Writing about your grief can be painful. It’s a pain that’s sometimes needed. In January of 2018, I was foundering. I had just moved to a new city, I was sad and lonely, and I felt torn between throwing myself into the world and cuddling around my grief as the only thing that felt familiar to me.
Write Your Grief
A few months prior, a friend had mentioned a writing program that she felt helped her explore her grief. At the time, I was writing so much I didn’t think I needed any additional prompting, but I kept it in mind.
In January of 2018, I was reminded of this program, and I decided I needed to try something new. The following posts are the result of my thirty days of participation in this course, plus a handful of the monthly prompts that followed. Some entries are long, some are short. Some are 3rd or 4th or 7th drafts. A few days, I didn’t write at all, although I always read every prompt and sat with it. Writing can be painful. It was a pain I needed.
If you are interested in trying this course for yourself, please visit Refuge in Grief. I highly recommend it.
I used to think that grief was this sad time that followed the death of someone you loved. I never imagined it was really this new layer, this new identity. I never imagined the loss I was grieving would include the loss and rebirth of me.
She was probably the most innocent person in the room. And that’s funny, I guess, because she was so incredibly book smart.
When my son died, it tore a hole inside of me. It re-framed all of my thoughts about death.
In the black-and-white photos, he looks like he’s sleeping. Photos are difficult; they don’t tell the whole story.
I peeked under a bit. I wanted that smell. I wanted something stronger than the silence at his birth.
Death has never been my friend. The necessity of her existence is no more comfort than my own. I don’t hate her, but I look at her the way she looks at Disease. We are all harbingers. We all bring Pain.
I am probably one of those ghosting stories that people complain about on social media. I am probably that person who just disappeared, and people are wondering, “What happened? What did I do wrong?”
I don’t claim to be an especially deep person. I don’t worship; I don’t find comfort or need in that setting. But beyond those feelings, gods and the mystic have always fascinated me.
Your donor has brown eyes. So do I. I still wonder if yours would have been green or violet or newborn baby blue. I still wonder if I should have waited just one more moment longer–surely you were only sleeping?
This instinct for planning is painful to me. The best parts of my future are still achingly incomplete. I didn’t find him here because I carried him with me. I carry him and the world and the world is so heavy.
So many people run away from my questions, but I still have questions, I deserve more than this.
Sometimes I need comfort, and I lash out instead. I am not your typical victim. I am so very angry.
Nobody tells you that stillbirth is a possibility. I still remember, even while screaming, that I was thinking about the three other women in that testing room, and how I must have been their shocking introduction to the fact that babies die.
You asked me to this party, but you don’t want my casserole. It’s too heavy; it’s filling. It doesn’t fit your theme.
Because I think love includes talking about hard things. Because I think love includes telling someone, “When you fall on hard times, I am here for you. When things go terribly wrong, I won’t run away.”
I write a lot about this concept of numbness. I think that before, I would have described it as a lack of feeling. “I am empty, I am numb.” I realize today it’s something quite different.
There was a time when I was broken. (I’m still broken). There was a time when I struggled to get out of bed. (I still struggle to get out of bed). There was a time when all of this was so much harder / more immediate. There was a time when I needed help with almost everything. But not all things. I still remembered how to eat and go to the bathroom. I still knew how to put on my own clothes.
I want to wish you happiness, but I don’t know if you want that. I didn’t want happiness after the death of my son. It felt disloyal.
I remember every moment of my pregnancy. I remember every moment of my son’s short life. I remember conception and ultrasounds and morning sickness. I remember every tiny kick and movement. I treasure these things. I treasure these memories.
I feel unusual in the way that I’ve been counting. I’ve never kept elaborate timelines. My cousin’s wife reminded me when 30 days had passed. I was visiting, and her words took the breath out of me. It always feels like yesterday.
I found the snow again today. I found flight, and I’m spinning, and it all came back so easily. And I watch as the children go flying down the mountain, and everything feels empty.
I know what you want to talk about. I know how it pains you when others try to chase your words away. It isn’t a question of guilt. It’s fact — if you had chosen to listen, I would be alive.
I wrote a letter to Target a while back. I still find myself walking through the baby aisles, thinking about things I would be buying. Should be buying. I should have a living son.
You sheltered him for nine months. You expanded with him, kept him safe. I watched you grow stretch marks, tiger stripes. I talked to him through you. I never thought to say thank you.
I hate talking about these memories, because everyone is quick to tell me that it wasn’t my fault. Screw that! I don’t care about fault. I want to share my story. I want to remember the last week of my son’s life. I want to share these things that complicate how I feel about his death. I want to remember that this experience wasn’t entirely sunshine and roses. I want to remember what was real.
I’ve often said that those of us who have experienced tragedy live in a new layer of existence. It’s the thing that defines us now, that marks this transition to this separate world. And I almost said “different” there instead of “separate,” but this is another defining characteristic; because the only thing that is different is each of us. Because we are a world inside of a world, and we are the only ones who know.
I call it a nuclear bomb. It’s a conversation ender. You meet someone, you’re making good small talk, and then they ask about your family. I will never deny my son. He is a permanent part of me. And so it happens — I tell them, “Yes, I have a child. He died shortly before he was born.” And everything stops. It’s no longer a casual conversation.
I feel your absence in my breathing. I wait for footsteps just around the bend. I hug your ashes and I think, “None of this is real. When I have paid my penance, I will hold you.”
You were more than pain. You swept into my life and your presence promised happiness. And I hated that, because happiness wasn’t something I wanted to know. And I hate it more now, standing here, awake and oh so lonely. And this pain isn’t comforting. And this new life feels broken.
I should know better. Because life is not a fairytale. I should know better, because you’re a person, just like me. And I realize I put the weight of my expectations on something that was only fleeting. And now it’s too heavy. I’m sorry it got heavy.
I didn’t ask to live here. I loved Sunshine. I had so many plans. I built my peaceful house there. But my key doesn’t fit.
This year has been hard for me, but it’s been a clean kind of hard. Most people understand grief is a thing. Most people understand pain surrounding death. I don’t think most people understand what happens afterwards.
After he died, after that scream, I shattered. It wasn’t that time flowed differently. It was a completely different life.
I’m not actively suicidal, but I’m realizing this is the beginning. This is the in-between stage; this is where it starts.
I see her on the other side of the glass, and my heart breaks for what we both have that the other needs.
I fed her shredded chicken with my fingers this morning. The vet prescribed her steroids. She actually has an appetite. I gave her a piece of my blueberry scone. I guess it doesn’t matter now what’s good for her in the long run.
I never had to face this choice with Adrian. I never had to hold him, breathing; weigh impossible odds. I didn’t have to look into eyes gone soft and full of hurting. I didn’t get to hold his living body in my arms.
You are turning one next week, and I feel jealous. You are turning one, and my son won’t be here to send you a sloppy scribbled birthday card. You are turning one, and I am aching, and I realize that I miss your mother. I miss her, but I’m still not ready to be friends.
When my son was stillborn at 41 weeks, I came home to a complete nursery. All of his clothes were washed and sorted, his diapers laid out next to wipes and creams. And maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but I was thankful.