Shared by Jess McCormack
I walk through conflict every day. Invisible to most, the conflict is inside of me, a legacy of grief. Like a set of scales: happiness and light on one side, darkness and sadness on the other. They fluctuate constantly, dipping side to side and back again, never quite achieving balance. No matter how bright the moment, grief is always lurking, ready to pull me back down. Because no matter what, my little girl will always be missing. In my most difficult moments, I long for the light, and yet part of me also needs to be there in the dark, feeling the pain of her loss. For it is proof that she existed. And that is where the greatest conflict lies—I want to escape, but I also need to stay.
Though my conflict is internal, occasionally a look betrays my struggles. A tear forms in my eye, or the bend in my shoulders reveals the weight I carry. Only someone who knows me well would spot the change that comes over me as the balance tips in favour of the dark. The other day I was at a preschool event: my four-year-old singing proudly with her classmates. And I felt her joy and it made me smile, my happiness and pride shining through. But then there was a moment, as quick as a breath, when I saw her big sister standing next to her, chin raised, singing loudly to the sky. But as quickly as she was there, she was gone, and my joy was washed away by the pain of her stark absence. A friend asked if I was ok, vigilant to the subtle change in me. Her question was simple, a kind acknowledgement of the tipping of the scales, of Maeve.
Grief in the Shadows
I want to be happy, but grief tears me down, again and again. I know it will always be there, lurking in the shadows, allowing me only brief moments of joy before stamping it out, a fervent reminder—“but she should be here, too.” A part of me longs to extinguish grief, but I need it, too. I need to feel the sadness, the hopelessness, the emptiness. I need the anger, the fear, the guilt. Because those feelings are proof that she was real. They are the price of my love for my first baby girl. The dark feelings exist because she existed, and I worry that without them she would cease to be a part of me. Grief has woven itself into every fiber of my being, so that even if I could expunge it from my life, I would no longer be me.
And so deepens the conflict: I want to let those feelings go, and yet I need them. I want to be free of grief’s chains, and yet without grief I would no longer be me, mother to Maeve.
Love Lights the Way
Though it is exhausting at times, I still walk through my conflict. I have a lantern of love lighting the way. The light is the support of friends who see the shifting scales, who help me to navigate this rocky path of life after loss, many of them warrior mamas too. I try to stay present, to not dwell too much on what has been before, to remember without being dragged down by regrets about the past. And I try to not be fearful of what is to come, gently allowing hope to overcome worry. Being present and mindful means acknowledging the conflict. It means knowing when I need to withdraw, and trying hard not to feel guilty for retreating.
Even in this life of loss, there is still so much beauty. I have so much to celebrate and be thankful for, not least Maeve’s siblings. So how do I embrace the joy that they bring, whilst part of me is always so sad? How do I honour the child who isn’t here, whilst still being the best parent I can be to the two who are? Finding answers to these questions is likely a lifelong quest. I will try to trust that one day I will find balance, that the tilting of the scales will be less, grief an ever-present shadow, but one that still allows the light and love to shine in.