Where Do You Go With Your Grief?
We were walking in the woods, late in the fall, but there was still color in the trees. Our feet crunched through the leaves and we were walking a little too fast, ever so slightly out of breath.
We had miscommunicated about where to meet and started our walk late. The detailed beauty of the day is lost in my memory now, even as I can vaguely grasp the fading dream of a very blue sky, the rich scent of fermenting fall on its way to winter.
I forget how it came up, but it hit me square in the chest. “I’m pregnant,” she said. I didn’t gasp audibly, but there was an intake to steel myself against the onslaught of feelings and sensations that immediately began to rise up in my body. I didn’t want to cry at this moment; I didn’t want to take away from her joy. I knew she would leave space for me; it’s not as if she’s not sensitive to my situation. She even prefaced her announcement with something about not wanting to hurt my feelings.
As we walk, and I listen, I work to be present to her and also to the feeling of tightness in my chest. I want to have these feelings in private, this grief that seems to lie dormant in my body, only to be ignited with a stray spark of revelation. This is announcement number two in as many days.
I’m a person with a uterus of childbearing age. Everyone around me is pregnant. I am surrounded by pregnant women. My brain adds her to my tally — we’re at 18, or is it 19? — of friends and family who’ve gotten pregnant in the two years since we started trying to conceive our second child. I know every woman who has struggled to get pregnant has felt this way. I know people are getting pregnant and not pregnant and having babies and losing babies all over the place all the time. The logic of this universality is of no comfort to me at this moment.
I make it safely to the privacy of my car, inhaling the comforting smells of my family, in vehicle form. Old fleece blankets and stale granola bars, deflated balloons. and calcified goldfish crackers. My eyes well as I drive home, and the grief fully rises up as I retreat to my bedroom. Thankfully no one else is home. I can wail as loud as I want. No one is there to be freaked out.
Where do you go with your grief? Who wants to share it with you?
Who wants to sit in this painful place, this seat with a sharp edge, this place where the view is blurred by tears, and the pressure in your chest is gripping? It’s just you, feeling like the edges of your body can no longer hold you in. Who wants to sit with you as you see the world as dark? You, knowing full well it will be dawn again, but right now, you need a hand to hold, a friend to talk to, a place to be that has some more love in it than this moment, which feels so painful and so alone.
Here’s the thing about my life right now: I am stupidly rich with space and time and relationships. So, in this slanting afternoon light, I pick up my phone and text a friend. “Hey. You busy?”
“Give me 5,” she shoots back.
I take a deep breath, and hold on. I take a hot shower and weep, crouching down until the grooves of the tiles leave equally deep grooves in my knees. She calls back. I miss it.
Towel on my head, I hear her voice on the other end when I return the call. Through the shower steam. Across a time zone. Full of love and compassion, full of willingness to hear it all, whatever I’ve got. Weepy and gaspy and stammering, I tell her when I am, in this place that feels hard and tiny and dark right now, even as I sit in a pool of beautiful Vermont sunlight.
She sits with me. She doesn’t hustle me to a new place, where I get “perspective” on my situation. She doesn’t tell me all the facts. She doesn’t pile on. She just gives me space to unpack the bag of my heart, which at the moment is full of grief, full of sad things that I spread out around us in the ether between our phones, and she listens.
When I get off the phone, I feel lighter, and a little less sad. My backpack has fewer items. Like waking, some of my grief slips away as I am witnessed in this moment.
I lift my eyes up into the golden light warming the white pines on our hillside, my eyes taking in the colors. The longing in my heart isn’t gone. The “problem” isn’t solved. And, this moment is new. I take a breath. I am no longer alone. I took my grief to a friend, and she held it with me.