step towards being able to celebrate her sweet, short life.

Thursday, September 5

I was completely exhausted and running on fumes. Grace and I took train to San Diego to see my awesome stepsister, Sarah, and her wonderful hubby, Jeff. Grace loves taking the train, and so do I. I love me some train. But no one loved trains more than Alice, and I realized once we were chugging along that Alice never got to go on a “real” train. The thought literally sickened me. I tried to console myself with thoughts “of she will always be with you, and is here with you on this train now,” but let’s face it, I don’t think anyone in the throes of fresh, unexpected, grief really believes that or finds it helpful. Maybe they do. I didn’t. I tried to imagine her running through the aisles anyway. I cried.

Sarah picked us up from the station and we went to Old Town for lunch. We sat next to a bay window with a very elaborate Dia de Los Muertos diorama. Sarah asked me if it bothered me and I said, no, that it did not. I still did not equate Alice with death at that level, I guess. I knew she was dead, but did not think of her as dead. I know that makes no sense, but it is the truth, so there it is. I guess, somewhere, she still felt too real to me to be dead.

And I took that to mean, that yes, I suppose she WAS still with me. I just wished to God that I could hug her. And take her on a train.

Sarah and I spoke of my experience with the beetles and the butterflies, and she said she hadn’t known that beetles were a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. We spoke of how some people equate finding bird feathers in the house, or on the doorstep as messages from the dead, and that birds in general were thought to portend death in the house.  You know, light lunch conversation. We ordered margaritas, because, let’s face it, there was no way we were going to be able to have light lunch convo so soon after Alice’s death. And besides, she was eager to hear about my session with the astrologer. As I began to tell her about it, I felt something above my head, heard a whoosh, and then everyone in the restaurant gasped, including Sarah.

“Oh my God, Melissa. A bird just flew right out of that diorama and right over your head!” Sarah gasped in disbelief.

The bay windows were not open, meaning that bird had sat through half of our lunch, sat through my entire conversation about birds and death, before flying over me.

I mean, come on. That is CRAZY. I just said, “Well, hello, Alice.”   I was slack-jawed.

I know I have used that term a lot: slack-jawed.  Also, gobsmacked. I know a good writer finds different words to describe similar emotions.  But, it’s all I got right now, folks.  Forgive me, please.

Grace had a great time with Sarah and Jeff and their dogs Roxy and Nugget, renamed Roxy Doughnut and Fish Stick by Grace (before you ask—I have no idea).  We tried to watch Weatherman at the house that night, but it was about 100 degrees, and I was sad, so I don’t think I made it to the end.

Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8

One Month

While we were visiting San Diego, that Friday was the one-month anniversary of Alice’s death.  I woke up with a sinking, sick feeling. I felt a heaviness that was new.  At this point in the aftermath, I was still opening my eyes in the morning, and within a second or two, I would find myself consumed with intense grief. It didn’t last long. I could get out of bed, etc., but it was a pretty rough way to start the day. My friend Tommy texted me early that morning to make sure that I was OK; he knew it was the one month anniversary. He apologized when he realized what time it was in my time zone. I told him that it was helpful, actually, because the mornings were still the hardest, and his texts were always sunny. If I was sad, we’d exchange messages about that, but he always started sunny, and I found that helpful. In fact, it was a huge gift. He honored my sadness when it was there, but he always gave me a chance to be happy first, without ever judging me if I was not able to be sunny in return. That is a huge gift, people.

In retrospect, I realize that it was perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all that I have received. I know now, that when you are in an abyss, one of the kindest things a person can do for you, is sit on the lip of the abyss, shine a light down for you, and see if you can get out by your own steam. Talk to you kindly, about other things even, while you try to get out. This works most of the time.  It is not that helpful for someone to dive right in after you because then you are both stuck, and the original abyss dweller feels guilty for sucking someone else down. If you are so stuck, so far down, that you cannot get out, THEN it is helpful for someone to reach a hand in and help you out, while holding a light with the other hand.

My friend’s sunny texts were like a light, reminding me of the way out, without judging, instructing, lecturing, cajoling me etc. about how to get there. He was simply being himself, and this helped remind me who I was in return.  I am not sure he knew the extent to which he helped me, but I hope he does now. Thank you, Tommy.

I have a friend that has checked in daily, one nearly daily, one every single week without fail, and countless others that check in regularly, but not on a predictable schedule. All of it helped tremendously. I could not have handled everyone checking in daily, and it really just worked itself out into a lovely pace of steady support. My undying gratitude goes out to all who check on me. None of these folks ever once judged me, or my process.  None of these folks ever said or did one thing to make me second-guess my progress. They simply shined a light on me, and let me get out by my own steam. This is very empowering.  This is the way to truly heal.  This is how to be a good friend.  And I am so blessed, so grateful, to have had the support I have had. I am a very lucky girl.

Checking in: it still helps, to this very day.

A realization

In my texts to Tommy that morning, I said the grief came in waves, just as “they” said it would. But there were also waves of peace, immense peace even, some of the most peaceful moments of my life. There are also moments of anguishing guilt, regret, etc. I told him there were also moments where water just gushed out of my eye holes with no sobbing, mainly because there was no energy with which to cry, so all I could do was make water, it seemed. It’s all very surreal. I felt slow and reflective and like I had profoundly changed—this is a baseline emotional description that seems to always be there to this day. I told him, and so many others, that I knew the “grieving process” (still hate that term—insert Archie Bunker raspberry here) is a lifelong thing, mainly because I knew that Grace will process it differently over the years. She was still so little.

In any event, I told Tommy about a couple of moments of intense peace that I had.  He said that my feelings of peace, coupled with the waves of anxiety I had experienced, reminded him of a conversation he had with a friend that had PTSD. He went on to describe his friend’s experience.

And, it occurred to me:  I have PTSD. I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I thought it was reserved for people that had seen other people blown up, had been to war, had endured torture and other madness. But now that Tommy had mentioned his friend, a lot of connections began to be made in my brain. I remembered learning about PTSD in school. I recalled that “intrusive images” of the traumatic event were a hallmark of PTSD, and I definitely had trouble with that.  I remembered thinking, especially in the first few days after she died, that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to survive the continual loop in my head of  the image of her blue face coming up out of the crib.  I recalled how I insisted the crib be removed because I knew I could not stop the flashbacks if it were in the house, and then remembered that avoidance of triggers was also a hallmark of PTSD.  And, I recalled that overwhelming guilt and shame were often found in folks with PTSD.  Check.

Crap. I had PTSD. Later, when discussing this with a therapist, I said that I was surprised that I had PTSD.  I thought it took something worse than what I had gone through to develop PTSD.  I thought it took seeing a village get annihilated to get PTSD. The therapist looked at me with caring eyes and said, “Oh, Melissa. I think finding your beloved child dead in her crib, performing CPR on her knowing she is probably already gone, is more than enough trauma to spark PTSD.”


I had to get on that. I did not love the idea of having PTSD.  It made me feel like a weakling. I know, I know, it does not make you a weakling, but it made me feel like one, and I knew I could not raise Grace the way I wanted to raise her if I FELT like a weakling, regardless of whether or not I was ACTUALLY a weakling.

An aside: I no longer feel like I was a weakling for having PTSD.  At all. And, once I am back on my feet, it will be an issue to which I will donate a lot of time and money.

Grace saw an ad for a Duck Boat cruise on the ocean, and wanted to go, so Sarah and I took her. As we waited for our trip inside a nearby café, a pigeon circled around my chair.  Sarah looked at me, and just said, “Well, hello again, Alice.”    This would not have been so strange if not for the bird incident the day before, but it was definitely strange in light of that.

The Duck boat tour was really relaxing and fun, truth be told.  Grace at one point shouted out, “It’s a boat AND a bus!!!  That is SO COOL!”

And you know what? It was. It felt good to feel the sea breeze, and see dolphins and just pretend I was a normal person for an hour.

We spent some time at the tide pools that afternoon, then met Jeff for pizza and beers. I mentioned that I had chatted with my friend Tommy that day, and that coincidentally, he and Sarah were both Majors in the National Guard (Tommy has since been promoted). They also both like craft beers, so, naturally, I blamed the Guard for producing beer snobs. All in all, we had a nice time.  But I was sad.

Speaking of craft beers, I tried to hang with Sarah and Jeff and drink craft beer, but I couldn’t because it felt like I ate a tray of donuts before I was even one-third of the way through it. I mean, damn, that stuff is filling.  And the next day was SAD. Like, way sadder than most. I realized that some sad days were preceded by an obvious trigger, and some weren’t. I started to piece together that the sad days that seemed random were preceded by the intake of wine or beer. I never had much, mind you. But any amount seemed to trigger a down day.

So I realized I needed to stick to vodka, and even then, no more than two. This was not hard because I don’t drink daily to start with, and hadn’t drank much more than two in a long time. I learned early on that the older you are the easier you get a hangover and that having a hangover with two children under the age of four, one of whom had recently died, was pretty brutal. So, I avoided that. I had enough actual reasons to be sad. I felt it irresponsible to do anything that would knowingly make it worse.

We took the train home that Saturday. Grace was sad to say goodbye to her aunt and uncle, but was excited about the train ride home.

There was a good deal of tension in the house around this time.  Losing a child brings up so many different conflicting emotions, and it can be hard, if not impossible, to manage them all well.

Monday, September 9

I went to yoga. I was still going regularly.  It really did help me feel better, and I wished that I could go every day. I wished that my teacher, Pagan, taught every day. I had been practicing Iyengar yoga with him for a few months, maybe a year, prior, and was really benefiting from this type of yoga. But after Alice’s death, yoga was truly a lifeline. I am so grateful that I stumbled upon a class that would help me so beautifully, so perfectly, BEFORE she died, so that I didn’t have to go on a search for the perfect class AFTER she died. I would not have had it in me.   I am grateful beyond words for Pagan, and for yoga.

Leta, one of the neighborhood moms, came by that night. It was her turn to “check in with me.”  She came, and helped with Grace, and listened, and shared some of her grief with me. She is a doll, and I am ever grateful to her, and all of the other amazing women in my neighborhood.

I have been blessed with an amazing community, both literally and figuratively.  I wish every person everywhere had the kind of support I have been blessed to receive.

Exploding and Floating

It is around this time (a month or so after Alice’s death) that I began to realize that the loss of a child felt like an internal explosion.  I recalled sitting outside the night she died, feeling like there were meteors soaring through a massive hole in my heart.

It’s like you are literally exploding open. I felt very still, but like I was exploding open at the same time.  I felt like I was completely stationary, while a meteor ripped me open.  I don’t know how else to describe it. It is a bizarre experience. I am sure this explosion is too much for some. There is no explaining why the explosion might seem easier for some to manage than others.  There are no other life skills that can predict your performance in this area.  There is no way to know how’ll you do/be/react until you go through it.

Some dive into the explosion. Some run from it.  Some reckon with it. Some try to outwit it, and I think this group seems to suffer more than any of the aforementioned, from what I have observed.  Maybe it is because this is a thing that is clearly so much bigger than you, so much bigger than anything your cocky little brain has ever been prepared to handle, that there is just no chance it can outwit the loss.

For me, the loss of Alice immediately seemed like a force I wasn’t going to defeat by force, cunning or evasion. I somehow knew I was going to have to just dive in, play dead, slowly reveal myself as alive as I slowly got to know my enemy, until which point I could walk away, victorious, from an enemy unharmed.

That was, and still is, the only path I could see that could get me to a place where I knew I survive in a world where THIS had become my story. Dive in quick, and deal with it.

I could not then, and still cannot to this day, believe that this is part of my story. No one ever, EVER, expects this thing, this losing a child, an innocent child, to be part of their story, a part of the world in which they have to spend the rest of their life. The loss of a child catapults the entire rest of your life in an entirely different direction, abruptly, with incredible force, and at the speed of light. It is an intense experience that is thrust open you, with no warning, and no possible training. It is sink, swim, or float. I had to float. I knew that, for me, I wouldn’t have a life worth living the other two ways.

Sinking has obvious drawbacks. Swimming could work, except I was too stunned to swim, and besides, I had no idea what I was supposed to swim towards. What is the goal in the aftermath of losing a child? Staying alive? Getting out of bed?  Remaining sane?  Refraining from becoming a drug addict? Becoming productive? Seriously, what is the goal? I guess it is different for everyone, and I still did not know what my goal was at this point, other than I knew I had to be a good mother for my living child.

This is not to say swimming or sinking are wrong. I am positive many have survived the loss of a child one of the other two ways.  I just knew that I personally had only the float option. It was crystal clear to me then, and now. I knew I had to sink into it, in order to eventually rise above it. I had to let go and let it do its thing in order to move on. The only way through it is through it. The only way through it is through it.  That was, and is, my mantra.  There is no running around it.  No hiding.   Forge ahead, and know that this is a lot more than you bargained for, but it’s yours now.

It is uncharted waters, this grief, this loss. There are certainly other people that have fallen in the water, but no two have ever landed in the exact same patch of sea, so you cannot possibly judge.  Or predict.

So, each needs space to cope in the way they need to cope.

You may think you know how you are going to handle it. But you don’t. And you realize pretty quickly that you do not. You surprise yourself every minute of every day. It can be tiring. Scratch that, it is tiring. OK, It is completely exhausting, who am I kidding? But it is also an opportunity to gain some insight into oneself, so it seems like you better seize the day. I recall thinking, “ I have to deal with this NOW, while it is fresh, while I have support, because it will not get easier if I do not deal with it, and by then I will likely not have all of this support.”

You can never know how you will respond until it happens to you. It is not just a cliché.  It is simple truth.  Most folks say, “I couldn’t do it.” But you know what? You could. It sucks. It sucks a big fat bag of hair.  It is truly awful, but you would do it, because you had to do so. It might take awhile, it may take your entire lifetime, but you would.

Shock and Clarity

There is a clarity in those early days of unexpected loss, which is pretty damned surprising. At least it is as close to clarity as I have ever felt. Everything is “yes” or “no.” The few “maybes” that popped up, I found myself moving easily and steadily past. “The question will pop up again,” I reasoned, “and I’ll deal with it when I have a clear answer.”

This is not always possible, but where it was possible, I have steered past the maybes.  I knew I didn’t have the fight, the time, the energy, or the mental capacity to deal with maybes. And for once, I didn’t beat myself up for that.

I had my yeses, my nos, my maybes, and I walked through them all in a daze.

I do feel grateful to have experienced the level of clarity I felt in those early days. It was a gift. A gift I wished I would have received in less costly way, but a gift nonetheless. A consolation gift, I guess. “Here is a whopper of a tragedy that will make you question your very existence, but here is a remarkable level of clarity with which to process it. Use it wisely,” was the message I seemed to be getting.

I still have flashes of clarity from time to time, but the level of clarity in the midst of shock is incomparable. We, as a species, cannot endure it forever, however, I seems.  It is too much for the brain, I guess. The brain cannot handle what the heart must endure. That, my friends, is shock. Or, at least shock as I experienced it.

So, the shock is temporary. It is important to remember that it is temporary. And, should one lose the point of the lesson, one recalls that one just lost one’s two-year-old child for no good reason and the knowledge that all is temporary comes back to slug you square in the face.  And you hope you learn the lesson this time around, because you aren’t sure you can handle another lesson like this.

I was still in shock, I know now. I didn’t know that then. I was being burst open. And your head just can’t catch up. So you just strap yourself in for a crazy ride. But you can start to question reality, and that can be scary. But it was not nearly as scary as I would have guessed. It just WAS. So I just went with it. I didn’t have the energy to fight it, honestly.

I am in a much different place today. I still cry, sure, but the tears are short-lived. I still have moments where I think, “I cannot believe this happened.” I still have moments where I suddenly feel punched in the gut.  But now, it feels like a quick gentle storm passing quickly through town. Cleansing, even. Rather than the tsunami it felt like in the early days. I suppose the explosion is complete, and I am here, floating, and casually searching for land.



  1. Susan Kellogg
    September 11, 2014

    Melissa, You are writing a wonderful book that will help everyone who has ever had such a loss. S.

    • admin
      September 13, 2014

      Wow, Susie, what a compliment. Thank you.

    • admin
      January 24, 2015

      Thank you so much, Susan. This means a lot to me. xoxo

  2. Veronica C. Kim
    September 13, 2014

    Hi, Melissa!! I cried as I read your article, never met Alice, but I feel your heartache, I have kids myself and I cannot even imagine!!You are such a strong and an inspiring woman!! Please keep expressing thru writing, I always enjoy reading them… Lots of crying and smiles!! Thank you, Melissa for sharing, you’re a true Healer!

    • admin
      September 13, 2014

      Thank you so much, sweetheart. That means so much to me. Xo

    • admin
      January 24, 2015

      Thank you so voery much, Veronica. Lots of love.

  3. Joann
    September 23, 2014

    Firstly my condolences in your loss. I cannot tell you how healing it has been for me to read your words of wisdom. My mother has been battling serious health issues as of late and at times I feel utterly alone in my fear and grief. Your words have been a true comfort to me and a guide on the days where I feel I can’t breath from fear of the unknown. Thank you Melissa.

    • admin
      September 23, 2014

      I am very sorry about your mother. My heart goes out to you both. Thank you so very much for your kind words. It means a lot to me.

    • admin
      January 24, 2015

      Thank you so much for letting me know, and I wish you every happiness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *