A Facebook friend of mine once shared a post on grieving the almost. It was a beautiful and thoughtful essay on the paradoxical idea that we have the ability to miss something that never really existed, except in our perceptions or in our imaginations.
On the surface, grieving the almost seems impossible. How can you feel the pain of the loss of something that was never yours to lose? It shouldn’t be possible – God knows we have enough grief in this world from the losses of what we can feel with our own five senses. And if reality were just what we can see and touch and hear, it wouldn’t be possible.
But of course it’s possible. Because we all know that just because something happens in our heads, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. We can grieve the love we thought we felt, but didn’t. We can grieve the marriage that was never really a marriage. We can grieve the job we never got, the dream that was never fulfilled, the potential we never reached. We can grieve the child we never conceived and we can grieve the one we lost but never met.
These days, it’s the grief of that final almost which has been foremost on my mind. I’m posting this in October, the month dedicated to bringing awareness to pregnancy and infant loss – and social media is ensuring that memories of my own loss remain on the edges of my thoughts.
I can say from experience that anyone who has lost a cherished pregnancy, no matter how early, knows what it means to grieve the almost.
A parent is able to love – overwhelmingly – the baby whose proof of life lies only in the faintest of pink lines. A parent can see the child of her heart in the sprout-like form and nubby limbs of an 8-week fetus. A parent can feel the downy hair she never nuzzled; she can know the soft weight that never warmed her chest.
A parent who has lost a pregnancy has grieved – and will always grieve – the almost.
I’m writing this post not so much in the name of awareness, but in remembrance. Because I think the hardest part of pregnancy loss is the knowledge that we (or someone we loved) once carried within her the potential for a life that will not only never be lived, but which will never be known.
And so, this post is for all of the almost babies, the shadow children, who exist in the hearts of so many mothers and fathers. Your presence is felt in a world you never saw, because you changed those who loved you without ever knowing you. We remember you. We miss you. We grieve for the world that will never know you.