Before loss, I never thought a cup of coffee could bring me to tears. I never thought a minor error could trigger thoughts of, “Why is my life so hard? So unfair? So full of pain?”
I never imagined a minor inconvenience could bring me to my knees because I was the mama who made it through the D&Es without tears. I was the mama who held it together through a nine-week-old’s memorial service without crumbling.
But that cup of coffee made with milk I couldn’t drink? That could bring me to my knees.
Grieving parents, parents who experience trauma – we put all our energy into surviving the big, the scary, the impossible. We put so much energy into surviving life’s nightmares that we have nothing left for life’s minor inconveniences.
Rebecca Pearson from This is Us has her grocery store meltdown, and it’s the most accurate depiction of grief slipping out during life’s inconveniences. She put all her energy into surviving her nightmare; there was no energy left for an item being out of stock.
It Was Only Coffee, But It Was Also So Much More
Not too long after the loss of the nine-week-old we loved, I ordered breakfast delivery. The delivery service forgot the coffee. I was suddenly filled with rage. I felt the entire weight of life’s unfairness pushing down on me.
If I had to say goodbye to a baby, the least I could have is the little things working out.
I mustered everything to get out of bed that morning. I used all my strength to make sure the kids had something to eat even though I had no appetite.
I ordered delivery when going to the grocery store felt too risky. I didn’t want to crumble like Rebecca.
How could life allow any more unfairness? Even though it was such a small thing, it felt huge. I lost it. I crumbled. I sobbed. I threw things. All because of coffee, but it was so much more.
I suddenly understood how an otherwise sound person could just completely crumble in public like Rebecca. I suddenly realized how much energy goes into not being the person screaming that life isn’t fair.
And then, I suddenly realized that if I was the sound person slipping, if Rebecca represented a rational person who did slip, how many people around me are also one minor inconvenience away from snapping?
The Grieving, The Traumatized, They’re All Around Us
Sure, there are likely some people out there who are unreasonable. However, how many grumpy customers are carrying the weight of years just surviving loss and trauma?
How many who seem overly emotional are true survivors who just hit one too many inconveniences?
We’ve all heard it, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” but to truly live it, is to understand its meaning truly.
And perhaps specific to the bereaved, the traumatized parents left behind, it’s merely – be patient.
Hold space for the seemingly unreasonable meltdowns. For every ounce of strength, every ounce of patience is all used up for survival.
When I made it to my daughter’s appointment, knowing they would ask about the newborn – not being able to find parking was too much.
Suddenly my husband’s choice of vehicle was the problem. He was the reason for this inconvenience, and it wasn’t okay. What was a simple solution, just parking elsewhere, became too much.
I used all my energy to prepare what I will say when they ask about the baby. I used all my strength to go to that appointment and face the questions.
And suddenly, he became the scapegoat – the tangible person to hold my anger. It wasn’t okay, of course, and apologies were made, but with trauma and grief, it takes time to learn to live with them.
It takes time to have the energy left to handle life’s inconveniences.
Because I Couldn’t Scream At Life, I Screamed About Mistakes
How can you be angry at something that isn’t anyone’s fault? When a wanted girl doesn’t survive a pregnancy due to chromosomal abnormalities, who gets your anger?
Life isn’t fair. Things aren’t perfect. But that anger, that need to blame, it can sit with nowhere to go.
When a little mistake is someone’s fault, that sitting anger can seep out.
In the days following the still ultrasound, I didn’t scream at the doctor for getting me to the OR for my D&E six hours late, leaving me starving and uncomfortable. She couldn’t help if the OR is backed up.
She thanked me for being far more patient than most. I was still managing to hold it together.
Internally, I was screaming. If I need yet another D&E, the least it could be was easy. But I still held it together. There was no one to be angry with. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.
But that anger, the feeling of unfairness, it continued to sit with nowhere to go.
When I ordered delivery in the days following my D&E, yet again too scared to go to the store, the coffee came with milk in it – which I was allergic to. I managed to carry it inside, thank the delivery person.
And then I proceeded to sob.
If I had to say goodbye to another, couldn’t I at least get coffee? Couldn’t I be spared inconvenience?
I text my husband ranting about life’s unfairness. He ordered me more coffee. I grew a bit; I didn’t blame him. He grew a bit, held the space and didn’t call out my overreaction.
The next coffee also had milk.
Really, life? God, come on, how much do you think I can carry? More anger. More frustration. More weight of life’s unfairness felt pushing down.
And then he ordered another coffee. Perhaps not understanding my overreaction but learning to hold the space for it.
It finally came without milk. I could finally breathe again.
It was never about the coffee. It was never about Rebecca needing onions. The energy to survive leaves no room for inconvenience.
We survive the nightmares, so sometimes we cannot withstand the littlest inconvenience.