What I’ve Learned about Grief: Part Three

It’s been nearly 8 months since my first miscarriage, and during those 8 months of crying and watching the entire series of Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve journeyed through the grief like a hobbit. Lots of people have been the Sam to my Frodo: my husband, my Monday night dinner girls, a therapist, blog writers, dead writers (I teach British Literature, remember), and others.

I want to preface this post by saying that at the same time, all grief is different and all grief is the same. If you haven’t had a miscarriage, some of these things may still ring true in your life. If you have had a miscarriage, none of these things may ring true, too. Click here for my first post on what grief looks like. Click here for my second post on interacting with others during a time of grief. Here is what I’ve learned about when grief becomes too much:

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8. Grief does not care that you have to go to work. Grief is like a two-year-old in this way—it throws tantrums in the middle of the grocery store, clings to your leg as you’re trying to start your day, and makes your life messy in four-seconds flat. I’m fairly certain I ran out of sick days months ago, but I have to keep taking time off for doctors’ appointments and thus cannot take time off because I woke up incredibly sad.

I have to go and smile at my students and listen patiently as they tell me why they didn’t finish their homework and respond to emails with grace and politeness and go to meetings and talk about the Spanish Civil War and make copies of papers that I will inevitably have to grade at some point. I have to keep doing all of these things even though my heart feels sore from wading in the Sadness Sea. In some ways, work is nice because it can be very distracting, and I like my students and colleagues a lot. But when the kids shuffle out of the room, backpacks hitting the bookshelf and the door slamming behind them, out of nowhere, that two-year-old tackles me to the ground.

9. Sometimes grief makes things so dark that you need someone else to hold out the light for you. This light-holder can be many people: therapists, friends, spiritual directors, mentors, spouses, students, writers, etc. I have found I need someone to say, “That is completely valid” to my crazy feelings and “That’s unhealthy thinking” to my damaging feelings. I need someone to ask questions beyond, “When do you think you’ll try again?” I need someone to not wonder when I’ll get over this when I’m still talking about it months later. I’ve needed help from professionals and friends—people who are trained to walk through murky thinking and people who care enough about me to walk with me through it.

Even though I’ve been to therapy before, I felt really self-conscious going, like something was wrong with me and if certain people found out, I’d be labeled crazy. Now that I’m going regularly, I can’t imagine not going. It’s like I get a breath of fresh air every time I go because I have a space and time and person specifically set aside to say all my darkness–my fears and anxieties and anger and sadness.  I can say it all, and no one ducks away or shifts uncomfortably.  It is a similar experience when I share with my Monday night dinner girls or a close friend about my grief—there is a sense that I’m not alone in this. I think some of the darkness comes from feeling alone and feeling like you’ll never get out of this moment, and that’s why we need someone to hold out a light for us, calling us home.

My next and final post in this series will be about finding meaning in grief.

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