Running around our house is a cat named Lilly. Sadly enough for him, he’s male. You can blame the discrepancy between the cat’s name and it’s gender on my foo foo 4 year old. In Elisabeth’s world, all things good are female. If it can’t wear pink, what good is it?? She tells me she does not like boys. Well, except Daddy…. And her friend Adam…. And her friend Michael…. And…. well, you get the point. Soooo, despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise, she continues to insist that Lilly is a girl. I’m not quite ready to show her the physical proof just yet, so for better or worse, Lilly he will remain.

But back to the point of this post. Eliana and Lilly spent part of their babyhood together. When I put Eliana in the bouncy, he would climb in there, curl up next to Eliana, and start purring. It seemed to comfort both of them, and they would usually fall asleep like that. It was one of the sweetest things I think I’ve ever seen. As a matter of fact, Eliana would not sleep in the bouncy unless Lilly was lying in there with her.

The night I came home from the hospital without Eliana I started to walk in the front door, and the first thing I saw was this cat. I lost it. I couldn’t even walk in the house. I ran back out into the front yard sobbing. I had a really hard time even looking at Lilly for a while afterwards. It seemed so unfair. The stupid cat got to live, but my baby didn’t. He will get to grow up, but my baby never will.

As the days passed, the cat became kind of a comfort to me. I would look at him, and know that Eliana had, in some vague sort of way, loved him. He gave her warmth and contact and companionship during those few times I actually put her down. They were buddies. It’s very important to me to try to hold onto anything and everything that Eliana ever touched. He both hurts me and helps me, and I will never be able to part with him.

A couple days ago, I sat down for a few minutes, and Lilly was stretched out there. I picked him up, something I haven’t done very often since losing Eliana. Being Elisabeth’s cat, he is well-trained in the ability to lie in your arms belly up, just like a baby, and look perfectly happy while doing so. I closed my eyes for a few seconds, trying to pretend, trying to remember what it felt like to have her in my arms.

I lost it again. I started crying, couldn’t stop, and ended up in the bathroom for a while. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if not for the fact that we had quite a few people over at the time. They, unfortunately, have experienced the same kind of loss that I have, so I guess it wasn’t hugely shocking for them when I came back out all tear-stained and hoarse. They understand just how horrible this feels. Most people, thankfully, never will.

This is what I mean by the “others”. My world is divided into two types of people now. There are those who have experienced the loss of a child, and those who have not. As much as someone may love me, as much as they may want to try to comfort me, as much as they want to say the right thing, have the right words, the others will always be hindered by their complete lack of knowledge of what this really feels like.

When I was in the hospital, I thought a lot about how I would feel if Eliana died. I thought I knew. I thought I had answers. I thought I went through all the scenarios. But the truth is, that absolutely nothing, no amount of thinking or planning or wondering, could have prepared me for the brutal reality of what this actually feels like. Nothing. And there is absolutely no way that the others could possibly understand what I am going through, no matter how sincerely they try to imagine what it would feel like if it happened to them.

The others are able to forget Eliana for a few minutes, hours, or days at a time. I can’t. She is like a filter that I see the world through now, and she colors everything I see. The others are able enjoy their children, and not feel conflicted by joy and jealousy. I love my girls, but why can’t Eliana grow up to do the things they’re doing right now? The others are able to live their lives without hurting so bad death seems like a better alternative. How can anyone survive this much pain? And my guess is that the others are able to hold their cats without crying all over them. I, apparently, cannot.

I wish the others would just stop, and close their mouths back up, before they tell me that they understand how I feel. Because they don’t. And I hope they never do. I really hope for their sakes that they get to remain as clueless about this endless aching as Lilly is. But at least Lilly doesn’t try to tell me he knows how I feel. He just sits with me and lets me cry. Why can’t the others figure out how to do this?