It morphs. It swells. It shrinks. It just never seems to leave.
Six years ago today, it became a longtime friend of mine, meeting me inside a hospital room outside Indianapolis. There, my wife and I held a child we thought might finally be the long-awaited, new addition to our family. A beautiful baby girl we called Maya.
With unbridled excitement, I went online to share my joy with friends and family:
We spent that night in the hospital, anxious to wake up the next day and sign the adoption paperwork—having waited the requisite 24 hours. But, as you can guess by now, that signature never appeared on our paperwork.
The long, lonely drive home lasted an hour…and yet still goes on today.
Like most friends in life, grief comes and it goes. Sometimes its presence is stronger than others. Most times it arrives without notice. And yet it always seems to stick closer than a brother.
For months after our adoption, I kept chucking life under the chin and telling it we just needed another break. We needed something good to happen, and then all would be well again. “Grief, you might be around, but I don’t have to acknowledge you.”
Until I found the beautiful sides of grief.
In those years after our first failed adoption, I recall reading and re-reading C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, a book he wrote after the passing of his wife. I remember eventually falling prostrate into his words:
“And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”
And there I gave in.
I stopped running from grief, and instead sat with my newfound friend. Our encounters brought the expected feelings of pain, bitterness, anger, doubt, fear, and of course sadness. But it also brought a pliableness to my life. A softening. A deeper awareness of the pain inside so many around me.
Sitting with grief taught me that I was not alone in my grieving, for grief was a friend to many.
One might think that the adoption of our son three years later would have finally pushed grief away. That joy offsets sadness. But it just doesn’t seem to work that way. Life isn’t some karma scale where bad meets bad to bring all things back in balance.
And likewise, Quinn—as amazing as he may be—isn’t some reward for years of hardship. Since we suffered this much, he must equally satisfy by that much. We do hear it a lot, and I appreciate the sentiment. I just don’t see it that way.
We’re all unworthy of the graces we receive in life. The balance will always be imbalanced.
And so tonight I sit with grief again.
Presently, we commiserate on the baby I held six years ago today—What’s she like? How’s her mom? Where are they today? Last week, grief and I met after hearing the news of a failed adoption for our friends. Before that, we walked into a funeral together
Grief’s not going anywhere. I imagine it will always remain by my side…right next to joy. For as Lewis also wrote:
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”