What I’ve Learned about Grief: Part Four

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 the experiencing others during a time of grief. Click here for my third post about when grief becomes too much. Here is what I’ve learned about finding meaning in grief:

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10. Grief makes you scared and brave at the same time. On one hand, now that I know how quickly I can lose something, I’m terrified of losing something else. My knees shake when I think of one day being pregnant again. My heart pounds at the thought of having any hope or making any plans. On the other hand, I feel brave enough to talk about my feelings sometimes even though what I say can make me scared. I feel brave enough to be honest with others. I feel brave enough to visit my dying grandmother after being told to “prepare myself” before I walk into her hospital room. I feel brave enough to move away from a job that I love with no real plan for my next step. At the very least, I have been confronted with the unknown that is my future, and I don’t always cower in fear anymore.

11. Grief stirs the creativity stew inside of you. Perhaps it’s because I try to find so many ways to describe how I’m feeling that my life begins to feel like a pot of metaphors. Or perhaps because grief is at once fog and crisp air that clears the fog (see what I mean?). Maybe it’s because grief gives perspective and I’ve stopped caring for awhile about some things (whether my hair is fixed or if I teach the perfect lesson or if Meredith Grey will ever find love again) that I can actually approach some of the big, scary, meta things in my life—will I ever have a family? Will JD and I be okay? What does my life mean if I can’t be a mom to living children? How do I summon the courage to try again? Do I really believe something awaits us at death? Thinking about these questions has me jotting down notes on napkins and church bulletins, and every time I sit in therapy, I have a new metaphor for my grief.

12. Grief can bring out some beautiful things in friendships. I have great friends. I read about the sisterhood of pregnancy losses in a Shauna Niequist book, and even though some of my friends have never had a miscarriage, they are still just as present. My friends have prayed for and with me. They have listened to my aimless conversation about the whole thing. They have invited me to a weekend away. They have brought dinner. They have asked me how I’m really doing every time they see me. They have sent me sweet emails and texts on days like Mother’s Day. They have sent me gifts and cards and chocolate. They have sat with me as I recover from a D&C at home. The most important quality about them is that they have been there. They didn’t shrink away at the first sight of heavy, dark feelings. They didn’t smile and slowly back away as I cried. They didn’t avoid me because they were pregnant and I wasn’t anymore. They were there. They held the space for me to grieve.

13. Grief is not about finding a reason or learning a lesson; it’s about feeling and mourning and grappling with loss. I hate the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason,” because it’s not supported anywhere except Hallmark cards, and it’s so clearly offensive. How can a person say, “Your baby died for a reason…God needed another angel…so our babies can play together in heaven…God is trying to bring you closer to Him…so you can appreciate the next baby more…” All of these make God out to be sadistic, and I don’t believe He is.

Loss happens because it can be a tragic, sad world and death is a ruler of sorts. Babies die. Friends get divorced. Spouses leave. Family moves away. Companies let you go. Just as loss doesn’t have a reason, neither should we go looking for lessons to be learned. Trying to learn or grow before feeling all the feelings is a numbing mechanism—it’s a counterproductive and unhealthy psychosis. I have to feel my feelings before I try to find meaning in them.

These things I’ve learned about grief are not the reason my babies died.

They are not lessons I’ve been dutifully learning at Grief Academy in Loss: 101. Part of me wishes I didn’t know any of this, but there is a sense that now that I know, I cannot un-know. Now that I’ve written all this down, I’m not magically brave now or pregnant or shielded against tears and dark feelings. I still have a very real and clear-cut fear that if I have another miscarriage, I will lose myself, even though I know I have to feel and lean on others and let myself grieve the way my mind and body need to because loss sucks and it’s scary and overwhelming.  I am at once a different person and the same person I was before the miscarriages.

But now I know that if I do lose another baby, the loss and pain won’t be so crippling that I die. I have walked this path before, and I have learned how to swim.

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