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One Month

One month ago today, just thirty days past, Kat and I held our daughter as she took her last breaths.

I still have trouble accepting this.  We both still have trouble.

Kat says that she often feels like none of this is really happening, that she’s stuck in a nightmare about Rebecca, who is alive and fine and never had cancer.  Sometimes she thinks that Rebecca’s just spending the day with a friend, and we’ll see her for dinner.  She knows this is untrue, but that knowledge doesn’t change the feeling.

I have the opposite problem.  Sometimes I feel like she never really existed, that we’ve only ever had two children and I just had an involved dream about a little girl who lived between our daughter and son.  As if she were a sprite who let us see what our lives would have been like with three children instead of two, and then vanished with the sunrise.  Sometimes I expect to look at the family photos on the living room wall and not see her in them.

But of course she was real.  Imprints of her life are built into the very structure of our lives.  The expansion of the house itself, undertaken to accommodate the three children we realized we wanted instead of the two we always thought we’d have.  Five coat cubbies in the back hallway, instead of four.  Five bar stools at the kitchen island.  The bedroom adorned with castles and clouds and rainbows and fancy princess dresses, a pink painted sky above purple painted hills, a purple fairy canopy over the bed and a cross-stiched birth announcement on the wall, the bedroom where she died, its door now an unadorned white and almost always closed, at least for a while.

A lot of the grief I have yet to really deal with is bound up in her last day, her sixth birthday.  I remember so many things about that day that I wish I could erase, and those are the things I need to deal with.  There are three things in particular that are particularly painful, most of all the moments her body gave out and she physically died.  Twice.  Even though she was gone well before either of those moments, they are still, to me, the moments of her death, and I still can’t shake that impression.

The other two things I’m not ready to allude to, let alone describe, even to myself.  I’ll know I’ve made some progress when I’m ready to write a chronicle of that day.  I may never show it to anyone but me, but I have to write it, have to create a structure where I can store some of my sorrow and receive some measure of peace.

Some day.  Not today.

Today it’s been a month since she died.  One month.  Measured by the weight of my grief, it feels like it’s been a lifetime or more; but measured by the progress I’ve made in dealing with my grief, it feels like it’s been no time at all.

22 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1327
    rendered speechless (@dharawal) wrote in to say...


    That’s all I have.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1338
    Wendy wrote in to say...

    I’m so sorry you and your family have to walk this road. Much love.

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1408
    Lacey wrote in to say...

    I’m not a therapist, but I think writing out your raw thoughts outside of this format will help you grieve. Lots of love to you and your family, Eric. We are all alongside you in this.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1437
    Stephanie wrote in to say...


    • #5
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1455
    Joe Banks wrote in to say...

    May never show it to anyone, you say? If you feel you must, I can respect that. But those with similar experiences with loved ones taken away too soon may be encouraged to finally tell their story. Or simply not feel as alone with their own burdensome memories.

    One month: Keep going. I say, THIS is the afterlife.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1530
    Marya wrote in to say...

    Eric, your posts still bring tears. I wish there was a way to communicate acknowledgement and presence without having to say anything — a virtual handsqueeze, a nod, a way to support weight. I read your words. Although you don’t know me, I stand with you and your family as silent, invisible support. I wish there was more we could do for you and all families who go through this. Your writing continues to touch deeply. I am so sorry you all have to go through this.

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1627
    Frederik Krautwald wrote in to say...

    Communicating grief is an important tool to cope with grief. I feel deeply with your loss. However, I am aware that there is no possible way to fulfillingly describe the pain. Nothing, nothing is more painful than losing your child. You have my deepest compassion.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1636
    Jen wrote in to say...

    You don’t know me, but I’m thinking of you, and I’m so sorry.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 1921
    Jan wrote in to say...


    I’ve been following your posts since spring, and was in shock when I first read about what was happening. Your CSS reset was the thing I searched for when I found your notes.

    All along, I hoped that everything will turn out right. I read your posts every month or so. I’m not a theist nor atheist, but I prayed for Rebecca and for your family.

    Sadly, only now have I read about Rebecca passing.

    I’m so sorry.

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 2327
    Pandita wrote in to say...

    I’m so sorry.

    There are simply no words.

    My heart breaks for you and your family.

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Mon 7 Jul 2014
    • 2330
    Holly wrote in to say...

    I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine.

    • #12
    • Comment
    • Tue 8 Jul 2014
    • 0508
    Ruben Kenig wrote in to say...

    Thank you for writing this blog. My experiences of the deaths of loved ones are in the past (for now) but reading your writing on your loss has helped me refine the context of my grief.

    For me I find my experience of grief and memory exists almost outside of time. Something like your experience and your wife’s at the same time. Love is timeless and the connections it creates are real (for me).

    I wish you and your family all the best.

    • #13
    • Comment
    • Tue 8 Jul 2014
    • 0931
    Chris wrote in to say...

    I’m so sorry that Rebecca is no longer with you – reading about her cancer and the pain you and your lovely family have gone through over the course of her illness has been heartbreaking. Thank you for writing about it. Although cathartic it must be terribly difficult writing about all this when the last thing you want is for it to be real. It’s helped me gain just an inkling of an understanding of what people go through in these circumstances. Someone I’ve worked with occasionally has been through a similar trauma – his daughter died under similar circumstances (similar age and cancer). Although someone I respect, he’s not someone I know particularly well. I found out about it from one of his colleagues some months later, who said that although he had returned to work and outwardly was little different to the past, he did have (as his colleague described them) ‘quiet moments’ and occasional times he just wanted to be by himself. Thanks to your blog I think I can begin to understand why.

    Any grief only ever dulls, not ceases, but I really hope that someday soon the warmth of your memory of Rebecca’s spark will be the first thing you have when thinking of her, rather than the pain of knowing she’s no longer there.

    • #14
    • Comment
    • Tue 8 Jul 2014
    • 1037
    Craig wrote in to say...

    I’m so sorry.

    Your postings remind me of the writings of Neil Peart, who lost both his daughter (car accident) and his wife (stupid cancer) within 6 months of each other. He chronicled his grief and his grief process in the book, Ghost Rider. I know that many mental health professionals recommend that book to those dealing with grief and loss.

    I wish you and your family the best in these times and always.

    • #15
    • Comment
    • Wed 9 Jul 2014
    • 1611
    Doug wrote in to say...

    One of the most beautiful things I ever read was C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. I hope it helps you to write and I suspect it would help others to read. And it strikes me as nice for Rebecca to be a muse.

    • #16
    • Comment
    • Thu 10 Jul 2014
    • 1953
    Luca wrote in to say...

    I’m so sorry.
    I happened by chance on your blog four months or so ago, in search of some inspiration for my work. Well, to be honest I didn’t really find what I was looking for. But instead I found a man, a parent, a dad. Your courage and willpower, the everyday strenghts and weaknesses, and the minutiae of this daunting experience have inspired me since then. Thank you.
    Again, I’m really sorry.

    • #17
    • Comment
    • Thu 10 Jul 2014
    • 2258
    Kathryn N wrote in to say...


    I recently started using GetRather to replace political rants in my facebook newsfeed with cute kittens, Ryan Gosling GIFS and inspirational people. One day, the day after you wrote about Rebecca’s eulogy actually, I was scrolling through my newsfeed and suddenly, I was looking at a picture of a beautiful and striking little girl. I google image searched it and found your blog, and like I said above, it was the day after your eulogy post. My heart broke for you and your family. Every now and then, Rebecca’s face shows up in my newsfeed, replacing unwanted stories with a reminder of courage. Her courage and your families courage. It may not seem like it now, but what you are doing is strong. It takes a lot to face the world after a loss like this.

    Anyway, I wanted to let you know that thanks to the folks at GetRather, strangers like me have heard your story and offer support. I am glad to have learned about Rebecca, her time here and the mark she made.


    • #18
    • Comment
    • Sat 12 Jul 2014
    • 0907
    Marcia wrote in to say...

    I am so sorry, so very sorry…. I cannot imagine the pain….

    • #19
    • Comment
    • Sun 13 Jul 2014
    • 2153
    Sarah Sager wrote in to say...

    Your words take my breath away with their stark, unfiltered honesty, profound insight, searing pain, and astonishing wisdom. I am grateful for every single word and learn from all that you have written. Your article on “The Silent hole in the World” is particularly haunting.

    • #20
    • Comment
    • Thu 31 Jul 2014
    • 0845
    Jos van der Laan wrote in to say...

    This is such a sad story..
    We lost our daughter Reina 13 yrs ago, she died just before her birth.
    May their names be heard forever,
    Rest in peace Rebecca!

    • #21
    • Comment
    • Thu 28 Aug 2014
    • 0851
    Ree wrote in to say...

    Words can never ease the deep pain you are feeling now, but I am so sorry you are experiencing it. My sweet little daughter died 19 months ago in the PICU after she suffered a stroke during a routine medical procedure. We were devastated beyond words. The grief is unrelenting the first year and then (as people told me it would but I just couldn’t believe them) it began to slowly release it’s grip. Just know you are not alone. I know the pain well, but I also can laugh now as I remember my sweet girl’s amazing life. Grieving is hard work, and it’s a marathon not a sprint for most parents.

    • #22
    • Comment
    • Tue 9 Sep 2014
    • 2319
    Bill Hernandez wrote in to say...

    I found your site when I was looking for the author of color-blender, I had hoped to ask a couple of questions. It now seems unimportant (my question) after reading the story of the terrible loss you and your wife have suffered. I can’t imagine the loss of a child, I don’t think anyone can. It is so unthinkable. Tears began running down my face uncontrollably as I read about your precious, precious daughter.

    I can’t offer any consolation, nor express in words that will help with the grief you and wife endure together. I truly can’t imagine your loss, but can feel some joy in knowing the depth of your love for her, and how fortunate she was to have had such loving parents.

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