I have started writing this post so many times in so many ways. It feels like there is no good way to say what I think and to express what this is like. I’ve decided to “write it all out” then make this outpouring into a series, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children.
The first time I sat to write this post, I was experiencing a type of grief that many may not consider to be as such. I was grieving for a lost ideal: I had planned for and dreamt of the “perfect birth” since before I became pregnant; I ended up having a planned c-section.
I couldn’t quite come up with the right words, though. I couldn’t fully express what it was about the situation that merited mourning. I felt I would be judged harshly for being so selfish, since I was holding a healthy baby girl. Therefore, I suppressed the pain, anger, and anguish so I could heal from the surgery and take care of my newborn.
While dealing with that grief on my own, feeling unable to express my loss without being judged, a dear friend experienced a miscarriage. I was so lost in my new life as a mother and an abdominal surgery patient that I couldn’t quite reach her where she needed me to be. Here I was with a happy, pink, bouncing baby, yet all the dreams my friend had of her life once her child was in her arms were never to come to fruition. Who was I to console someone with such a loss? How was I to support her in her mourning when I was mourning something seemingly opposite?
Then the way others treated that miscarriage made me angry; too many said that since it happened so early in her pregnancy that it really wasn’t a loss at all.
How dare they? How dare anyone define, label, quantify grief?
But I lapsed back into my own selfishness, my life being redefined first by leaving the workforce and then with all the daily changes that came with a newborn.
When another friend lost her dog to a form of cancer, I felt like writing this post on grief again. I felt like maybe I had a handle on how to define grief and express how I, and these friends, approached our mourning. I felt like it was time to share my thoughts on how we cannot judge a grieving person, no matter what it is they have lost to how they express their grief. I especially felt this way after reading comments on her Facebook posts regarding the death of her dog, comments by people claiming to be friends, seemingly expressing their condolences but really telling her to get over it, it was just a dog, human beings are dying daily from cancer, and so on.
Get over it? Like there is a time limit. Just a dog? It isn’t the dog, folks.
Grief isn’t just anything.
Grief can’t be defined, merely described. Grief doesn’t have a size or a time-limit, so don’t suggest to someone in mourning that this is a “period of grief.” Grief may lessen or become easier to manage, but the loss will never go away. It changes shape and size, but that isn’t for another to say.
Grief is a raw crater, a cracked cup, yawning open and echoing back the sounds of your despair. Grief does not care what you have lost or how long ago the loss occurred; it is an emotion based on the loss itself.
A Little Here, a Little There
Any number of things can trigger a form of mourning. All sorts of life’s events can be chalked up to loss, a loss that needs to be grieved in order to be overcome.
There have been other little losses since the birth of my daughter. Other little upsets, like losing friends to drama, losing family to lies, losing money to mistakes, losing sight of the path to our short-term goals. It isn’t all rough, though, these steps on our thoughtfully sought path. These losses have been off-set by little gains, like deeper connection in other relationships, being called to a particular church, learning where else we need to be on our path to long-term goals.
Each of those losses, though small, is not insignificant, and they really are the foundation to the other grief I have experienced. Every little loss in your life is why you react to other losses the way you do and how you manage to carry on despite the emotions that seem to physically weigh you down.
A friend (who became much closer in the past year of little losses) said something to me just after my beloved grandmother passed that I think on every time the grief seems to well up inside of me again. She said that grief has a way of sneaking up on you. It will creep in when you’re not expecting it, after you’ve decided you have cried your last and can move forward without it bogging down each day, and it will slap you so hard that you’ll be sobbing like the loss is new.