Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I wish it wasn't this hard

On Facebook, someone recently shared the link to an article titled "Old Man's Advice To Grieving Woman Goes Viral."  I read it because it was about grief and that particular topic is relevant to me at this point of my life.  Apparently a young woman made a post on Reddit following the death of her friend and seeking advice on grief.  Another Reddit member who calls himself an "old man" wrote a beautiful response to the young woman, and even though it was over four years ago, it is just now going viral.

In part, the "old man" wrote:
As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. 
Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out. 
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too.
I thought about his response in the context of infertility and grieving the loss of my children (even though for me they were just a dream) and it is so true.  I can say that the metaphor of waves is so appropriate.  In the beginning the waves were so high and so close together that I really didn't know if I'd make it out on the other side.  With time the waves decreased in both intensity and I've learned to identify when they are likely to come and how to survive them.

Right now I'm in a phase where I'm getting battered by a few waves.  Since I found out that my third sister is pregnant I've been having a pretty tough time.  I can't really explain it.  It's not the breakdown/ugly cry variety of a tough time, more the variety where I feel like a black cloud is following me around.  I thought the first would be the hardest.  Then came the second.  And now the third.  I think that maybe it's because I'm the last one.  Because before she was pregnant at least I wasn't the only one who didn't have kids.  But now I'm alone.  I'm not angry.  I knew this was going to happen at some point.  But even though it was expected, it's still hitting hard.  The weight of the unfairness is heavy.  I feel vulnerable.  With as much as I'm trying hard not to, I'm slipping into a pity party and I don't like it one bit.  I know this is normal.  I've been through it before.  I'll survive.

Grief is a fickle thing.  I need to acknowledge my feelings and give myself permission to feel them to get through this.  I wish it wasn't this hard.

13 comments:

  1. I just saw this in my feed the other day and agreed that it was a beautiful description - especially the part about waves hitting when you might not expect it. I'll think I'm doing OK and then something random happens and I end up in a puddle. There are the obvious triggers, but I'm always surprised by the unexpected ones. For example, a good friend posted a picture of her 6 month old in a t-shirt we gave her the other day and I couldn't stop thinking about it for a few days.

    I can only imagine what it must be like to have all your sisters have babies. Sounds totally normal that this would hit you hard. It is hard to be left out of this parenting thing. Sending you big hugs.

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    1. It is the unexpected ones that are so hard! The others I can anticipate and prepare for. I totally get how something seemingly innocent can stick in your mind for days....it's hard.

      It'll be close, but by the time this pregnancy is over, all three of my sisters will have given birth in one calendar year (or just a tad bit over) and I will have had at least one sister pregnant for 22 consecutive months. Feeling left out has never been so prevalent.

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  2. That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. You are most welcome! How have you been?

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  3. Thanks for sharing this grief depiction. Spot on. I totally get your inexplicable feelings and black cloud. Grief is a fickle thing. So sorry this is so hard...

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    1. Thanks, Pamela! It is hard but I know that dealing with the hard now will make it better in the long run. But gosh it sucks!

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  4. I also saw this on Fb, and thought how good it was. My sister - who we had all thought wasn't going to have children - announced her pregnancy five years after I stopped trying to conceive. It was a shock. That black cloud followed me around for a long time - and manifested itself in different ways, ways that I didn't recognise until much later. Just when we think we are doing okay, wham, something hits us, and we feel as if we're about to fall out of the boat, even if the waves were previously gentle.

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    1. Wow! That must have been hard because it was so unexpected. You wrote a post back in January that really spoke to me about "it gets better" I've gone back to it so many times because I guess I just need to read a candid story about getting through it and awesomeness afterwards. Because even though it's hard right now, I will get through this and it will get better! (Unfortunately my bookmark of the post disappeared so I had to search for it-thanks, Google!)

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  5. You are not alone. And yes, you will survive. You are a fighter.
    Hugs across the Atlantic.

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    1. Thanks, K! It's nice to read about your confidence in me when my own self-confidence is wavering a bit.

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  6. Thank you for sharing that response. It is a very appropriate way to describe grief and it is a very poignant description too.

    I think we should allow ourselves to have that pity party, get it out of our system until the next time it comes around because it will but it's okay. It's the moments between these feelings that let us live and carve our own slice of happiness.

    It is hard watching siblings go on to have children when you can't. It's not fair. Sending you hugs and we're all here for you.

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    1. It isn't fair, and I know you are going through this same thing right now too. It is definitely the healthy thing to do to acknowledge feelings and feel them, but I just have to be aware enough to not wallow in self-pity for too long. :)

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  7. Same here, saw that on FB and shared it. (((HUGS))) And yes, this too, shall pass. Take it one day at a time.

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