Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger,

I am supposed to impart wisdom regarding what I have learned about life.  I do not think I can improve on Robert Frost, so I will borrow from him: “In three words, I can sum up what I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”  Not only does it go on, but it will go on with or without you.

I have been a reader since I could remember.  Books were my life blood as a child and young adult.  Gradually work and family crowded my attention, but I tried to always make time.  Then in my early 30s I had a stillborn baby, a little more than halfway through my pregnancy.  Less than six months later, I had another second trimester pregnancy loss.  After two losses in quick succession, I found that I could no longer read, at least not the way I had previously.  Uplifting stories would make me bristle.  Melancholy tales would take me darker.  I had to find specific things to fit my mood.

I did find one book, in Brene Brown’s Rising Strong.  She writes:  “Our vision is that we can rise from our experiences of hurt ad struggle in a way that allows us to live more wholehearted lives.  However, transforming the way that we live, love, parent, and work requires us to act on our vision: The rising strong process is no where near as powerful as the rising strong practice.”

Recovering from grief and loss was not automatic, nor prescribed.  There was no antidote to the virus that had crept into my heart.  Instead it was going to require concentrated effort.  I was unprepared.  I  thought that I would slowly emerge from the depths of myself, if given enough healing time.  But this was not the case.  To rise strong, I would need to practice living in a new way.

I had to accept that my mind was unhealthy, and use medication to correct this.

I had to find a way look at my two living sons without resentment and regret that my two daughters had not joined them in life.

I had to locate a place for hope in my heart.  I had to accept that my instincts, however irrational, were correct.

I had exert effort to open my eyes in the morning, without tears.  To make it through the day, carrying myself.

I had to understand my own shortcomings in absolving guilt and processing information, and seek the help of a therapist.

I had to face hatred of my body.  Loose skin of pregnancy and unknown mysteries of failure were a source of ongoing loathing.

I had to realize that life goes on and the world moves quickly.  That the bulk of recovery would be borne in my own memory and perceptions.

I have learned that recovery is damn hard.  Rising strong, and the daily practice of rising strong is damn hard.  It is an exerted effort, an exercise in persistence, of bending and navigating in new ways, that hurt a lot.  I have learned that sometimes I cannot do it alone – I have to turn to external forces.  Grieving will break you down in unexpected ways.

So, dear Stranger, there is no way to prepare for grief, because it is entirely unique to your experience.  I can only pass along the knowledge that it will be hard.  Life goes on.  If you want to rise strong, it will require willpower and a re-dedication to yourself.  And it will be damn hard.

(Note: not as good as the first time I wrote it – at 3:00 a.m. this morning, and accidentally erased.  But oh well)