She wore the type of smile put on with morning lipstick. Something in a perky shade of red, rubbed off of glossy teeth and reapplied after coffee and lunch. Her questions began and I knew we were headed for trouble because my safely vague answers weren’t enough.
If my conversations with strangers had a soundtrack, somewhere during the opening number would be screeching tires or the whoosh of backpedaling. The moment I disclose we have lost a child rarely goes smoothly but I have to say it. I’ve tried leaving this fact out, leaving her out, but I can’t. I end those conversations scrubbing off guilt and hoping I never see that person again because how do you add something so important back in when you’ve already subtracted it? My history can’t be reshaped to fit someone else’s mold, so I am always honest.
When I answered her questions, explaining my two seven year-olds were actually triplets she barely let the tires screech before responding with more insistence that they are now twins and don’t I have my hands full! I barely nodded while moving on because I knew she needed a bow and I couldn’t give her one. There’s no bow to be put on the package of losing a child.
There’s nothing pretty about not watching your daughter grown up.
There’s no easy way to return a crib and a future.
There isn’t an agreeable box for unworn clothes and a baby book with only two pages complete.
Stuffed animals that have never been played with and dreams that never had a chance can’t be neatly wrapped. I’ve tried.
For seven years I’ve looked for ways to sugar coat conversations and acquiesce pearly white smiles but it can’t be done. Grief and loss are not pretty. There are romantic sayings about what happens to your heart and filtered photos of heavenly skies but they gloss over the work of grieving. The carrying with you of an emptiness that can’t be filled and the pushing through of awkward conversations and getting up some days.
I used to wish I could give this woman her wrapped package and bow but I don’t any longer. I’ve made peace with messy packaging. I’ve learned that surrounding myself with people who can sit next to it without rushing for a roll of tape or a gaudy ribbon is the most important thing I can do for myself.
Much more important than a bow someone else picked out.
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