It's the Little Deaths...

I have to be honest, I've been a little heavier on the grief-talk around these parts lately than I usually like to be.  I attribute it in part to the fact that I am in what I call "the Brady Days." Our first daughter, Brady lived for 109 days six years ago, and we are in the middle of those 109 days between the day we celebrate her birth, and the day we mark her unexpected death. My muscle memory (the heart is a muscle) embeds these days with a deeper grief than I experience the other 256 days a year. That is not to say that I walk around in a cloak of sadness through these days, I find that each year it gets better. That is also not to say that I do not grieve the loss of Brady those other 256 days, each year I realize how eternal this pain is. While time certainly eases it, time cannot erase it. So, please bear with me during these days as I work through where I am today, and tomorrow, and on and on... What I am saying is this: I would much rather hang out in the joyful spaces in life.  I appreciate laughter and a great punchline, and certainly I am doing plenty of that in my day to day right now, but what I'm finding myself called to blog about is this grief stuff... so here we go again...

I have been thinking a lot lately about this quote by David Eagleman: "There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time." This is most certainly true in regard to your own death, but for the bereaved, their loved ones die hundreds and hundreds of deaths. There is, of course the death of the body, and then the farewell to the body. However, the bereaved will keep the names of our loved ones on the lips of the living, as long as we are alive, that death will not come. 

Instead, each day, each week, each month, the ones we love who have died, die many times.  When we realize that we have lost a memory (like the feeling of Brady in my hands as I brought her to her bath. Her small naked body, the weight of it, the softness of it, the folds and slopes, the warmth. I cannot remember. This was the memory I never wanted to lose, and I have lost it.), or that we don't think of them as strongly as we once did (there comes a time after the death of a loved one, that life without them becomes the new normal, and the new normal becomes as comfortable as the old normal, and it is deeply troubling because it means that we are getting used to life without.), or when someone (usually) unintentionally speaks without remembering our loss (I bristle when someone tells me about something they have done or haven't done with their child and follow it up with the words, "... and they lived.")  The ones we love die again, and again. The little deaths happen with no fanfare or ceremony. We grieve them silently, and we move through them. 

I am keenly aware in my day to day of these little deaths. I wrestle with these little deaths. I grieve these little deaths. Somehow, and I don't know how, I keep surviving these little deaths.  I realized yesterday that I have literally NO idea how I keep getting through this profound and painful loss.  I have NO idea how I arrived at a place where I knew that I had a choice to make, and my choice was to live here, and live without Brady. I never have had an idea where on earth I found the courage to become a mother again after she died. I have NO idea how Mr. Lindstrom and I, or any other of my friends who are bereaved parents figured out how to keep waking up despite this pain, to keep showing up for life and I am willing to bet you that they don't really know either. We are not stronger than anyone else, we have just been tested. We are not braver than anyone else, we have just been forced to show our bravery. We are not wiser than anyone else, we have just been presented the opportunity to process and live into a deep experience. 

Here is the grace: When the four-year-old wraps his arms around me and tells me how much he loves me, or when the Twinstroms both climb into my lap and try to find room for both to cuddle (and miraculously, they always do), I am holding all of my babies, even the ones I have lost.  That, my friends, is LIFE.



  1. This is really profound, but I think you hit on something important. It is a choice. There are those who make the choice to live inside of the pain. But it's no kind of life, and certainly not what I think our children would have wanted for us.

    February is my hard month. From when we got our diagnosis, to when Sarah died. I feel it coming in advance.

    I also think once you've had a loss, you learn so many stories. We don't just carry our own children in our hearts, but the children of those we've come to know through this process. In a way, we carry so much more pain than just our own. And yet, I'm so grateful for every story and baby that has been shared with me. I feel like knowing they were here, sort of lets them live on in a way.

    Peace, as you go through these days, Colleen.

  2. I can relate to this post so much Colleen. For me, it the time frame from September 25 - November 13. That is the day Devon went into the hospital for surgery (her latest of many) and never left again until she died on November 13. I have 2 beautiful little girls in my life and we have many happy moments but they also know that sometimes in the fall, Momma goes to her "Devon place" and just needs to be alone and cry. Time eases the pain but it is never gone and sometimes it hits with a vengeance. It is a choice to get up, live life and allow love and happiness into it. But sometimes, I just need to go to my "Devon place" and be sad for awhile. I am so grateful for your journal entries - it helps to know we are not alone in our journey.

  3. I can't even imagine what it is like to lose a child...I am really glad you share this with us. It makes us value each second we have with our little ones.

  4. i always appreciate your vulerability and honesty. i know you know how i feel, ive said it many times before.
    i will always remember brady.

  5. You wrote about this so well. I can not imagine the grief of losing a child. You have lots of good reason to write about your grief. I lost my youngest brother this past May. I write about it periodically on my blog because it helps me acknowledge the pain. I've signed up to follow your site.

  6. I had to share this -- there are words for what you talk about in this post. I just learned about them from a book I'm reading (Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W Loewen.)

    Many African societies divide humans into three categories:
    1. Those who are now alive
    2. The sasha -- those who have died, but their time on earch overlaps with those who are alive now.
    3. The zamani -- those who have died as have all their contemporaries and whose lives are brought to life by stories about them.

    The author says these are Kiswahili words.

  7. Oh, your last paragraph about grace and life- just made me tear up!

  8. My PYHO post was very similar to yours...same theme. That last paragraph brought me to tears...it's so true.


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