Grief is a life-changing, powerful state of being. I call it a “state of being” because it’s much, much more than an emotion, or even a set of emotions. It’s a state of being – actually, I’d go so far as to call it a lifestyle.
Most lifestyles are ones you get to choose, like being someone who works as little as possible and takes many vacations, or scrimps and saves to ensure a comfortable future, or works from home. All of those lifestyles (plus many more) are wanted and chosen. Grief, on the other hand, is neither of those.
I’m talking, here, about big grief. We all go through smaller griefs throughout our lives, and they feel terrible in the moment, but they tend to fade a little faster than the big ones. Big griefs hit us and we’re powerless to stop them as they reach their long fingers into our chests and vice-grip our hearts.It’s these big griefs that stick with us for long periods of time (arguably, the rest of our lives in some way or another). They change our lives in ways we hadn’t expected, and we’re forced to adapt to these new big-grief lifestyles.
Adapting to a new lifestyle is really hard work on its own. Adapting to a new lifestyle you haven’t chosen while you’re really sad? Yeah, that’s extremely difficult.
So, it’s no surprise that we learn things along our way through big grief, especially in the early months/years. Here I am in month 5, learning and growing and changing exponentially. It’s hard to put a lot of the ways in which this is happening into words, but I’m going to do my best.
What Grief is Teaching Me
The World is Full of Beauty
Probably not what you were expecting me to say first, right? Well, once you’ve hit the lowest of lows, the highs are higher. This is the driving force of a lot of the things I’m learning from grief, in fact. That lowest low paints the world in so much beauty, and points out amazing things I may not have noticed, picked up on, or experienced without my losses (Jonah and my mom). It’s all so very bittersweet.
The fresh air in my lungs, the hot sun on my body, the songs of birds, the feel of soft clothing on my skin, the smell of a lavender bubble bath, the tingle of the goosebumps that pop up as I lower myself into warm water, the loving touch of my husband’s hand in mine – I’m experiencing all of this to a greater degree, with my heart sliced open.
Beautiful things are more beautiful when glimpsed through the veil of grief.
Having All the Feels is Important
There are many things in life that make you feel. Some things bring tears, some smiles, some that swelling feeling in your chest when love overflows. I’ve learned that there’s a really fine line in between allowing yourself to feel emotions (which you should) and controlling your response to them.
For instance, grief understandably brings painful feelings on a daily basis. There are emotional triggers absolutely everywhere – on TV, at the grocery store, in my Facebook feed, on the radio – everywhere. These triggers make me have emotions, which is normal and fine and nobody would expect anything otherwise. You have to feel them. Let them wash over you and recognize what it is you’re feeling. My therapist always tells me it’s okay to feel whatever it is I’m feeling, so that’s what I tell myself.
I think, though, that while you can’t really control the feelings you’re having, you can control how you respond to them in the long term. You can let the injustices and griefs in your life hold you down and make you bitter and angry, or you can work on living your life in the best possible way, while still nurturing your grief. It takes time and energy and love for yourself, and it’s ongoing and difficult – it’s a strenuous balance between letting yourself grieve and still managing to live.
Find Your Village
Surround yourself with those who love you and those who understand what you’re going through. Yes, those two groups of people are often separate. Many of the people in your life who love you likely haven’t lost a baby, but their love for you is more important. While spending time with those people is a salve, spending time with people who actually understand what I’m going through has facilitated some of my most important moments of healing.
In person, I was able to attend a support group and connect with a few mamas who’ve become friends. I also rely heavily on my therapist (whose first child was stillborn full-term) to guide me through my grief.
Although I’ve learned a ton, this post is long enough for now, eh? Love to all <3