I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor and a blank post titled “About Grief,” for days, and I always end up closing it. When I’m laying in bed at night after I’ve finished reading but before sleep comes, I feel it approaching. It’s as if this toxic, tar-filled bubble slowly expands in my chest and threatens to suffocate me. I keep picturing myself like one of those poor ducks in the Dawn commericals after an oil spill… unable to move because their feathers are coated and weighed down by the sticky mess. I mentioned that analogy to my mom and noted that the threat of the bubble popping inside me feels like I’ll end up like those ducks, trying to muck my way through hazardous sludge, but making no progress. She sagely argued that perhaps NOT allowing that bubble to burst, and instead trying to manage and maintain it and push it away was doing the exact thing I feared.
Grief is a murky, muddy, amorphous beast. It isn’t easily identified or readily solved. This year has been marked by the most thrilling and tangible joy I’ve ever known, but also by aching grief and such poignant loss. As Nora Beth’s birthday draws ever closer, my heart isn’t quite sure how to handle it. Yes, of course closing out the first year of her gorgeous life is bittersweet as she transitions from baby to toddler, but more than that, her birth date marks a senseless tragedy in our family, which has left my heart bereft. At the same time that I’m struggling to understand, unpack or categorize my feelings over that unnecessary divide, I’m wading through the depths of pain at the loss of our pregnancy. Until yesterday I was still technically pregnant. I had ugly complications following the D&E procedure, and it wasn’t until 42 days post-diagnosis of my blighted ovum that our doctor could tell me, “It’s finished.” I was pregnant with nothingness much longer than I was pregnant with that tiny, invaluable, perfect life that I’ll never know beyond the magnanimous, all-too-fleeting flickers of joy we felt in the days that we knew there was life at all.
My friends who know the details of the past 11 months kindly ask how I’m doing. I don’t know. Fine? Terrible? Good? Stricken? I don’t really know what my options are. At night I wrestle with that unruly and all-consuming grief bubble and try to keep it from covering me in wild torrents of anger, resentment, betrayal, hopelessness, fist shaking, and devastation. In the morning, I get up, I scoop up my flawless daughter, nurse her, get breakfast ready, laugh with my husband, pack his lunch, read her books (so. many. books.), put her down for a nap, get work done, go to meetings, prep dinner… I DO things. The days are full of so much goodness and light and also punctuated with moments that leave me breathless and nearly doubled over in pain… pictures of adoring fathers with their daughters, a couple announcing their new pregnancy on the day we were planning to make the same proclamation, a gender reveal, grandparents meeting their new grandchild with wonder. It’s just too raw for my frayed heart. The losses have left me too empty. I seem only able to think or talk about both in terms of them happening to someone else. I can’t quite make them personal. It’s too much. As I explained my need to withdraw myself from both situations, my closest friend pointed out that perhaps that was unhealthy. Of course she’s right (she rarely is).
Then I have moments like last night, when I laid Nora Beth down for bed and she sweetly pulled her blanket over her face and then quickly back down laughing… she initiated Peek-a-B00, and we played together laughing and laughing before she held my face while I kissed her good night, and I reluctantly turned out the light. Those moments help deflate the bubble of darkness that lies in wait (or “in weight,” probably more accurately). They fill the emptiness. They remind me that even in the grief my cup isn’t leaking. It is overflowing. Oh, it is overflowing with so much richness.
I will never know why God compassionately shook His head and did not allow miracles to happen within the prayers I poured my heart and pleas and tears and soul into. I don’t know why my hope and expectant faith seems to be for naught. I don’t know why I’m being tossed along the rivers of grief grappling for a floatie. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter. It. Does. Not. Matter. Because it isn’t about me after all. I refuse to be a “why me,” person. Why not me? There is nothing about me that is so marked with goodness that I shouldn’t bear these burdens. I refuse to let my grief overcome me and incapacitate my wings. In fact, maybe learning to swim in these waters, and learning how to stretch my burdened, tired, and leaden wings despite the storms that are yearning to overwhelm me, is exactly the point.
There is freedom even in the admission that this is all too much. If it weren’t, there would be no need for reliance on a masterful Creator and Savior at all. The grief… it will not end. But it will become bearable… the tsunami giving way to waves that still crash, only not quite as violently, leaving in its wake a heart full of deeper joys, more authentic gratitude and greater empathy. The grief is valid. The feelings are valid. The struggles are real. The fight is vicious. And your heart is worth something. It is worth something to the emotions threating to overpower it, and it is worth the battle it will require to take it back. I know this assurance: that the things that are noble, good, right and true are more powerful and richer than the weight of what is wrong, but it’s impossible to know until you let it go and fly.
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 63:7