I Don't Know How I Feel

August 7, 2018

By Sanda Rathamone

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 

Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater." 

But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.” - Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

My husband isn't the perfect man, nor am I the perfect woman, but the one thing that draws me to him is not based on his perfections or imperfections; it is on how much he cares about things (not necessarily "things" as in materials) and people.

One of those "things" and people that he cares so passionately about is how am I feeling when I am grieving, which is pretty much every day.

I have noticed how he would take a moment in the middle a conversation - and sometimes randomly - ask,

"How are you today?"


"How are you feeling?"

It is almost funny to me that I am more of a "feeler" and he the "thinker," but I can't seem to answer his question. Although, there is an occasional role switching... I usually murmur something like, "okay...,"  or shrug.

The truth is: I don't really know. 

I know that he is trying to show me that he is "checking up on me," but I can't explain how life after losing Elijah makes me feel in one word.

I mostly feel hurt. Not physically, but it kind of feels physical, like there's something inside of me that never stops aching, like a constant pain, pulsing through my entire body and I can't pin where it is coming from. If I had to take a good guess, the pain is coming from my heart (the red, blood pumping organ).

Sometimes, I cry so much that my heart feels like it is burning and I can't breathe, like I am having heartburn, or my chest feels tight, like my heart is clenching itself shut, which makes my chest rock solid and unable to expand. Sometimes, I don't cry at all and I still get that feeling. Pretty much, whether I cry or don't cry, it doesn't make a difference.

There are more simple, obvious feelings that you could always see in my eyes, if you took the time to look through them. You would never have to guess that I am sad, disappointed, confused, and hopeless. But if you dive deeper, you would find that I am swimming (more often drowning) in these emotions of anguish, terror, fury, doubt, and exhaustion.

I just hope that once I turn another corner, that there isn't another monster to slay or some obstacle course to get lost in. I'm tired. I'm tired of being in this maze of emotions. Every day, there is a sense of dread of being alone and alive.

I have my days of when I want to give up. I don't want to feel anymore and had enough. It is like eating the same thing over and over again that it makes you sick. The thought of it makes you more sick.

Then, there are days when I feeling absolutely nothing because I have felt everything. This is what I call my "numb" days. That feeling of feeling everything, but nothing at the same time. Everything just swirls into one big ball of air.

But when I think of Elijah, just him, I feel... wonder. 

I wonder all about him. I wonder what he would look like, sound like, feel like, smell like. I wonder what he would be doing or what he would be eating or saying. I wonder who he could be and what he would be like. I wonder how life would be like if I had the chance to be his mother.

Some days, all I feel is wonder because I could wonder all day and think of a billion possibilities... but then after all of that wondering, it starts to hurt. I get that heart thing again, but something else adds to it: love. Wondering makes me love Elijah even more because I didn't get to live knowing the things I have wondered about. I love him more because I want him back, because I don't want to wonder anymore.

I want to know. 

Among the grief and sorrow, I do feel some kind of hope and happiness.

When we got pregnant with Elijah, it was a surprise, it was a miracle that I prayed for. When I look at his sonograms and his photos or his hand and footprints, I feel hope. There is hope because if I had conceived once, I could again. When I remember that he is my son, I feel happiness. There is happiness because he made me a mom.

I have always wanted to be someone's mom and to be his mom makes me grateful.

Elijah is the beginning of how I became a mother. And when I remember that thought, I feel deeply loved. I could feel love coming from all sorts of directions, but mostly from my heart, that very same heart that aches for a baby, hurts for all of the days I will never see or hold Elijah again and the days I have seen every woman with theirs, and clenches shut because the pains are too much to bear.

I look for signs everywhere and when I find one, or two, even three, I could feel Elijah's love guiding me here and there.

Sometimes, I could feel a touch on my shoulder or my wrists and pat them away because I could feel this lingering...

Yesterday, my husband and I was watching a movie on Netflix. He picked the movie P.S. I Love You. I think we have watched it before, I'm not sure, but if we had, then I'd forgotten because it was like watching a new movie. Nearing the end, the mother of the main character says to her daughter:

"You know the worst thing for a parent? Second after losing a child."

"Watching your child head for the same life you had and you can't stop it. It's a terrible, helpless feeling. It makes you angry all the time." 

That "Second after losing a child" had me reeling.

I felt validated. My life was validated. My grief was validated.

That second line reminds me of my husband when we were in the early weeks of pregnancy with Elijah. He would say something like, "I don't want my child to struggle, I don't want my child to live a life like mine."

This had hurt me because he was expressing how we weren't financially ready for a baby. Sometimes, I would go back and hear him yell at me: "Why would you pray to get pregnant?! Why would you pray for a baby?!" Like I was out of my mind, bat shit crazy. I could remember thoughts of abortion and telling my baby that I was sorry. Later on, I went back and told my baby that I didn't mean it. I want you. Please stay. 

Sometimes, I would blame myself for what had happened to Elijah. I lost him because of me, because I wanted him so bad.

Because I was selfish. 

It turns out that losing our baby had cost us everything, especially, all of me. I am still working hard to find those pieces of myself that I had lost from the days after losing Elijah. 

I don't know how to be myself anymore. I feel like someone else with a different life, it often terrifies me. I told my husband one night that I was scared of losing myself. I lost my identity and was scared that I wouldn't be or know myself anymore. I don't know why or where this came from, but the fear was real. Who was I now, since Elijah was gone?

It's strange how at the beginning of the movie, the main character and her husband argues about having/not having a baby.

She argues that they live in a small apartment, there is no room for a baby, and that she hates her job. She goes on yelling at him about how he had said something to her mother of how "she didn't want children" (but she does, just not yet). She has a plan. She says to her husband: "You can't act like everything's just gonna work out by itself."

He later says something like, "Your plans never work out anyway." 

In his early thirties, he dies of a tumor. Before his death, he wrote letters to help guide her, so that she wouldn't feel so alone.

I could remember her face when she goes on a vacation that her late husband had planned for her and accidentally hears of how one of her friends is newly pregnant and the other getting married. She looked lost in her thoughts of that argument she had with her husband.

It was the look of being stuck in a haze of what could have been, the family she would have had.

I never want our child to struggle the way we do, I think that's what most parents want. We want our children to have a better life, better everything. We want their futures to be secure (because we feel insecure). But I also want to have faith in that whatever struggles we have, we have them to overcome them and to become resilient. There will always be some kind of struggle and a test of our faith - that's life.

What's life without lessons learned and most of all, wisdom?

At the beginning, I wanted to tell my husband that "Everything is gonna work out." Maybe not by itself, but whatever happens, we have to have faith that we can get through anything. Maybe losing Elijah was a testament of our faith to each other, to ourselves, to life, to God. I don't know...

The one thing I will never feel is regret for being pregnant and losing Elijah. I love him, even with all the pain and the ugliness. That's the twist to life after loss: love and pain, joy and sorrow. 

I don't know how I am feeling today, nor any other day. If I could, I would hand over a chart with all of the feelings in the world and say, "Here. This is what I am feeling. And I don't know what to do with it."

But I don't want to feel hope today or any other day.

I want to feel like a mother with a living child because every day, I feel like a mother with none.

I want to feel the soft hands and feet of my baby.

I want to feel life.

With love,

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