As I sit here, my toes sliding into the sand, the warmth of the sun on my face and the gentle rolling waves playing in the background as the soundtrack to my day, a tear rolls down my cheek. I realise that I am alone and that I really do need to face the reality of what has happened. As I observe the family next to me recording the happy memories of their child’s first beach holiday I acknowledge that life is not normal.
After each miscarriage my greatest struggle has always been dealing with my grief. As the physical pain eases I am left to face a new and frightening reality of a life I never asked for. I have regularly cried out for someone to provide a guide that tells me exactly how I should feel and how long it will take to recover from losing a child but I don’t think it exists. After my fifth miscarriage this year I finally realised I didn’t actually know how to grieve. You’d think that after so many losses I’d be an expert, but in reality I didn’t have a clue. I thought the fewer tears you cried, the better you were coping.
I’ve realised now, that’s rubbish.
The only way I thought I could ‘move on’ was to ignore the sadness and remain numb; drifting through life but not living it. The numbness I’d come to believe was grief, was in fact me avoiding grief. My sadness for what I had lost was so great that I was scared that if I let go and truly expressed how I felt I would never stop crying and lose control of my life. This however, was not the case. In failing to express my grief I was failing to live. I was just letting myself stay stuck at the numb stage. I had to move on, I had to express how I felt. Now once I started to let go it was not pretty. I could cry anywhere and because I was so focused on learning to grieve, location or present company could no longer stop my tears. I probably wasn’t the easiest person around but the freedom I experienced was amazing. I felt as though I was alive again. Have you ever noticed how a cup of tea and some food tastes so much better after you’ve had a good cry? I think it’s because in that moment you’re truly alive. You’re being fully human in expressing your weakness and your sadness.
Now I’m not saying that once you’ve had a good cry and a slap up meal you’ll suddenly feel loads better, in my case you’ll need a good few more months of tears. And these tears won’t stop, the grief never totally disappears it just becomes less acute.
Walter Brueggemann speaks of ‘grief as a precondition to joy’, a pattern that can be found throughout the Bible; of mourning to dancing, despair to hope, death to new life, a reality that will only be fully realised in heaven. This glorious promise however comes at a cost, for the grief must be lived out, there are no quick fixes or fast tracks. The Bible is not full of Christians with limp handshakes and fake smiles, it’s jam-packed full of God followers who cry and shout, hide, get depressed and run away but those same people also sing with joy, celebrate peace and live in hope. I really want to be joyful, to rejoice in everything life has to bring and be freed from the weight of grief. But I know from experience that I must go through the sadness before I can enjoy this freedom once more. This is not to say there won’t be moments of joy within the painful times. There have and will always be shared meals with friends, great coffee and chats on the sofa offering respite from the process of grieving. But for now, I must allow myself to grieve.
As I sit on the sand, separated by what seems like a glass box as I merely observe those around me enjoying the seaside, I ‘m ready once more to break free and acknowledge that we lost a baby girl.
I’m here now, for the sixth time, on the edge of what feels like a cliff. Knowing once again that I have to let go of being in control of my emotions and allow myself to express how I truly feel. If I look into my heart right now, it is truly and utterly broken. The pain is actually physical. If I let myself, I know I could cry all night and all day for the loss of life, hope and dreams. Even though I’ve been here before and I know it’ll be ok, I’m still struggling to let go. The sadness is so deep and so raw right now that I hold very little hope for the future. But I know from previous experience that if I don’t jump my life will never move forward, and food will never taste great again.