Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hole to Whole

This is a hole.

It was made by an erupting volcano. The earth exploded and crumbled. Dust and debris flew into the atmosphere, choking the life out of anything that dared to breathe. Boiling lava spewed out and obliterated whatever surrounded it. A total waste land.

This is an apt visual representation of what my life looked like after Aidan died. 

Life was empty. I was empty. I didn't know how I was going to pick up the pieces and carry on. A part of me didn't want to.  I didn't know how I was going to survive his loss.  I remember sitting on my dining room floor a few days after he died, sobbing. Hugging my arms to my sides in effort to hold myself together, rocking back and forth. Yelling at Brian, "I want him back!!". In that moment nothing less than my Aidan would do.

In the weeks and months and now years that have past I have spent a lot of time peering into the hole that his loss left in my life. I needed to do that. I needed to cry about it, rage about it, think about it, talk about it, and write about his loss from every angle.  I needed to hurt, hurt, hurt...until a time came where I could begin to let the hurt go.

I read this article recently and it has inspired me. I like how the author describes healing from grief.  That it takes hard work. It is fallacy that time heals all wounds. Time isn't the balm. Time is just space away from the event. Hard work and the decision to learn from, grow from and move past the pain is what heals. Hard work takes time and since mental, physical and emotional wellness is something worth having, it does not come overnight.

I feel to a large extent I have done this work and healed from Aidan's death. I don't know if I will ever be 'finished' healing per say, as there may come situations in the future that will bring the pain of losing Aidan back to the surface (such as my upcoming return to work in the NICU. *Gulp!*). But, by and large, I feel I have learned and grown a lot in the last two years.  I'd like to share what I have learned in a small series of posts, the first of which I'm working on now.

I don't share my insight smugly, "look at me, I'm so great, I've healed!"  We all have our own journey to navigate back from the darkest of dark places and it's not my intent to compare, to shame or hurt any reader who feels they haven't come close to arriving at a place that resembles acceptance. Acceptance might not even be something you WANT to get to, and who am I to argue with that? I share on here with the understanding that some people's grief journeys are longer, with more twists and turns, more roadblocks or dead ends, but sometimes it helps to see what has guided others along the way. It's also important to note that we all start out along this path with different strengths and weaknesses that can help or hinder us in times of great sorrow.  I would love to hear your responses, and the things you have learned...because maybe there are things I have missed.

I feel incredibly blessed to say that two years later, life now looks like this. 

Some of you may recognize it.  It's Crater Lake in Oregon.  Made by a volcano erupting. Lava spewing. Ash and dust settling over the land for miles around. When this volcano erupted, it looked like the first picture above. Now with time, the energy of the sun, the power of the wind and the rain there are flowers. There are trees. Birds are singing. Bees are buzzing. This is a place worth living.

What can't be denied is that there is still a hole.

It's just now called a lake.

What's amazing, considering its beginning, is that this hole no longer detracts.  Rather it adds to the beauty of what surrounds it. The landscape is enhanced, made better, more abundant and full because of the hole, not in spite of it.

Aidan and the impact he left on my life I consider my very own crater.  No question, I would trade all I have learned to have him back, filling the Aidan shaped hole in my life that his absence leaves behind.  But that is not possible. So I choose to find beauty and goodness in what his life and death taught me. His short presence, and subsequent absence have forced me to dig deeper, expand my horizons, examine my beliefs, question what is possible and love more completely. Right after he died, I felt I had nothing. All I could see was the hole. But two years later, while he still has irrevocably altered the landscape of my life, I have come to appreciate how more MORE he has added to it, even in death.

It has taken two years and a lot of hard work but my life and its landscape has gone from whole.

Where are you? Hole? Or Whole?


  1. Bitter or Better was what our priest preached about at my mom's funeral. I tried to take it all in, but who was I kidding? 5 months earlier, I had lost my firstborn son and now I was sitting at my 50-year old mother's funeral. I was BITTER (actually, bitter doesn't even begin to describe it, but you know what I mean). Now that some time has passed, I'm hopefully progressing more toward the Better end of the spectrum. It has taken a lot of work and the work isn't over, but it's happening - and I am glad. Neither my son nor my mother would want me to go through the rest of my life a bitter person. Also, I want my (rainbow) daughter to see life as whole and not the hole that 2010 left in my life. :o) Another great post, Emily!

  2. Great insight. I definitely feel like the lake one hundred times over. I don't know if it is time, energy, or the willpower to heal that did it, but I suspect a bit of each. And the stubbornness to go on. And a great deal of luck I might add.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this. It really helps me and inspires me to see others further along in the grieving process than I am. I am still in that empty hole, waiting to be filled with water and feel the sun.

  4. This is a beautiful post. I'm not sure where I fit yet. I feel like I'm becoming more "whole", but still still have a gigantic hole- as Jack-shaped as yours is Aidan-shaped. Impossible to fill.

  5. Beautiful post, and gives me hope about my own future.
    I'm definitely still in the hole, though spending most of my time looking up and pretending I'm not surrounded...