I Wish Grief was a Ferris Wheel
Some people love going to amusement parks; they love the joyful atmosphere and the smell of hot dogs mixed with the sweet taste of fairy floss. But most of all, they love the crazy rides. The more time spent upside down and the more speed, twists and turns the ride has, the better. No tame, spinning teacups for them!
But I have to confess, I am not one of those people, not in the slightest! I’m the person who will happily volunteer to hold handbags and backpacks while my friends indulge their desire for thrills, a desire which is totally incomprehensible to me. When given the choice between a roller coaster and a Ferris Wheel, the Ferris Wheel wins. Every. Single. Time. I have zero interest in zipping around corners at high speeds whilst hanging upside down with only a slim metal bar holding me in place. My mind goes too far down the “what if…” trail and I can never enjoy the ride. I don’t mind if others do, it’s just not my thing. At all.
A Ferris Wheel I can handle. A steady route, slower speeds and no feeling of being out of control. I like its predictability and the fact that it’s not wild enough enough to need to strap in. It’s still an amusement park ride, but it’s gentle. Steady. Calm.
At an amusement park, you can choose which rides to go on. Spinning teacups for little children, roller coasters for the adventurous and Ferris Wheels for those who like things on the tamer side. In an amusement park, there are rides to suit everyone.
Grief does not care if you do not like wild rides, it will take you on one. Grief is not content to let you stand and hold your friend’s handbag while they ride. Grief doesn’t care if you only signed up for the spinning teacups. No. Grief pulls you in and you are at the mercy of its emotions. And the grief that results when your baby dies is the ride that not even the most adventurous person wishes to experience.
Grief is not a predictable. In fact, the only predictable thing about grief is its unpredictability. One day, seeing a friend’s baby will make you sob uncontrollably. The next day grief will have you desperately asking to hold that baby, just so your arms aren’t aching with emptiness, if only for a moment. Grief is what makes you burst into tears just seconds after laughing so hard your belly aches. Grief doesn’t give you time to enjoy the view as you ride, you are too busy simply holding on so you don’t fall. Just as you get used to one thing, grief jerks you away to face another. And just when you’ve caught your breath, it sends you into a loop.
Too often, the world doesn’t recognise this. The world tells you about the stages of grief, as if they are to be progressed through in an orderly fashion, with each stage not to be revisited once it is completed. The world expects grief to move in a predictable, observable fashion, just like a Ferris Wheel. If it doesn’t, and you experience “too many” twists and turns, the world may not know what to do. You should be on a Ferris Wheel, but you are not.
As baby loss parents, we know better. Grief is a roller coaster that takes us on a ride we weren’t ready for, a ride for which we did not volunteer. There are times when we feel we cannot hold on any longer, times when the sudden changes grief brings take our breath away, and times when all we can do is throw our hands in the air and submit to the ride.
But we aren’t alone on this roller coaster. Unlike a Ferris Wheel, when each couple is in their own carriage, baby loss parents ride this roller coaster together. Our losses join us together; some are just further along the ride than others. If you’re overcome by the ride of grief, reach out to the person just ahead of you. They’ve been where you are, they can offer assistance. Let them. Some of us are blessed to have someone right beside us on this crazy, unwelcome ride. If that is you, don’t take it for granted. Some people would do anything to not be so alone on this journey. If you do have someone alongside you, share the ride with them. Scream together, cry together, even laugh together when the ride allows. And if you hear a scream from behind you, look back if your current position on the ride allows. Offer them hope that while it is undeniably hard, they can get through it. Because they can, and perhaps they just need another person on the ride to remind them. Together, we can survive this roller coaster, particularly as the holiday season is upon us.
Grief. It’s no Ferris Wheel. It’s a roller coaster; a crazy, tumultuous roller coaster. But we’re not on it alone. And that’s why we’ll get through.