So I pulled a couple of the many grief and infant loss books off the shelves. I haven’t really looked at any of them for nearly a year. They were all I wanted to read in those first several weeks, then all I wanted was memoir about loss. Infant or child loss all the better, but any loss would do. Eventually I began to pick up fiction again...but it still feels like I’m choosier about books in general. They must not be too light-hearted, no chicklit.
Anyway. The books also started a little bender on the internet about grief, through which I found a blog entitled “Legacy Matters”. It seems to be all about subjects around death and dying, on both global, personal, objective and even scientific levels. Here are a few excerpts that struck me.
Let’s begin with grief. There is a kind of shattering that happens with, say, the death of a child, or any death, but perhaps most of all violent death. Not only is your heart shattered; you lose your sense of who you are and what your life is about. So reconstruction is needed. But first we need to accept that we are broken. This initiates the “emotional alchemy.” If we can hang in there with grief, it changes from a feeling of being “hemmed in” by life to a feeling of expansion and opening.
We will never get back to the way we were, but eventually we reach a new state of “normal.” I’m not talking about the mundane kind of “getting back to normal,” in which we find ourselves doing the laundry again (although that is important too), but the deeper kind, which is a process of remaking ourselves and how we live.
Grief is a teacher. It tells us that we are not alone; that we are interconnected; that what connects us also breaks our hearts — which is as it should be. Most people who allow themselves to grieve fully develop an increased sense of gratitude for their own lives. That’s the alchemy: from grief to gratitude. None of us wants to go through these experiences, but they do bring us these gifts. - Miriam Greenspan
I hope she’s right about that. If I resonate with what she says about being broken, losing your sense of who you are, what your life is about, etc...than maybe I can trust her on the rest as well.
There is an increasing recognition in medical circles that miscarriage or stillbirth can be an extremely traumatic experience for mothers and fathers alike, who may have developed a profound emotional connection with their unborn child. "The mourning process can be long and lonely," says the Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND) website. "After the death of a baby, it generally takes twelve to twenty-four months simply to find your new base."
Uh-oh. That means I only have what, 9 more months to get my sh** together?! I like better the timelines that say ‘there is no timeline’. Then I don’t have to also take on being a bad griever or more of a dark cloud than the next lady who lost her baby. Which I don’t have to take on, it’s a choice. But let’s face it. You know I’ll take it on as pressure to be a better person than I am.
One thing I learned is that researchers believe there are two kinds of grief: "normal grief" and "complicated grief" (which is also called "prolonged grief"). Normal grief is a term for the feeling most bereaved people experience, which peaks within the first six months and then begins to dissipate. "Complicated grief" does not—and evidence suggests that many parents who lose children are experiencing something more like complicated grief. Calling grief "normal" makes it sound mundane, but, as one researcher underscored to me, its symptoms are extreme. They include insomnia or other sleep disorders, difficulty breathing, auditory or visual hallucinations, appetite problems, and dryness of mouth....
One to take heart from when I’m feeling less courageous and sane than other people who are seemingly able to pick up and move on with some sunshine on their face after tragedy and losses. I only have a couple of those symptoms, and only some of the time. (I AM having some pretty weird and disconcerting dreams on a rather consistent basis of late...but, what can you do about that?)
There’s a whole lot more, but who really wants to read about it? Probably only those few of you who are traveling this path too and need some validation. So, hope you’ve found some too. Be well, my friends.