Grief, Growth and Gratitude

Oh the confusing nature of grief.

This is our fourth go around with the anniversary of our baby daughter.
We lost her to a late miscarriage at about 20 weeks.
I still got to deliver her, but the experience of birthing a dead child into the world was vastly different to delivering a live and healthy child. Obviously.

It was an odd night, with health care professionals all at crossed (and cross) purposes, no one seemed to understand what I was telling them, I traveled the bowels of the hospital several times, seemingly on some absurd mystery tour, and when we finally fetched up at a ward, I was left alone, despite being ready to push, and I had to send my husband out to jivvy them along.

Birthing your child into a cardboard bedpan, with a sea of sky-blue clad medical people all milling around a sky-blue room, flooded with harsh light

– only one of whom seemed to have a grasp on the situation –

is not the tender and loving environment birth should try to be. Even for a dead child.

But so it was.

In many ways the situation had a kind of macarbre comedy to it, although not one I would wish to repeat.

I find myself thinking about it again, as the anniversary looms up in the latter half of Autumn – and I always long to do something beautiful and meaningful with the day, something to redeem the loss a little – to mark it in celebration of her exceptionally short life, and the seemingly disproportionate volume of love we have for her. Yet each year for some reason or other I find that this is out of my capacity. I am too tired, emotionally drained and flat, and all I really want to do is sleep.

Such is grief.
It’s so tiring.

Window doodling…

Today I have tried to connect with my other four children, one of whom is a baby himself. Tried to engage in more cuddles, play with toys, and do something creative.
Some of this has been successful, and lovely. I drew pictures of random flowers on the garden doors, played colours with my elder son, and watched the classic BBC Pride and Prejudice with my eldest, whose own grief over the past week, has been pretty full on too.

But at the same time, I have been exhausted. I didn’t sleep well, eldest joined us in bed with two of her siblings last night, and I was too hot and squashed, particularly whilst nursing the youngest throughout the night. Today the baby has been grisly, and I have also been flat, sad and checked out.

When my husband came home, we had an impromptu worship session with the guitar and singing, in our gorgeous spare room. The kids were all there, either singing or dancing along, and my heart was simultaneously filled with gratitude for the beautiful family we are blessed with, and deep sadness that there should be another little one there, dancing in the mix.

In a bizarre way, I always find myself suprised when, come the middle of October (a month ahead of her birthday), I begin to notice that my emotions are more fluid, and I have that familiar, intermittent, sunken feeling, kind of like a dull ache in the pit of my stomach.

Whereas throughout the year, I do think of her from time to time – I mean I obviously haven’t forgotten her – I don’t feel that constant clawing at my heart many others have described. Even when I speak of her, that we have five children – four ‘on the ground’, one in heaven – I can acknowledge that it has hurt and is rubbish, but that I am alright – because I am usually. I know where she is, that I will see her again, and can honestly say that it is well with my soul.

But this time of year, grief creeps up and I have discovered that I need to sit with it, not to try too hard to understand it, not run away, rushing it through.

This grief is part of loving.

Cassie @Create, Perform & Mother

It is not a lack of faith or hope for the future, but an honouring of the gift of life, and the pain of death. A recognition that if we cannot lament when things go wrong, then we will struggle to wholeheartedly rejoice.

Bessel Van Der Kolk wrote the amazing book on trauma, ‘The Body Keeps The Score’, within which are countless examples of how the body holds and processes it’s trauma and stress, so is it any wonder, that the profound nature of birth and death, stored within my collective cell memory, still arrests me at this time each year?
She is part of my bodily history – the beauty and trauma of birth, born witness to by my body.

But perhaps the real redeeming feature of this whole process, is that I loved and continue to love someone who was barely passing through. That this little girl so precious to us, whom though we barely knew, remains part of us, part of our family.

Perhaps the awesome gift of life – that which has been lost, as well as that which remains -is the hero of this piece.

By allowing myself simply to surrender to the weirdness of the grieving process, I can more fully understand what I have lost, treasure these children and the memories we still get to make. In seizing each opportunity to deepen relationship with the people entrusted to me now, I honour her life with my gratitude.