I have been trying to write for weeks. About Nova Mae. My sweet little niece, who got to live for four days.

No one saw it coming. The traumatic birth. Her fragile body. The medical mayhem. The machines. The three hospitals.

She was fierce and courageous. And surrounded by incredible care. Which is why hope turned to despair and back again. And again. And again. And again.

Until finally, she let go, in the arms of her parents.

Her arrival had felt like the most precious of gifts. We all longed for her so much. And now she is gone for good.

Struggling with grief

Grief cuts through me as I write this. Her parents’ grief, my own grief. The sharpness of it. The ferocity.

I struggle with that grief. To feel it, to hold it, to let it do whatever it needs to do.

As a child, one of the most important people in my life left me unannounced. Never saw her again, never said goodbye, never was guided in how to make sense of that loss.

It’s why I never learnt how to let go. Why my letting go tends to be abrupt, hard, unforgiving even. Why I never felt homesick or missed the people I loved.

Didn’t allow it. Always forced myself to move on, to never look back. Out of sight, out of mind, out of heart.

It doesn’t help that my sadness and helplessness have a tendency to turn into anger, which makes me hard and relentless.

Superficially, it feels strong and safe, like a suit of armour. But it’s self-deceit, and lonely.

In reality, I am scared of the loss. Scared of not knowing what to do. Scared it will overwhelm me, choke me, devour me.

The softness that sustains me

So in the past I would harden up and cut myself off from the softness that sustains me, the tenderness I need to let the loss be a part of me.

Now, for a change, I am trying to feel the loss, work through it as they say, albeit in a clumsy way.

Sometimes I talk about her without feeling the loss. Or listen to others talk about her without feeling their loss. Sometimes I am just too damn busy and I forget.

But then it pounces on me, out of nowhere. Sharp and raw. Visceral.

Like it did at the cremation, when I saw the impossibly small wicker basket surrounded by colourful balloons. It tore me up.

I finally let go of my control and cried freely and wholeheartedly, as I am doing now, as I write this.

Unequipped, but trying

I cry because she died. Because I will never hold her or play with her. Because my brother and sister-in-law are hurting. Because there was nothing anyone could do.

I cry because I miss her. And I hate missing her. Though I am trying not to hate it, but embrace it, and breathe through it, or whatever the hell it is I am supposed to do with it.

I accept that I am woefully unequipped and unprepared for this. But I am trying, I really am.

I owe it to myself. I owe it to Nova Mae, who struggled far more than I am doing now. And I owe it to her parents, whose loss is incomparably bigger than mine.

I don’t want to be hard and relentless. I want to become soft and tender and hurt as much as I need to hurt. And I will. I am. With a bit of help from Nova Mae.

Ilja van Roon

P.S. You may also be interested in reading this blog about Grieving a Loss. If you are struggling with grief, you can consider booking a half-day Free Exploration to give your grieving process some more attention. Feel free to contact me for more information.

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