Tonight I went to the visitation for the mom of a friend I’ve known for years. Her mom was incredibly joyful and so too was her visitation, but the grief was still palpable. I stayed long enough to let my friend know that I was there, that I cared, and that I mourned her loss, but left when it felt too heavy. Grief is an unwelcome guest.
When I visited my wise friend Erin in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, I had what Ryan likes to call a ‘mini breakdown’ in the parking lot of a Home Depot as he and Erin’s husband Eric corralled our collective 4 children into painting a firetruck (S.) and goal posts/jewelry holders (Erin & Eric’s two girls). Neither seemed surprised when we walked in from our separate car 15 minutes later, my eyes red. It is unspeakably comforting to be among friends close enough to not have to explain yourself.
At any rate, this particular mini-breakdown was ignited by Erin asking how I was doing with not being pregnant. (The unspoken undertone being that everyone around me… is…) I spoke about how much I loved S., but grieved the aspects surrounding a pregnancy that are not remotely a part of the way in which we’ve become parents to our fantastic kid- more so than just grieving my inexplicable inability to procreate with my husband to produce a mini-us. I grieve the excitement at a shower; my sister and friend Lola threw me a fantastic one, but it was tinged with sadness as there was no forseeable baby to imagine watching the mobile we created or turtle up into the swaddling blankets. I grieve the joy people willingly produce when confronted with a pregnant woman; people don’t know quite how to react to fostering which results in innocent but inappropriate questions about his birth mom or what happened to him.
When S. came to us, people assumed that everything was ‘fine’ now. That I wouldn’t be sad anymore. I am partially to blame for this as I was vocal about not caring where our child came from and I still agree with this. I just didn’t take into account how very DIFFERENT the ‘birthing’ process would be from having a biological child and adopting someone else’s.
Erin, my intuitive friend, told me that I was mourning the loss of the pregnancy I always assumed I would have. She spoke about how unwilling our society is to deal with grief. I just read this article which spoke of the exact same idea. I could especially relate to the parts in which she described her longing for the opportunity to sit shivah or wear black for a year as in the Victorian era.
“…old-fashioned mourning customs began to make a lot of sense to me. I understood for the first time why Victorians used to have an entire year of mourning, during which no one expected them to do anything more strenuous than drink tea. All I wanted to do was dress in black so that everyone would know I was grieving, and just sit, staring into the distance, waiting for the next wave of grief to hit, and riding it out with salty tears.”
Thank God, I’m not in these depths right now, but I have been for a multitude of reasons over the years and I’m pretty certain that my friend who lost her mother and my friend who lost her husband will continue grieving below the surface far beyond the time our society allots for such things (“Take a week off work and pull yourself together.”). Grief is so different for so many reasons, but adjusting to a life that is new in a way dictated by loss may actually have been better served by the Victorians with their antiquarian black mourning clothes which would mutely announce to the world, “Yes, I can function in general society, but despite the exterior I am portraying to you, I am STILL sad.” In a fast paced world, some things may have been better left alone, as not everything was meant to move at lightning speed.