Guest post : Living the Paradox of Life After Loss

English below

L’année dernière, à un moment particulièrement difficile de mon deuil, alors que la réalité de la mort de Paul me pesait de tout son poids, au sortir des premières semaines passées dans un brouillard qui avait adouci un peu le choc de son départ, j’ai entendu parler du projet de livre d’Emily Long, Invisible Mothers.

Emily souhaitait parler à des mamans n’ayant pas d’enfant vivant. Et moi, j’avais besoin de parler, de dire l’histoire de Paul et la mienne. Je suis heureuse d’avoir pu apporter une toute petite pierre à la construction de son livre, et je suis honorée de partager aujourd’hui un magnifique texte d’Emily, à la veille du lancement de son livre.


Last year, at a particularly difficult time in my mourning process, while the reality of Paul’s death really hit me after the foggy first weeks, I heard about the Emily Long’s book, Invisible Mothers.

At the time, Emily wanted to talk to mothers who had no living children. And I needed to talk, i needed to tell Paul’s story — and mine, as i was just coming to terms with his absence. I am happy to have been able to bring a small stone to the construction of her book, and I am honored to share a beautiful piece written by Emily, who will be launching her book tomorrow.


When my first daughter died, everything changed.

How I looked at life.
My level of trust in the goodness of life.
What it meant to be alive.
How I loved.
How I saw the world.
What I thought about myself and who I was.
My sense of security in the world.

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everything is ok

On February 1st, 2014, my baby died. His name was Paul. He was four weeks old.

The shock caused by his death was so violent i had the impression i would not survive it. I was hurting and crying so much i thought i would die. It’s not that i wanted to end my life, just that i wanted so hard to not exist. For weeks, i could not imagine surviving, let alone living a fulfilling life again. I had already experienced important losses. Both my parents were had died by the time i was 18, so i thought i knew grief. But the pain of losing Paul was so immense, incomparable to any other. Lire la suite

reading notes

A few chosen words from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir written after the sudden death of her husband and while her daughter is facing some serious health issues.

I’m here. You’re going to be all right.
I’m here. Everything’s fine.

It occurred to me during those weeks that this had been, since the day we brought her home from St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, my basic promise to her. I would not leave. I would take care of her. She would be all right. It also occurred to me that this was a promise I could not keep. I could not always take care of her. I could not never leave her. She was no longer a child. She was an adult. Things happen in life that mothers could not prevent or fix. (p. 96-97)

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snail travels

Last week, P. and I went to Detroit to visit my brother, sister-in-law and brand-new-adorable niece, S..
An intense journey, both physically — a very long drive for my very pregnant self — and emotionally. A travel through space, through time, in a way, as i was reliving vicariously the vertiginous first few days with a baby, but also a travel into an unknown, unexplored reality.

A reality in which my little brother is now a dad, in which he is learning to parent as i struggle not to be able to have more perspective on this role i should be well acquainted with by now. The jealousy and envy i have felt at some points since knowing Paul would have a cousin before i could give him a brother or a sister has receded, but as the days pass, i wonder how i will feel once S. reaches and sails past 28 days of life. I don’t know what to make of this reality but accept it exists, and go along with it.

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maybe you won’t have time later

I don’t know why i do this to myself. Why i click on links that target overwhelmed parents of young children. Perhaps it’s just because of how common they are. I come across that type of article several times a day. I look away most of the time, but then, once in a while, i click and read the words of those parents who have normal parenting problems and who deal with daily annoyances and small-scale dilemmas by writing tongue-in-cheek pieces on parenting websites.

I clicked yesterday even though the title of the article already was making me cringe, You Have Plenty of Time to Love Them Later.  The advice it offered, and that I would have perhaps appreciated had things been different, seemed so so wrong : Lire la suite

capture your grief 3/4

day 3 — before

beforei am unsure of when « before » is
i was changed by the arrival of Paul in our lives
already, i wasn’t exactly the same as i used to be

the before in this image
before Paul was gone
before he was no longer with us
it shows
the person i longed to be
the person i hoped to be

a mother holding my child’s hand
through the world
guiding him
letting myself be guided

Paul was two weeks old
sleeping against me
protected from the cold by the warmth of my body
womb-like, through the forest

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As i woke up this morning, trying to gather the courage to post a before/after photo of me as the mother of Paul, i sleepily looked through my facebook feed. It has not been the safest place for me recently, a feeling that, i am sure, is familiar to anyone grieving or going through difficult times. Social media invite people to stage their lives and offer glimpses of when they look most attractive, when they do the most exciting things for the world to see. In my feed, the countless very-happy-times photos and unavoidable baby photos share the space with social justice links and statuses, many about the aftermath of Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, violence against women, reproductive justice issues, and a few weeks ago, about the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

I find myself having a hard time facing both the overly cheerful pictures and the heart-shattering current events. I feel upset witnessing the simple and lighthearted happiness so many friends and « friends » of mine seem to enjoy, but i can’t let myself measure the amplitude of the violence and injustice faced by so many people. I can’t handle really facing either. So i often find myself withdrawing from both. Scrolling through all of it as if i had to, glossing over everything, in very much the same way i find myself doing with what is happening around me « in real life ». I can’t deal with everything at once, it seems. So i end up not dealing with anything. Spending days  without being able to connect to my loss because it feels like too much work. Lire la suite


J’écris en ce texte en anglais parce qu’il présente des réflexions que j’ai eues à la lecture de textes et de blogues en anglais…


IMG_6816Since Paul died, I’ve searched the internet looking for online resources and spaces that did not involve angels. In the weeks following his death, I travelled to Columbia, taking refuge at a friend’s house, far away from all the spaces that reminded me of Paul. I had had a strong urge to leave home, to be away from the river banks where I had taken my last walk with Paul, away from the store we were in when his heart stopped, away from the birthing centre, the hospital. Away, away, away. Lire la suite

deuil impossible

[…] peut-on espérer que celui ou celle qui a perdu un enfant puisse desserrer quelque peu le nœud qui lie la souffrance et la fidélité à la mémoire? Il semble tout d’abord que ne plus être accablé serait comme renier l’attachement à celui ou celle qui s’en est allé. Il faut que tout à chaque instant nous rappelle l’absence. Rien ne doit être modifié de la vie de l’enfant perdu. La vie doit s’arrêter.

François Roustang, « Deuil impossible », dans Jamais de la vie : écrits et images sur les pertes et les deuils. 2001, p.17-18.


my tentative translation:

[…] can we hope that someone who has lost a child may loosen the knot tying suffering and loyalty to memory? At first, it seems that not being afflicted would be like disavowing our attachment to the lost one. All moments need to be reminders of their absence. Nothing can be modified from our lost child’s life. Life must stop.

calendrier personnel

Mon amie a partagé hier un texte magnifique et triste, The Unmothered, par Ruth Margalit. Plein d’éléments de ce texte résonnent en moi, à commencer par le fait qu’il aura été une bouée au cours de cette journée de fête des mères, qui n’avait de fête que le nom. J’ai cherché toute la journée l’écho du deuil et de la perte. Je ne l’ai pas vraiment trouvé à la marche de sensibilisation au deuil périnatal où je me suis sentie complètement déconnectée, hors de mon élément malgré la solidarité que je peux éprouver pour les autres familles endeuillées. Puis en fin de journée, ce texte. Comme une confirmation que je ne suis pas seule, pas complètement, sur cette île isolée qu’est le deuil.
“CALL MOM” said a sign the other day, and something inside me clenched. In my inbox, at work, an email waited from the New York Times: a limited offer to “treat Mom” to a free gift. It’s nothing, I tell myself. A day for advertisers. So I shrug off the sales and the offers, the cards and the flowers. I press delete. Still, I now mark Mother’s Day on my private calendar of grief. Anyone who has experienced a loss must have one of those.

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