9 Months. It is the gestation period of a human life. It is an eternity of time to a pregnant woman. To a grieving mother it is like the passing of a few days at one moment and a lifetime of experience and sorrow the next.
Last week I passed the 9 month mark since losing Camille. I have been slow in posting this record of how I am doing. I was sick when we passed the mark. I was sick with the same head cold when Camille passed. It was the first time I had been sick since Camille's accident and it took me back to dark places in my memories.
In so many ways I do feel stronger now. Stronger than before Camille's accident. I am more confident in my ability to shoulder this heavy trial. I have stronger empathy and understanding for others and their weaknesses and sorrows. I am stronger in my faith. I have an increased appreciation for and personal understanding of the healing side of the atonement. There is more love in my home. I am more patient as a mother. I appreciate my children more. I treasure them even more - I didn't think that was possible. In many ways I am a better mother to them. I have hope again and my hope is greater than it ever has been.
Yet, there are ways I feel so much weaker now than before, or even just after Camille's passing. I am more anxious as a mother. I hate this. It is a trait I have purposely avoided since the birth of my first child. I fight it now. But even when I can control my outward reactions, my anxiety jumps into high gear at the first suggestion of potential harm to my children or other children.
I am less open and far less friendly. I feel like I have a huge wall built around myself. Grief leaves you so vulnerable. At first everyone expects you to be raw and broken. It would seem unnatural for you not to be. So it is easy to show this rawness to the world and announce your pain to the world. You are shocked if perfect strangers cannot see it just by looking at you.
As time passes, you must find ways to function. You grow stronger and some of the wounds begin healing- at least on a surface level. It is as if time adds layers of new skin. But time does not heal that core wound. I am not sure any amount of time heals that. It just becomes less visible, less exposed.
Still some comments or questions or situations still penetrate through to the core and reinjure the wound. And that core is just as raw as it ever was. And this core still needs treatment despite the layers of skin. In waves it bursts to the surface demanding to be recognized. Pressure from the wound builds up and must be periodically released. Waves of grief. They come less frequently but they still come.
Now people expect you to be better. They expect that your faith will make the pain easier. It doesn't. The pain builds the faith as you feel supported by the Savior. But the pain is not made less. The burdens are not lessened. It is the individual that is strengthened and made strong enough to bare the burdens through faith.
So it becomes less comfortable to share the pain of the wound. The waves of grief -- those times when the wounds pressure must be released -- are suffered more silently. Only in the company of other wounded souls is there safety to expose the rawness and let the wound breathe through the wave.
And with very few experiences to reinjure the wound, a wall seems to build. The pain of reinjury is just to great. A natural defense must go up. And mine has. I don't like it. But I am less open and less extending and friendly - especially with people who didn't know me before. I am working to gain the strength to overcome this. It makes me quiet at times when I should speak - because in speaking I would expose the wound. Sometimes I just feel that I am too vulnerable to expose that to people who don't understand the nature of this wound and how deeply it runs.
To give a quantitative analysis of how I am to the record: I feel good and strong and whole most days. Maybe all but about 2 or 3 a month. I only cry on those 2 or 3 days. I do have teary moments if something triggers the grief. Like yesterday when my mother in law shared a story of her mother's passing and she and her siblings wondering who would be the first to have met her in heaven.
Would it be her mother and father? Then their dad said no, it would be their son who had passed away. I mean - come on - things like that are impossible for me not to feel to the point of tears. But those feelings in the moment pass in a few minutes and I am able to gather myself.
I only have the heavy crying on my closet floor moments a couple times every month or so. Some months I don't have any at all. When they come, they last a few days, maybe 3 to 5, and then gradually I get my strength back.
I do still think of Camille's accident and the events surrounding it everyday. This is very difficult. Most times I let the thought pass and get busy doing something else. On those hard days that come every once in a while, I have a hard time pulling myself out of these thoughts. I think I will always think of Camille, but I look forward to a day when I don't think of her accident - a day I don't see the image of her in the spa in my head.
I still have periodic nightmares relating to the accident or other children drowning. I still have a really hard time laying in bed awake waiting for sleep to come and ease my spinning mind. It is hard to find the strength to direct my thoughts at night. Often I watch TV or read till I am so tired I know I will fall asleep quickly once I lay down.
So I am doing much better in most ways. I am pleased with my progress through this thorny path of grief. There are ways I want to improve but I am not hard on myself about them. Some times I just tell the voice inside telling me to open up, "I will. But just not yet." And the voice inside understands. It keeps prodding but it understands.