There wasn’t much that I shared with the Facebook world after losing Micah because, well, my life was far from picture perfect. The doom and gloom of pregnancy loss doesn’t really interest people, and I didn’t have the energy to pretend that I thought any aspect of my life was beautiful.
But there must have been a few Facebook worthy moments during those long months of grief because every now and then a Facebook “memory” pops up and reminds me of both what I had and what I didn’t.
And this is one of them. From three years ago, when my daughter was just finishing up her first year of preschool. She had fallen asleep with a lap full of Jesus and ABC’s.
This picture shows a little girl, always excited to learn. Her cherubic face still more closely resembling a baby than a child. Her enthusiasm for keeping busy and her ability to sleep through anything apparent.
But what you don’t see is a mother’s heart. My heart. Completely shattered. Weighed down by failure. The failure to protect the baby who had been in my womb and the failure to properly parent the child who was right in front of me. This photo doesn’t show the cloud of grief that hung over our household, that touched each of us differently. But I am aware of its presence.
And yet, this “memory” didn’t affect me like it has in previous years. This image filled my screen and I gazed at it wistfully while missing my daughter’s little girl days.
But it wasn’t until 30 minutes later that I realized what else I was missing. Micah. It took me awhile to remember that this photo was taken in 2015, also known as my “year of grief.”
And I felt guilty for soaking in the beauty of the image while failing to comprehend the pain that it represents, even if just for a moment.
When this picture was taken, I thought life consisted only of grief. Sorrow. Defeat. Longing. I couldn’t see beyond my pain and as far as I was concerned, there was no beauty to be found.
But it turns out that there was in fact more to life than my grief. Death had consumed me, but it had not consumed my daughter. She was thriving, even though the quality of my parenting was lacking. And it’s taken me three years to realize and appreciate that.
This is the first time that a photo taken during my “year of grief” didn’t trigger me. And even though guilt welled up within me a while later, it felt good to look at a photo of my daughter from that time period and see only her, instead of the pain from what was missing.
I could continue to feel guilty for failing to remember Micah in that brief moment, or I could choose to be grateful for the daughter who has grown from a toddler to a child over the course of three volatile years.
I could tell myself that I’ve failed to honor my baby in heaven or I could acknowledge that my life is full of goodness, and that it’s okay to recognize it.
I could try to erase the painful memories of the past. I could focus only on appreciating happy memories. I could concentrate only on the pain and scars that mark my life. Or I could accept that in each of life’s experiences, pain and beauty exist.
Appreciating the happy moments of life doesn’t negate the importance of the painful ones. Good memories of one child does not mean I have forgotten the sad memories regarding another.
It’s okay to give myself permission to enjoy the blessings, even while carrying burdens. It’s okay to enjoy my children who are physically present, knowing that I have children who are gone. And it’s okay to look back and see joy in the midst of pain.