As part of the photography project I am participating in, I have been assigned to write about what I am grateful for in my life right now. I imagine the purpose of this is to get me focusing on the good things as opposed to the staggering emptiness of my loss. This is something I try my hardest to do every single day, but it is often very difficult. It is not easy to look at my life with anything other than distain. Everything good that has happened since February has happened because Kenley died. How can I be happy about something that is a direct result of my child's death? How can I find fulfillment in joy that rises from such emptiness? It's not easy, but I am trying. So, so, hard. So, here goes. Things for which I am grateful (in no particular order):
My amazing support system of friends
It's sad but true, nothing brings people together like tragedy. When Kenley died, everyone pulled together like a drawstring bag, nestling in and holding tight. I'm not just talking about the initial support of food, money, and condolences. People I haven't heard from in years - decades even - pulled themselves back into my life to support me. Friends who had lost touch made contact. Not just, "Hey, I'm so sorry" contact, but "Hey, let's be the good friends we should have been all this time" contact. I have rekindled real and true friendships with so many people, and I am so grateful for these wonderful souls who were so willing to hold me up even though we hadn't spoken in ages. That is the mark of a true friend.
I am also obviously grateful to those people who had strong footholds in my life before loss and have not allowed that grip to waver. No one knows what to say to give comfort, but these people did not allow their loss of words to stop them from being there for me. When their shoulder was soaking wet from my tears, they offered me their other one. Words cannot do justice to the swelling of my heart that occurs because of these people.
I have never once doubted my parents' love for me. Oh, there were moments in my childhood and teenage years when I was convinced they did things just to spite me - but beyond not being allowed to eat a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie or staying out past midnight, deep down, I knew everything they did was because it was what was best for me. They are the parents I want to be to my children one day. I am grateful they have taught me the true role of a parent and have shown me the full extent of a parent's love.
When Kenley died, I became a child once again. Weak, scared, and completely unsure of where to go. My parents were right there by my side to help put back together their broken little girl. They still are.
My sister and I have really found a support in each other during this time as well. Our trip to Boston recently is a great example of that. I am truly grateful to have a sister with such a big heart - especially when my own seems so small.
I can't say it enough. He is my other half. Despite both of our flaws, despite how this journey has left us exhausted and broken, we are in this together. In the four and a half years I have known him, the one and a half we have been married, and the four months we have been parents, I have never once doubted that he is the one for me. From our first date to this morning when I woke up with him by my side, I knew. I have always known. Loss is hard. Loss changes you. But what hasn't changed, and what will not change, is our love for each other. We understand each other when no one else does. We cling to each other in this tornado. While the world spins angrily and destructively around us, we find sanctuary in each other's arms. I am grateful that I have him by my side, now and forever.
Volunteering with Cherishing the Journey has been healing for me in so many ways. It has given me a purpose again. I am grateful that charities like this exist to help grieving mothers remember their babies - and I am grateful to have found myself a part of their mission. When I return to work in August, I realize that less of my efforts will be spent on this cause, but I will give all I have to give because it is important to others and it helps me give meaning to my loss.
My blog and new friends
Like the pole a tightrope walker carries to hold her balance, this blog is what keeps me careening over the edge of my own emotions. It keeps me sane. Without the ability to write it out, my feelings would kill me. I would be locked inside a maze I couldn't navigate. I am grateful for my ability to sort through this mess through my writing. Because of my blog, I have been able to grieve appropriately. I have been able to work through my grief in increments I can handle. I am certain I wouldn't be as far as I am now without my writing.
In addition to helping me sort my own grief and find my new path, my blog has put me in contact with many women wading through their own rivers of loss. My blog has made me feel less alone in this fight. I have met sisters in loss who are fighting with me. I like to think we are helping each other figure out how to live again in the face of grief. I am grateful for all of them.
I have also forged some very strong friendships in the wake of Kenley's death. Friendships that wouldn't exist had our children lived. So, in this way, these relationships are very bittersweet. Some women I have met in person and some I only know through facebook, blog comments, or email, but each of these friendships are invaluable to me. Some of them have recently discovered they are pregnant with their rainbow baby. Some of them are still waiting for that moment, myself included. Even though it is sorrow that brings us together, it is hope that will bring us through.
Gratitude is a difficult emotion to grasp when your fingers are stiffened by sadness and grief. It is hard to find things to be thankful for when everything that happens in your life is a result of your loss. But, I cling to all of these things with every part of me. They are the lights in my darkness, and they help me find my way.