“The pain, or the memory of pain, that here was literally sucked away by something nameless until only a void was left. The knowledge that this question was possible: pain that turns finally into emptiness. The knowledge that the same equation applied to everything, more or less.”
― Roberto Bolaño, 2666
From the beginning, I had enough self-awareness that I knew I wanted to be mentally healthy.
I went to my first therapy session six days after learning that Nelle was gone. It was at the suggestion of a friend. She said “This is a lot to deal with. Get yourself into therapy.” I have always tried to take care of myself, so the decision was a relatively easy one. Knowing also that we wanted to attempt pregnancy again right away, I wanted to be in the best possible place. I was unprepared for how encompassing the grief was, among so many other truths about profound grief, but I was determined to “work through it.”
If losing Nelle brought me to my knees, losing Iris flattened me. Any shred of control that I thought I had, or any strides that I had made in coping were flung out the window. That same friend visited me in the hospital as I suffered through labor for the second time in five months and she said “Get yourself some anti-depressants. This is going to be too much.” Again, wanting to take care of myself, I talked to my doctor and left the hospital with a prescription.
Wanting to take care of myself is one thing. Having the energy and stamina to do so is another. While I did pay close attention to my mental health, knowing that I have a family and work that depend on me, there are other aspects that I have admittedly let crumble. I have not been eating well. Consciously or unconsciously, I am not nourishing my body the way that I should. I have no reason to now. Upon losing Nelle, I was preparing my body for pregnancy again, eating balanced meals, drinking lots of water. While pregnant, I take exquisite care of myself. Now I just don’t care. For the first two weeks after losing Iris, eating made me physically nauseous, so intense was my grief. The two subsequent weeks, I am simply disinterested in food.
There are still days when I cannot face the world. Sadness and anxiety overtake me and I crawl into bed and pull a blanket over my head. Those days have become fewer so I allow myself that space when I need it. Yesterday was one of those days. It may have been the intense morning yoga class that did me in. It may have been because it was my younger son’s birthday and I was surrounded by memories in the form of baby photos. I had a similar experience back in September when my older son had his birthday just a few weeks after losing Nelle. Being upset by baby photos of my own children was unsettling. To calm myself yesterday, I took an Epsom salt bath. Then I took another bath in the afternoon. Then I took a shower in the evening. Hopeful that maybe somehow the water would energize me and wash away my feelings of heaviness.
From the beginning, I have struggled with the words “moving on.”
I was starting to crawl out of my grief a few months after losing Nelle. Between being pregnant again and therapy, I could see beyond the days of unending sadness. “Moving on” did not sit well with me, because “moving on” seemed to imply “forgetting.” I could never forget, and I would never be the same. We use the words “moving on” to describe leaving a job, or ending a relationship, or abandoning an argument. I searched for another descriptor. With all of the words that rattle around in my head all the time, I could not come up with anything that felt exactly right. The best I could settle on was “moving forward.” In “moving forward,” I am bringing grief with me. When I move forward, I will have learned how to carry the additional weight of grief.
From the beginning, I have known that I would need to move forward, eventually. It is incremental. It is accepting that steps forward may also include falling down. But I care enough for myself to grit my teeth and figure out how to get there, with grief as my companion.