If the kids were still alive, my daughter would not exist. And I feel so goddamn guilty about it.
The daily reconciliation I have within my head and heart is dichotomous.
Every day, I am abundantly overjoyed by the presence of her, fall in love more than I ever thought possible, and hold hope for her and her future, and all the amazing things she will do now that she is here.
And, every day, I unfurl a tender fold in my heart and unlock a treasure box in my head. Inside, they hold what should have been: Ben should be driving and in high school, dating and too busy with friends to spend time with us. Football scouts would be circling like vultures. Madeline should be making my life as difficult as possible and I would love her all the more for it, and Sam should be here making us all fear for his life with his rambunctious spirit…and probably get me back in to roller derby.
Every day, I find myself wishing desperately for what was and should have been. Sometimes, it’s small and tight in my chest and other times I have to force myself to return to reality as I become paralyzed by the weight of loss.
We worked very hard to conceive our daughter. We wanted her more than she will ever know and I love every damn second of my life now that she is in it. I have no clue what the hell I was doing with myself before her and it doesn’t matter. She is here. She dances like a maniac, runs funny like an old man and challenges me in so many exciting ways, every exciting day. This spark of joy and happiness inside me blooms into a firework of love throughout my body with every smile, every giggle, every kiss.
The thing is, though, I feel awful. Secretly, I feel awful about feeling so good and feel shitty about how overjoyed I am with my good fortune. I feel bad about being so happy in love and lucky to have her. So bad that I keep my excitement wound, like a ball of yarn, inside me. I feel awful that I get to relish in her love and light, knowing it wouldn’t be here for me to bask in, had Ben, Maddy and Sam survived the fire.
I struggle with guilt because one life is not more valuable than another and truthfully, logically, I KNOW I shouldn’t feel bad. And yet…
Do you ever feel guilty about having it good? Have you ever felt guilt because you kept going when others couldn’t? You ever look over your shoulder at it, that guilt, just lurking, following you in the shadows?
I can let my guilt get the best of me every day if I’m not careful, so I try to put it in check when it wants to take the wheel. Things happened the way they did, and I can’t change any of it. This is our life. Our average, mundane, everyday life, in all it’s horror and beauty. I can’t be beholden to the guilt I carry because life continued for us and not them so I must find a way to be kinder to myself when it makes an appearance.
Grief and loss change you forever, folks. No matter how lightly or tightly it binds, the gauze of grief will always be there. It’s up to me to decide how tightly I wind it.