“Be kind to yourself and let yourself grieve.”
There’s not much that is wrong with this thoughtful piece of advice, if you are offering it to someone who has grieved before. Offer it to a loss mom too soon and it is almost like telling a person that is afraid of flying to just get in the cockpit and pilot the plane.
Not only is it incredibly scary, but you just don’t know how.
I’d forgotten that there was a time I didn’t know how to grieve. I’d forgotten that there was a time when the sensations of pain that define my grief were so unfamiliar and frightening. I’d forgotten that there was a time I didn’t know how to breathe through my sobs, how to soothe my aching, empty arms, or how to calm the angry, sad, and crazy-making voices in my head.
And then I was reminded, in the very worst way possible, when my very close friend unexpectedly lost her almost 2 year old daughter.
To be there… really, be there for her, I need to go back to that place of grief. I need to walk through the shoes I walked when I was learning to grieve. I need to hold her hand and help her through the unimaginable ups and downs, the turns that are sharper than knives and the pains that feel like they can truly kill you from the inside out.
Her loss is different than mine, and I don’t know how she will get through, but I do know is that she will. One second at a time. And she will learn to grieve. And she will learn to ride those waves until she recognizes their strength so she can be kind to herself through them. More than anything, I hope that I can teach her to open herself up to the grief. It is stronger than she knows, because it is all of her love, being expressed in ways it was never meant to be. And her love is stronger than she knows. And that love is also what will carry her through, minute to minute and day to day.
Learning to grieve is a process. We are torn from our cozy worlds and thrust into a cockpit and told to fly this plane. There is no escaping, not even when you try to crash the plane to make it stop. The only way through is by learning to fly. Each in our own way, our own time and with our own techniques to get us through the turbulence. And the beautiful part- and hear me clearly: We Can All Learn To Fly.
I feel gratitude to my own little girls who taught me to fly as I learned how to grieve them. It is a skill that makes me a better person and hopefully a better friend. It my greatest joy to share my girls with others who are in pain so the lessons they taught me can help me to help others. Our losses are our most painful gift. They are our most bittersweet blessing and I believe that when they are done burning through our very souls, they leave among the ashes little flames inside us. Flames that can ignite into fires that have the power to truly change the world.
I don’t believe there is a reason our babies die. But I believe with every ounce of my soul there is a tremendous reason why they lived.