There’s this fallacy out there that grief is something that we “get over”, it’s temporary, and that it is bad. In the early days of my baby dying, I asked my mom if it would always hurt this much. She said that for a while yes it will, but after some time it will sting less and less, and always be a scar on my heart. She also said that there will be moments throughout my life, months and years and decades down the line, that somebody will say something or something will happen that triggers the deep pain again, when I least expect it. I don’t know how I lucked out to have such a wise mother, but she has been absolutely right about all of this.
A small group of friends and I attended a weekend grief retreat last February which illuminated the power, rawness, and humility of grief. We are committed to learning, experimenting, and participating in grief as a regular practice in our own lives, acknowledging and paying gratitude to the dozens of ways we have and are experiencing grief. It’s not like we live our lives veiled in sorrow, anger, victimization, or regret; we simply know that there are always two sides to the coin of life, and they both enrich each other deeply. To have lived a life without grief literacy is to have lived a less full existence, I believe. (By the way, if you want some inspiring books on grief check out Martín Prechel, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, Francis Weller, and Rashani Réa).
Pregnancy after loss is the perfect example of this simultaneous joy and sorrow with a peppering of unexpected moments where one overrides the other.
Last week, I went to a local store to buy some tea herbs. I was wished a hearty congratulations from the kind owner who I’ve known for many years. Despite heavy winter coats hiding my growing plump belly, word seems to be getting out around here about this pregnancy. Anyway, it was a lovely exchange, but as I walked away and ventured home, my eyes started welling up with never-ending tears. Yes, I love this human growing inside of me so much. Yes, I am grateful for being healthy and having this beautiful pregnancy. But, I so wish that my first baby was in my arms cooing and smiling too, and that hearty congratulations could be for both of my children. To put it simply: I miss my first child so dearly.
Then later that same day, already feeling raw and sensitive, someone very close to me shared the news of a new pregnancy. As feelings of jealousy, skepticism, and bitterness crept up while I listened to him, I immediately felt ashamed of myself and tried endlessly to sound enthusiastic and hopeful for this optimistic couple. I was so jealous that they could expect a living baby in 9 months, joyfully and easily. When I got my positive pregnancy test with this baby, the first thing I did was cry. As I listened to the joy in his voice, I felt like literally the worst person in the world. Later, I had a nice talk with my big sister on the phone, who validated me and told me that I am NOT the worst person in the world, and what I’m feeling is completely normal. (Sidenote: I’m just really blessed to have amazing people in my family.)
The grief comes and goes, as it should.
Like the tides, there is always an ebb and a flow, and that is the adventure of living life as a complex, multifaceted being. I am grateful to experience all of it. And right now, grateful and amazed that I am TWENTY weeks along! Time to really slow down and savor these final 20 weeks, sweet little baby.