Right after we found out our baby girl Ginny had died in the womb at 34+ weeks, time seemed to be so hugely empty. It felt loud how empty time was. What are we supposed to be doing? What do we normally do? Time seemed to slow down to a creep and nothing was filling it. I guess it was due to how much pain we were in. There was nothing to relieve it. Time was standing still, like we would be in that spot forever. I read the dreaded stillborn chapter in my “What to Expect Book”. That took two minutes. I folded laundry. That took five minutes. What were we going to do with all that empty time?
Before we got that terrible news, time went by so quickly. We only had a few weeks left of the pregnancy and each week flew by as we were preparing. I counted the number of weekends we had left with just the two of us. I wanted to make the most of each day together. Our marriage and lives would change. I wanted to savor the last moments with our family of two. I loved every minute of our almost 8 years of marriage. It was wonderful. I knew this next phase would be even more wonderful, but I also knew it would never be the same.
I was right that it would never be the same, but not in the way I thought it would. I regret not spending those last few weeks focusing entirely on Ginny and bonding with her. If only I had known that would be our only time with her. The future would not be full of days admiring her, feeding, burping, changing diapers, giving baths. We would have an ocean of time in front of us.
We need to plan some trips… get away from this empty house. TV and movies aren’t what they used to be. Dramas seem pointless, and comedies seem stupid. The only thing we could bear to watch at first was BBC’s Planet Earth. The beauty of nature was the only thing that didn’t make us cringe. Friends sent puzzles and coloring books. Those are nice, but they don’t actually fill time. Your mind is still free to think while completing a puzzle or coloring a picture. I wanted something to occupy my mind so time would pass. They say that time helps. I hoped that was true and wished to fast forward. I knew I needed to walk through the grief to be healthy, but couldn’t I just jump into the future where things are easier?
It was probably around 6 weeks after Ginny’s death that I had the first moment of true distraction. It was the first time my mind wasn’t thinking of our grief. It only lasted about two minutes. I was in a craft store designing a piece of homemade wall decor that I would hang where Ginny’s crib used to be. I realized I had a small reprieve, and it felt good. I was proud of myself for finally being able to focus on something else, even for one moment. Since then there have been a few times here or there that I wasn’t consumed, mostly when we are talking with friends. I don’t feel guilty when I get a small break or distraction. I think of Ginny all the rest of the 99.99% of my life. Even when I’m thinking or talking of something else, there is a part of my brain that is thinking of her. When I think of her, it is love mixed with pain. It is not all bad, but it does make time slow down somehow.
I think we all ache for heaven, and those of us who have lost a loved one ache for heaven even more. Maybe time slows down in anticipation of heaven. Like a child waiting to open birthday presents – the day seems to take forever. The more excited you are, the longer it seems to take. We yearn for something that is right in front of us yet still so far from us. In the end I know this time we are apart will be a small blimp compared to the eternity we will be together. Right now it seems to be taking forever.
From my experience as well as from other grief stories I read, I realized time does not dull the pain. You never get past the grief, and things don’t get better. What does happen is that the grief causes you to grow and become stronger. This allows you to carry that pain more easily. Eventually it just becomes a part of you.
I’m not sure my perception of time will ever return to “normal”. I will do my best to enjoy every long second here on Earth. When we are reunited with our Ginny in heaven, time will likely change again and I can’t wait.