Grief Stories~Waves of Grief

I am so pleased to bring you a story from one of my fellow Sunshine After the Storm contributing authors, Lizzi the non-professional blogger from the beautiful and always truthful blog, Considerings. A deep thinker, truth teller, and seeker of good, Lizzi is the wife to Husby and Mother to two Neverborns, now dealing with the challenge of primary infertility. She explores the cruelty and utter unfairness of early miscarriage and infertility, which women and men often grieve in silence and confusion.

Waves of Grief

There are big waves and little waves,
Green waves and blue.
Waves you can jump over,
Waves you dive through,
Waves that rise up
Like a great water wall,
Waves that swell softly
And don't break at all,
Waves that can whisper,
Waves that can roar,
And tiny waves that run at you
Running on the shore.

Eleanor Farjeon

I knew and loved this poem as a child, but never understood it as a metaphor for grief until late 2012. I’m not even sure the poem is intended as anything other than a pretty description of the movements of the sea, but it made utter sense to me as I’ve tried to come to terms with two early pregnancy losses.

I know there are those who would consider my two children to have ‘not counted’ as ‘real’. Who would dismiss my mourning as over-emotionalisation of a non-event. Or who may acknowledge the dashed hopes and expectations; the snuffing out of potential, but not be willing to grasp the basic scientific fact that, upon conception, what has been created is a human in its very earliest form.

And these human lives, however short, were my children. Perhaps the only two I’ll ever have, as subsequent to the passing of my second ‘Neverborn’ in early 2013, my husband received a diagnosis of primary infertility, due to the rapid progression of a severe endocrine disorder.

I’ve been swamped, overwhelmed and utterly dragged under by this vicious tide of events.

Whether the understanding slowly seeped into my brain or was washed in with the words of another, wiser person, I can’t remember. Those days are too hazy, storm-glazed and opaque as I look back, to determine where the idea first struck me – grief comes in waves.

The first wave was the worst. A tsunami, looming on the horizon, setting the mind spinning “Is that blood? Am I losing my child? So soon? No – it can’t be, it just can’t!” and the dread which became stone cold certainty as the wave loomed closer and, upon confirmation, hit with unimaginable force, sending my soul reeling.

I was utterly unprepared for just how hard this wave would strike, sweeping away not only my hopes and dreams, but my carefully constructed sense of self – what kind of mother can’t hang onto her child? Was I not deserving enough? Too useless to even procreate? Had I done something wrong? Academically I could tell myself that miscarriage happens to 1 in 4 pregnancies; that it was nothing out of the ordinary; that sometimes fetuses just ‘zip up’ wrongly and will never grow beyond a certain stage. Viscerally I was lost.

The waves which came after that were huge, rough, relentless; my heart taking a battering at every turn – how soon could I cope with trying again? What about that awful reminder every month? What about my husband’s health – could we even conceive if we tried? Doctors said yes – then no – then yes again. Then another pregnancy and a stubborn refusal to test or acknowledge it until in the losing of it, the Truth became undeniable. Then the final knell – the sperm count with its (apparently remarkable, though we’d rather it hadn’t been the case) single, solitary swimmer – a drop of opportunity in an ocean of unlikeliness.

Each time I thought I was treading water, another event would bring me back to the horror of that first loss, coupled with the mind-numbing terror that I’d never be able to deliver a live child. And after the second loss, a dread that these children, laid to rest in tiny graves in my mind, would be the only offspring I would know.

But the waves did lessen in intensity. Gradually, imperceptibly, the rigours and routines of daily life took over. I couldn’t stay underwater forever – too much needed doing. I ignored my sea of misery and carried on, doing what needed to be done, even taking up counselling sessions to try to help manage the pain and turbulence.

The waves came further apart. I was better educated now, as to the patterns of grief, and more able to keep them at bay when I walked past baby clothes in the aisle of the grocery store, or saw a tiny newborn snuggled against its happy mother.

I thought I was getting on well and prided myself on ‘getting over it’ but it was a lie – a life half-lived, and a sudden wall of water rose up and took me very deep - I turned to alcohol to block out the pain of loss, the frustration at the impact on my marriage, the distance from my husband. He was cross with me for letting myself get so wasted, and harsh words were exchanged, but gradually the tone changed and we began exchanging Truths.

This wave brought a massive turning point, and as the Truths gave way to tears as I apologised over and over for not being able to nurture our babies, and he apologised for being broken and possibly able to father more, our salt-slicked faces and howls ended up in a curled, sobbing tangle as we both realised that we were just grieving for our Neverborns in different ways, and that we were both hurting massively more than either of us realised. We began to communicate again.

I gradually dragged myself back into the shallows and began to rise, tired, but keen to go on with life. Fed up of crying. Exhausted by the journey. Just hoping for some firm ground beneath my feet and the chance to move forward. It seemed as though the waves of grief were small and lapping at my ankles, but manageable – underfoot and under control.

Then a sneaker wave hit and dragged me back into deep water – I turned 30. That mystical age by which I had always presumed that ‘My Life’ would be underway. I’d be married to a lovely husband, I’d be living in our own little house, and we’d be parents to the first one or two members of a lovely, expanding family. An abyss opened beneath me as I realised the travesty and unrealism of these expectations compared to my reality. So I took the mature response and drowned my sorrows in alcohol again, making myself ill and worrying my friends and family, then spending the next few days apologising, feeling angry, guilty and humiliated.

But again, it was waded through, with my husband, family and friends around me (if concerned about me) and life returned to some semblance of ‘normal’.

The bigger waves have seemed to come more infrequently, and I’ve even begun to see the strange beauty in some of them. I can recognise another who is struggling a deep patch, and try to offer support. I have the small, silver sparkles across the surface, rendered by writing contributions to resources for other women who are going through a similar kind of grief. I am able to connect in new ways, to new people, and share community, encouragement and hope.

The waves of grief, like the sea, will always be there, but they are becoming increasingly manageable, and drag me down for shorter times. One day I anticipate that I will be able to look back at the sea and appreciate the tiny waves of pain and memory, still running on the shore of my life, but no longer overwhelming it, rather contributing to the landscape of the whole.
Connect with Lizzi on her blog, and on Facebook and Twitter. Oh, and please buy our book, too!

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