The one year anniversary of my daughter's death is fast approaching. Stepping into this holiday season the memories of those last few weeks with Sophia barrel into every waking moment. Grief comes in waves but the memories of last year have hit me like a sack of rocks...I feel battered at best. And the word 'grief' does not hold enough volume to explain this experience enough.
Quite often I'm found staring out in front of me; my eyes darting in hysteria as my mind and heart remember those last weeks. The images flash through my mind and I become drowned in the sorrow of suffering from losing a child, remembering her suffering all to well, battling something we could never win.
Throughout Sophia's life, I would be asked 'had I known Sophia was going to be so sick and be born with a rare disorder would I have kept her', meaning would I have aborted my pregnancy. Before this time last year, I would have said a resounding YES. Of course I would have still had her, what were they thinking?
January 1st, will be a year since she passed and I am not so sure anymore. Not just to alleviate her suffering but, perhaps, to selfishly, avoid my own. I have been listening to Sam Harris's podcast, Waking Up and he recently had David Benatar, a professor of philosophy, on to discuss his advocacy of antinatalism based on David's book Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Most of us, as an existing person, understand good things are good...and bad things are bad. David argues that the bad is worse than the 'good is good'. But if that person never existed, the necessary absence of the good wouldn't be bad because there would be no one there to be deprived; thus his antinatalist position.
During the podcast, I began to consider that Sophia's non existence would have alleviated her suffering. I then shifted and thought, then my non existence would have alleviated her suffering, too...as would my mother's non existence, her mother's non existence, etc, etc. Like Benatar, I was beginning to believe that existing is harmful. My existence was harmful to Sophia...I birthed her, she suffered. My mother's existence was harmful to Sophia because she birthed me, Sophia suffered. Benatar's philosophy is not lost on me at all. I get it...there is undoubtably harm coming into existence. We will all suffer...to some degree, at some point in our existence, or we will bore suffering on those around us.
However logical that may be, I find his chain of reasoning counterintuitive on at least one significant point that, as Harris argues, imperils Benatar's antinatalist thesis. Benatar posits that bads are not bad because there's no one to suffer them, yet never-to-be-experienced good he doesn't count as a loss because no one's there to not experience them.
How do I weigh the existence of Sophia's suffering against the good she experienced? How do I weigh all the joy she brought me with the suffering that I am experiencing now, after her death? How do we measure the depth of love that we have for someone and is that, like many believe, in direct relation to the degree of grief we endure once they are gone? Our consciousness as humans has evolved so much that did you know we are thought to be the only species aware that we are destined to die?
So is that a good enough reason to not exist? Knowing Sophia was going to die, should I have not allowed her to exist at all?
As the anniversary of Sophia's death ebbs closer and closer...my heart aches. The longing, at times, is unbearable. The last three weeks of Sophia's life were filled with her screams, her desire to 'go home', the gut wrenching decisions to keep her comfortable, wiping away the tears drawing down her cheeks as she, herself, struggled with her body shutting down, with the human consciousness aware that we are destined to die; Sophia was destined to die.
I am destined to die...and I am suffering before that day inevitably comes because I exist. I am suffering because Sophia existed.
Last year, I would have said it was worth it...having Sophia, being her mother for 16 years was worth the suffering. But coming up to this one year anniversary, I am leaning the other way. I don't think anything or anyone could convince me that the suffering Sophia endured those last few weeks is worth existing for. Maybe this makes me incredibly pessimistic, or maybe this is how the depth of my grief translates. I don't know...
Happy Anniversary Sophia...I will be where you took your last breathe; sitting, being, crying in the space you once occupied...and still occupy in so many ways.
I love you to the moon and back...
Beverley Pomeroy is an awarded and highly sought after Community Engagement Strategist, Speaker, Author of Living Grief; The Profound Journey of Ongoing Loss. Beverley’s community service began with a fifteen year career in private health care working for MDS Inc (LifeLabs). This community health care role developed her acumen not only for serving people in need, but also her strength in business management and organizational renewal.