Grief surprised me in so many ways. Of course I was surprised by the death of our baby girl Ginny at 34+ weeks, and grief hit me like a tsunami. At first it felt like shock and numbness. Then it quickly turned to an extremely sharp pain. Although I know it was an emotional pain, in the moment it was indistinguishable from physical pain. It hurt in the same way.
In the days after our loss, the grief morphed into what C.S. Lewis describes in his book A Grief Observed. He said grief feels like fear, a panic anticipation type fear. A fear that you are forgetting something extremely important. He describes that this happens because so much of your life is focused on this person so when they are gone, you feel like you are not doing everything that needs to get done. There is a big empty hole – that makes you panic. Even when I wasn’t thinking about it, that fear would be present, coming out of my subconscious.
Then it slightly morphed into the kind of pain where it feels like a knife is churning your heart and stomach. This pain felt similar to a teenage heartache amplified a thousand times. It constantly nags you. It is tinged with a feeling of regret, then a strong feeling of wanting to go back to when things were good. I just wanted to be pregnant with a living baby again; I wanted Ginny. I thought angrily at the potential of there being multiple dimensions or universes. Is there a universe out there where Ginny was still alive – where Aimee and Daniel keep living their blessed lives free this grief? Why can’t we be them?!
During this time, the worst moments were just after I first woke up in the morning. It was like waking up to a nightmare every day. Somehow it is as if your mind forgets in the night. I would wake up and feel the heaviest emptiness in my belly. The shock would come back for a moment then sorrow would flow over my body and heart. That began each day. As the weeks pass, my mind stopped forgetting in the night. I woke up already knowing. I still had to face it, but it didn’t crash into me.
Distraction wouldn’t help the pain, but it was necessary to prevent a constant state of crying. You physically can’t weep all day long. Even when I was distracted by a funny show or a conversation, my heart would be pulled. It felt as if gravity was stronger for my heart than the rest of my body. It was all I could do to stand up and walk around. It was much more physical than I imagined it would be.
After a while of distraction, I would feel a dark, heavy cloud around me. The sorrow felt like suffering. I read somewhere that there is a difference between grieving and mourning. Grieving is the emotion, while mourning is an outward expression of the grief. You need to relieve the built-up grief through mourning. If I took the time to cry, talk, write, or read about what I was feeling, the dark cloud would lift for a few hours. I would feel a slight lightness in my heart and could think of Ginny with so much love instead of love mixed with pain. I had to start a rhythm of grieving, mourning, grieving, mourning – just to survive. After a while, the cycle was not out of survival. I realized mourning is an expression of love for Ginny. I never wanted to forget her. I never wanted to stop grieving. I want to nurture the grief as if it is my baby to care for.
Grief is so much richer and deeper than I once thought. Before this experience, I thought grief was something to get through, stages you have to successfully walk through to be a healthy and “normal” person again. Through this experience, I now know that grief is not something to get through. It is something to carry with you in your heart always. It isn’t a bad aspect of life; it is an extra fullness of life. Like ocean waves hitting the shore, the gravity of my heart weighs and lightens continuously as I mourn forever. I never knew grief was a type of love. It is a wild love. Although I no longer carry Ginny in my womb, I will always carry her in my heart through the rich, full, loving grief.