Laura Rennie

a PSA on my grief

Laura R.6 Comments

Why is this what there is for me to write about? Why does this have to touch EVERY little aspect of my life? I often feel I’m stuck in a Groundhog Day-like replay of tragic realities. Each morning when I wake up I’m reminded that I’m not pregnant, that I’ve lost not one but two babies, that my junk room is still a junk room and has never been a nursery.

You cannot possibly know how I’m feeling or what I’m needing at any given minute. I can’t expect you to say the right things or do the right things at all the right times. We’re both in tough positions. Navigating what to say and where to go from here is uncomfortable and painful for me, too. I wrote about how to help a grieving a friend after I lost John, but some of my own suggestions don’t apply to where I’m at in my current grief.

Yeah. It’s complicated.

Here’s what you need to know:

I don’t really know how to tell you how I’m doing. (This is how I’m doing.) I don’t know how to tell you how Andy’s doing. All I know is that we’re sad and angry on the inside but that we are trying to make life as tolerable as possible for one another. One minute we might be doubled-over laughing and the next minute I might be ugly crying. I believe there were three days in August that were free of tears. August was a miserable month.

I can’t be in charge of keeping our friendship afloat. I am often the person who pursues, who keeps conversations going. I can’t do that right now. If you could see inside my head you would be all, giiiiirl, let me get you some chocolate and a pillow. Cut me a LOT of slack, and step up! I need you more than ever.

Most social situations give me anxiety right now. Getting me to come to any event might be like pulling teeth. Don’t take offense—even being around my own family is difficult for me sometimes. I think I look normal and functional on the outside, but on the inside my brain is screaming my babies are dead! I hate my life! It’s exhausting being me right now.

Yes, I know therapy is an option. Yes, I’ve thought about it. Right now that’s all I want to discuss on that topic. (It’s not that I’m resistant to therapy. I’m just resistant to talking about it. Again, cut me some slack.)

And since I’m already on a roll here… I really don’t like being asked what “my plan” is. I don’t feel capable of forming a plan right now. My basic plan is to get through each day.

I know. This is a lot to take in. Blog readers be like wut.

(Notice I’ve used the phrase “right now” five times. I don’t know how long it will take for these feelings and frustrations to fade, but I know some day it won’t be quite as hard as it is right now.)

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing." A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to "get through it," rise to the occasion, exhibit the "strength" that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief was we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.” 
― Joan Didion, "The Year of Magical Thinking"