Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Wasteland

This is how I've come to see it: part of grief is the Wasteland. It's a place of varying landscapes– sometimes it's dry and desolate, scoured. Sometimes it's foggy and grey. Sometimes it's turbulent, lashing with storms, flogged with lightning and hurricanes. Sometimes it's just lonely and quiet– like a dark moor surrounded by forests in the midst of distant mountains. And you sit in the center of that moor feeling the darkness all around you, straining your eyes for a light, just a glimmer to let you know that you're not the only person in this vast emptiness.

What I've realized about the Wasteland: people who have never been in it often don't understand that living there is a necessary, even good, part of grief. Why are you there? they seem to call from tropical paradises, cool sylvan settings, or refreshing oases. It looks terrible over there– come here with us. They don't seem to realize that this desolate, foggy, turbulent Wasteland is now your home. That you belong here much more than you belong in the beautiful peaceful places. That not only can you not just pack up and go, a lot of the time you don't even want to– because it's in the turbulent Wasteland that grief makes sense. Grief doesn't seem to fit into the pristine calmness of the other places. But here in the wild Wasteland it does. In the Wasteland you're free to feel and experience the thousands of things you need to feel and experience to process grief. To try to pack up and leave is to try to hold back the labor pains of grief trying to birth peace into your Wasteland.

What those in the Wasteland need is not for others to try to pull them, comfort them, or coax them out– rather we need people willing to venture into the Wasteland to sit and weep and be silent with us. This is hard. It's scary. It means those people have to be willing to be taught the ways of the Wasteland, and it means we, the inhabitants, must be willing to teach. For those going in voluntarily, it seems crazy. Why come to such a terrible place if not forced to? For those already there, there is risk– what if I teach them the ways of this place and they just run back to the old country as fast as they can?

I honestly think once you've entered the Wasteland, you're never going to go back. The country which at first was so dangerous and frightening becomes familiar, and the carefree quality of the old country begins to look shallow. You start to think that, difficult as it is to be here, and though sometimes you want nothing better than to run screaming as far and as fast as you can, you yet don't truly wish to go back. Then you realize that you'll never fit back in the country from which your grief first evicted you. It is a harsh sentence at first, except for this: there is hope that much of what is ugly in the Wasteland will eventually be transformed. The ruggedness and danger, the jagged rocks and thistles, will gradually, over time, be refined into beauty that was not possible in the old country. I have seen hints of it in my own life. I have the testimony of other inhabitants who entered this wilderness long before I did. The pristine, calm landscape of the old life is gone forever, just as the gates of Eden were barred after the first sin. But there is redemption to be found in the Wasteland beyond Eden, redemption and transformation and above all– hope, hope found on the far side of pain and grief and suffering and loss. Heaven will be greater than Eden.

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, "No future bliss can make up for it" not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”         ~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Today I started on the girls' scrapbook.

It was something I intended to do much sooner... almost the first thing I'd planned on, after we got back. But I got caught up making butterflies, and somehow that was what I needed to be doing the most.

Yesterday I went to Michael's and I finally bought the scrapbook. I bought pretty pink and blue and purple scrapbook papers. I bought butterfly stickers and embellishments. Today I went back and bought a paper-cutter. And then this afternoon I finally started– and I managed to work for a few hours, and complete two pages, without thinking too closely about what I was doing.

Because the reality is, I'm making the only scrapbook of my girls I will ever make, with the only photos of them I will ever have.

I have lovely and dear friends who have very lovely babies, and more lovely and dear friends who are expecting babies. Almost every time I get on Facebook I see pictures of adorable, giggling, crying, pouting, eminently kissable babies. They are beautiful pictures. I smile when I see them. But today, starting Livia and Lucy's scrapbook, makes those pictures on Facebook break my heart just a little. All the pink papers and butterfly stickers can't disguise the fact that in those beautiful black-and-white photos I'm putting in the scrapbook, my babies are dead. I will never get to post photos of them in matching outfits and hairbows on Facebook. I will never get to make scrapbooks of them sitting up for the first time, and then walking. There won't be photos of them playing dress-up or finger-painting or eating ice-cream cones with ice-cream dribbling down their fronts. In the only pictures I have, love will always be mingled with grief.

So please, dear friends– everyone blessed with those sweet cuddly babies– don't take it for granted, every time you reach for your camera. I know you already treasure those smiles and pouts and giggles, those new milestones. As you capture a moment that is, remember the hundreds of thousands of women who mourn for all those moments that never-will-be.