There are large grief’s...the ones that pummel you and knock all the air from your lungs. That cause your stomach to empty of all it's desire. The ones that weaken our knees and send us falling through the floor into the sinking loss of heart. It takes each soul captive in different ways. Sometimes it's gentle and warm; holds you to it's breast and lets you burrow into an embrace that speaks to your pain...and holds no judgment in how you process it all. And then sometimes it's bitter-laced-lips kiss you square in the face with the duplicitous sorrow of loss at a time where joy was just blooming.
And then there are small grief’s...which can masquerade as little cracks in a floor you are sure cannot give way. And yet, their weight can challenge even the most perilously heavy grief’s. There can be no judgment here, in this world, for what grief’s will consume us. Grief's visage is unique to every soul. It takes away and strips us bare...yet layers us underneath with new skin, new understanding and throbbing gratefulness for what is still vibrant.... up on the surface. It tumbles over us, sends us shivering. It's gauzy filter can dull the world in a cruel haze. And, while each grief is so singular, the wake it leaves is like an intricate stamp of kinship one to another. For, what grief we each experience...we can then recognize the same burden in another; the distinctive curve of the shoulders stiffened by an invisible load.
I have grieved many things as a mother. I have grieved the first small soul that peered up at me on repeat. Up from that ragged towel that he was swaddled within...rushing wind from the window rippling over our skin as my heart raced watching the labor of his breathing, the heave of his chest, the blue hue of his lips. He did not grow within my womb...but instead found his very first home within my arms. His eyes gazed intently at me as the steady, panicked horn called out it's urgency amidst the frenzy of dusty cars on that Chinese street. He taught me first of the stretch and the give and the love of a mother. My Noah. I still feel the loss of him. Though more than 10 years have passed him from my arms. I have grieved the loss of hopes and dreams deferred. I have grieved the burden of time; it's lightning-lips fast-talking me; out of time. I have grieved the distance from family. I have grieved the loss of control. Oh, and sickness + pain. I have grieved the nearness of loss that clung nearby as I watched my elf-ling Fern fight her way back to me. I have grieved the shift that becoming a mother has inherently affected my professional aspirations. No job can ever alight my soul in the same way as this one: motherhood. I have grieved the way I am...the way my soul finds voice. Because it can polarize and intimidate and fall sour on a soul that has misinterpreted it. And, there is no magic to remedy some of those woes. I grieve my own fatigue, because there is still so much undone to tend to at the end of each day.
Grief has no timeline. No expiration; no expectations. No requirements. It doesn't discriminate. It carries the same weight.... whether it is large or small. It is vast and it is consuming. It utters words from another language that only those who have grieved can decode. It demands our attention. It deserves our attention. The truth is, it is not uncommon to grieve at the same time as rejoice. So much in life is cruelly mixed up in a mad sort of reciprocal relationship.
So, postpartum depression...or postpartum anxiety...should never be thought to be the same length of our maternity or paternity leaves, or until our children are weaned, or when our faces start to regain the creases under the eyes when learning to smile again. It's name simply points to the weight of selflessness this takes; motherhood. The body transforms...it's remapped and reprogrammed into a new thing. The chemical cascade kisses every cell within us. We are new. And, with that can come the crushing, paralyzing realization that this is too holy a thing for us to accomplish. How can we do this? Raising lives...raising souls...raising hearts that will go beyond the bounds of what we could have ever traveled alone: to love.
The night I first assisted in a code blue resuscitation as a newborn intensive care nurse, I felt something powerful. As I drew up medication after medication into syringes to stimulate a heart, counting out minutes as if they were hours; watching that methodical dance of numbers on a screen, I recognized my own humanity. And I marveled at my hands...in a beautiful marriage with my brain...engaging the world in that moment. I was a part of saving; rescuing, returning this soul to his mother's arms. And, in some small way...I felt my own mother in my hands...and her mother...and her mother's mother too. And, as I drove home on a snow-dusted road, my eyes bleary and coated with a thin residue of shock...I wept for my mother. I wept...for what a wonder it must be to know that what you set out to do in the world, as a broken soul...fearing that you were no fit for the task...you instead opened your eyes to the humbling knowledge that you were the arms to cradle a soul that would effect the world in ways your own hands never knew how to. We are extensions of our ancestors...and of a Creator. And, what a marvelous joy to watch souls hewn from our own...do what we could never have imagined.
So, tend to that grief as tenderly as you do your children. Hold it and know it. Learn the language that it speaks within your soul. Give it breath and give it time. Give yourself the grace to learn what it needs. Know you are only one in amongst the throng of women swaying in step with your pain. You are not alone.
Written by, Heather Gemmers