In 2015, my world was turned upside down. I had a stillborn baby girl at 21 weeks of pregnancy in September. Just a few short months later, in February 2016, I lost another baby girl at 16 weeks. Everything seemed to take a backseat to my grief, so I turned to writing even more as an outlet.
Unprepared does not begin to scratch the surface of the undertow that grieving dragged me into. Strong and unrelenting, I was flung between trying to claw my way out and giving up. When I thought “It cannot get any worse than a stillborn baby” after losing Nelle, I lost Iris. Still navigating the first loss, the path shifted indescribably and I had to begin again. There were times that I thought: only a completely unjust universe would force me to go through this pain twice. It was a loss of everything I knew, everything I had dreamed for the future, and a permanent alteration.
I had to wrangle my own grieving, while simultaneously, constantly responding to the outside world. There were insensitive comments, confused reactions, and deafening silence. The world seemed to have some over-arching timetable by which grieving must abide.
It took a lot of determination, reflection, and therapy to reject any platitudes and prescriptions for grieving that the world had to offer. I had to fight every inch to allow myself the space I needed, but there are still times when I think “Why? Why do I have to fight? Why is the burden put on the person who is suffering? It had to become a conscious choice to not only fight for myself, but also to educate others: there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. I took up that fight, to maybe spare someone else.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
I would like to think that I am one of these people.
If this path was unavoidable (which, for my own sanity, I have to believe it was) then I had to find solace in how I have changed. Loss is part of my identity but it does not solely define who I am. Spouse. Mother. Bereaved Parent. Friend. Worker. Writer.
I see the world differently, through a lens of understanding loss, through living loss. The deeper compassion, gentleness, concern, and even beauty have been born from the pain. Through the ages, artists have been able to harness their pain and drive it into something beautiful. If suffering must exist, then from it I am determined to emerge.
And so I write; I create; I teach. That is the solace for my pain. What a hard, bitter bargain.