Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Can't Escape Grief, Apparently

The other day I went to a workshop. As in, I spent the second full day of summer, six hours in a largely beige, windowless hotel ballroom. It was on active, deeper thinking skills and cultivating a classroom focused on thinking strategies, so it was worth the void of sun and getting up and dressed at 7:20 on a weekday after school's let out.

Another teacher and I walked into the hotel, and saw two signs for conferences -- one for the teacher one we were going to, and another for...

Helping Your Clients Cope With Grief.

For a second I thought, "Wow, I could get a two for one sale here."

But, I diligently filed into the teacher one, and soon discovered that there were some A/V issues.

First, the microphones went in and out. But the presenters were teacher-type people, so who needs a microphone? Not them, so they ditched the amplification.

But then, the weirdest thing happened.

Our presenters were speaking, and at the same time, our speakers started broadcasting a low-toned, friendly, calm voice.

A voice that said, clear as day:

You will have a client who has grief resurface in a very real way, who will say, "Hey, I thought I DEALT with that grief, but here it is again!" You need to help your client realize that there is no endpoint for grief.

Whoa. It was very distracting, because not a week or two ago I had that very experience, when a photo brought back to me the moment of realizing that a tiny black and white picture with a void and a blip was all I'd probably ever have of a pregnancy, of that soul-ripping loss of what-could-have-been, and it was all triggered by something seemingly so innocuous. And I thought, briefly, "I still can't be this upset, that was YEARS ago... how can my grief still be so palpable when I am clearly on another path?" What is WRONG with me?

That snippet of the grief conference faded in and out and then everyone turned off their mics and we were left without tips on how to cope with grief in addition to how to engage our students in challenging creation.

I hope though, that I wasn't the only one to catch the somewhat subliminal message. How we deal with grief is personal, and it ebbs and flows, no matter what the loss is. So many people have this preconceived notion that grief has a timeline, that there are neat and tidy stages that you move through in a linear fashion and then it is merely a dark spot, a blemish in your tree rings, evidence of a trauma that happened in the past but shouldn't really affect you now. That's a lie. Those stages are real -- the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the sadness, the acceptance...but they don't necessarily stay in that order, and you can return to them over and over and over. It can be a physical trigger that brings it back, or just a sad day where your thoughts turn inward and you realize that your grief is lying there, buried, and needs a little airing out so it doesn't fester. Accepting your grief doesn't mean that you don't feel it anymore, you just don't feel it quite so viscerally, all of the time.

Stole this from Pinterest, so not quite sure who to give credit to, but it's pretty damn accurate.

That A/V mess-up in my conference was such a great reminder -- because that therapist's soothing voice cut through everything else to deliver a message that grief can and will pop up, and that's okay and even normal, if surprising (sort of like having the topic of grief wend its way through the speakers at a teaching conference). A reaffirmation that what happened two weeks ago that threw me into a major funk is NOT a sign that I am not adjusting well to my new reality, or that I am not committed to my chosen path to parenthood, or that I haven't "dealt" with my grief well enough, but that I will continue dealing with the loss of that baby that would have been half me and half Bryce from time to time and THAT'S OKAY. That there's no expiration date on those kinds of feelings. That grief is a process, a personal process that doesn't follow a scripted path.

How lovely to receive a message of validation in the strangest of places, in a moment of crossed wires and shared conference space.


  1. What an amazing sign from the universe that was! Sometimes those little signs pop up in the most unexpected of ways to let us know everything is going to be alright.
    I wholeheartedly agree on your assessment of grief. My father has been gone from this earth for over 8 years, and still I can easily fall back into various stages of grief. Just yesterday, there was an older man behind me at the store, and his mannerisms and just something about him reminded me of my dad. And my heart kind of twitched like I had saw a ghost. And then I just wanted to stop and watch this man, because it reminded me of my dad. And I wondered if that's how my dad would have been, how he would have aged had he not gotten sick.
    Also, no matter how full my arms may be, I still feel the hole in my heart from my lost babies. on really bad days I just curl up in a ball and cry, wondering why my body betrayed me so. Why it couldn't protect those little souls. It's not something I can even talk about with people, because they think I'm ridiculous since I have children. I miss them in a way that only someone who has had a loss can understand.
    Also, that graphic: perfect.

    1. Wasn't it? It really did feel like there was a little nudge, nudge. Thank you for sharing your own stories of grief that's not neat and tidy, that pops up unexpectedly and isn't always understood. I really do think it's a more common experience than is widely shared. And isn't that graphic perfect?

  2. I agree so so so much with this post. Sometimes the very things that we grieve continue to impact our lives in little (or big) ways throughout our lives. Years ago, I told someone that "No one expects you to 'get over this.' It's part of your journey. It's part of you." Remembering to tell yourself that very thing, and to accept that sadness when it arises, is an act of self-love. Bravo.

    1. Thanks, I'm glad it resonated with you. It's like a whack-a-mole, really.

  3. I love your penultimate paragraph. No expiration date, for sure, <3

    1. I love that you used the word "penultimate..." :) Thank you!

  4. Yes, yes, yes! I have struggled with people around me expecting that I will heal in a linear manner, and it just doesn't work like that. That graph is my life. They also all expect if I get pregnant again this won't hurt anymore. As if the two babies I lost can be replaced. That's like saying "my grandpa died but the other one is still alive so it doesn't hurt." You can't just take a person-shaped hole in your heart and shove another person in there. The same is true for you. Mystery Baby is never going to plug the hole in your heart shaped like a half-you-half-Bryce baby. That doesn't mean you haven't dealt with those feelings or that you aren't committed to Mystery Baby. If anything, it's the opposite. You want Mystery Baby for who they are, not for what you lost.

    1. So true. I am glad this post resonated with you. I have never seen a graphic quite so true as this one... and I love the idea that you can't shove something else in a person-shaped hole, even if that person was in many ways intangible. Thank you for a lovely comment.

  5. Wise words that you heard at the conference. I'm glad you felt validation and comfort in them. Also, a good graphic!

  6. Wow, what an amazing moment - and such great words. Grief is definitely not a linear thing. Love the graphic and this post!