Fall unofficially begins today. The trees outside my window are starting to show signs of it. Leaves are touched with yellow. The morning is crisp and cool. The new season is here, and with its arrival, I shake off the heaviness of summer.
Fall has always been my favorite season, but since our loss, it is also the easiest one. The only one that doesn’t carry with it some anniversary of our babies’ birth or diagnosis or death or burial. It’s the arms-in-the-air, weightless downhill part of the crazy roller coaster spiral that is grief. The other seasons weigh me down.
Winter is the time we found out we were having identical twins, two days after Christmas. We were giddy with excitement as we looked at our stockings hung by the stairs and imagined that the following year there would be two more hanging there. We’ll need a new place to hang them, we thought. The railing is already full. Seeing the stockings each year makes my heart ache. We don’t have a space where theirs are missing, but I know what could have been. Now, we just have angel ornaments with the names Brigid and Fiona on them. Treasures in their own right, but not what we had anticipated. Winter feels bleak.
Spring was the time we were diagnosed with TTTS, the terrible disease that eventually would claim both of our girls. It was a time of fear and panic attacks. Bed rest and hospitalizations and preterm labor. It was when we had in utero surgery in hopes of saving our girls and watched the doctor’s face fall the next day as he told us that Fiona had no heartbeat. It was when strangers came to our rescue and family abandoned us. It was when our babies were born silently – one dead and one twelve weeks early – after a traumatic labor and delivery, and we were happy and sad. Hopeful and terrified. It was a time of extreme ups and downs, and each year, spring feels so heavy as I remember how impossibly difficult it was for our family and relive those experiences, wondering how we made it through. Spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion, and any lambs that show up are quickly devoured.
Summer was when we buried our stillborn daughter while making daily trips to the NICU to see our preemie. It was learning that caskets could be so very, very tiny. And pink. It was balancing family life and three young boys at home, desperate for a return to normalcy, with the ups and downs of NICU life and a baby who was struggling to survive. And then it was watching her die, picking out another little pink casket, and burying her, too. Summer takes the heaviness of spring and then drops an enormous boulder on top of it, completely crushing me. Summer makes me want to stay in bed and not come out. To hide out from the world and not have to talk to anyone. To sit and stare and remember. The hardest thing about summer is that the kids are all home and looking to me to entertain them. And I’m feeling like a wet blanket. It is a huge effort to have fun in the summer, and it is exhausting. I hope that it won’t always be like that. But it’s hard to imagine that time. Summer is sweltering and stagnant and oppressive.
But fall – fall is light and crisp and airy. Nothing weighs it down. It is brightly colored leaves dancing through the air. So today, I’m shaking off the heaviness of summer, crawling out from under my boulder – which, admittedly, has eroded a bit over the past two years – and welcoming the fall with open arms.
However, I know that for some of you, fall is the heavy time. So if this season carries the weight of loss with it, rest assured that your open season is coming. As surely as the sun rises and sets each day, this time will pass and a lighter time will follow. Until then, just put one foot in front of the other and be gentle with yourself.