The frenzy is over. All the difficult decisions are made. The last of family is safely home. Richard is working again. I am at the dining room table, stupefied. Alone, but surrounded by enough flowers, plants, and cards to fill a gift shop, I am again overwhelmed by what everyone has done for us. One thing I never would have thought about prior to this is how much work flowers can be. I love them all, and wouldn’t want to be without any of them, but it’s taken me two full days to take out the ones that are wilting and replace the murky water. Although a fully functional person could probably have done it in half the time it took me. Perhaps I’ll offer to help some grieving person with that in the future.
Maybe I’ll read those pamphlets now. Maybe they’ll tell me what I’m supposed to do. A handful of books have also come my way, with sad but appropriate titles. I’m grateful for those that sent them because it would never have occurred to me to go look for a book. Getting out of bed, showering, and making coffee are like a triathlon; leaving the house to find a book would be about as likely as going to the moon. I am somewhat content at my table drinking too much coffee and staring out the window anyway. Being a morning person, I've enjoyed countless sunrises here. We are situated on the Southeast side of San Francisco, hood adjacent according Richard. But we are in a top corner unit with breathtaking views of the Bay and the East Bay hills beyond. I also love how the setting sun lights up the windows in the distance and makes them flicker like tiny flames. It’s magical. As I stare out the window today though, the beauty is going in one eye and right out the other. I am unable to take it in.
The pamphlets list a number of support groups. We should probably go to one. This is a really big deal, and maybe there’s a right way to go about all this. We’re probably supposed to go to counseling, too, right? But the thought of making phone calls and appointments is too much. I just want to sit here with my coffee and read.
I run across a few very helpful practical tips on grieving. First, grieving is as individualized as we are. Not only do men and women grieve differently, but so does each and every person. This opens my eyes and my heart to allow Richard to work as much as wants. I’ve been thinking that he’s not taking appropriate amounts of time to process. But now I am going to give him more space. Conversely, he recognizes that I am more stoic, and even though I’m not crying all the time, that doesn't mean I'm holding in my emotions. We talk openly, respectfully, and lovingly about what we each need. Why isn’t marriage always this easy?
The second tip is to let all emotions flow through you as they come. Do not judge them, and don’t be afraid of the ugly ones. There’s no going around the grieving process, you must go straight through. If you avoid the scary and ugly thoughts and feelings, they are just going to be scarier and uglier later, after they begin to fester, wherever you’ve tucked them away. They also become difficult to find, like a particular piece of mail buried in an inbox. Emotions fill up your inbox fast, and you have to be diligent about dealing with everything as it comes in. Face it all head on. Though difficult, this is the easiest route through grief. And though I normally need to know what the plan is, I am unusually unconcerned with the stages of grief or tracking my progress. That’s too much to remember right now. My plan is simple, face it all head on.
This tip is huge for me, since I do not understand emotions. Richard and I are somewhat reversed in this way as far as male/female stereotypes go. He’s far better with feelings than I am. Emotions are not logical at all, but here’s a logical plan for dealing with them that I think I understand. They do not have to make sense. They are not right or wrong. (How we choose to react to them is what can be right or wrong.) But I just need to acknowledge them.That’s pretty straight forward. I think that's why I've been so confused emotionally much of my life. I would never admit ugly feelings. I would skip over them and go right to acting the way I thought I should act. But now I know that the ugliest ones are not so ugly when you bring them out of your mouth and into the light, or out of your head and onto paper. When they are swirling around in your head, they seem much more intimidating. Acknowledging them disarms them.
Third tip, there is no correct time frame for grieving. Do not be afraid that you are taking too long, or not long enough. Processing time is unique to each person.
The tips are simple, and I’m feeling reassured that we are doing all the things there are to do, which thankfully doesn’t seem like much. I’m starting to feel like I know what’s going on, and I'm glad I don’t have to come to terms with our situation all over again every time I wake up. I’m also glad I have the six weeks of disability that California offers after childbirth, but it’s hurtful that I don’t qualify for the additional six weeks that are offered for newborn bonding time. Don’t I need that additional six weeks to get over the fact that I can’t bond with my newborn?
As I’m sitting and letting my mind wander, my thoughts return to God. Where was He in all this? Though we were surrounded by family and friends, I feel abandoned by Him. I am disappointed and confused. As I ponder this, the negative thoughts start to drown by the swelling realization that we have not been abandoned by God at all, but insulated – thickly. Every aspect of our lives is being protected while we’re in the most vulnerable stages of grief. Our jobs, our finances, our marriage, our health, everything! I know there are a lot of people praying for us, and I'm thankful, because I can't. I haven't the slightest idea what to say to God right now. But apparently He's listening to all those speaking to Him on our behalf. Some marriages crumble because of situations like this, but somehow, ours seems fortified. Suddenly there is no energy to fight about stupid stuff, so stupid stuff is overlooked. I’ve heard people talk about how tragedy provides perspective about what’s really important in life. Suddenly pretty much everything seems unimportant, except family and friends. It’s like my white board got totally erased. Everything fell away, and the only things that will get put back are things that have a real purpose or add quantifiable value to my life. I simply do not have the energy for lesser things anymore. But my white board will remain blank for quite a while. I am in my boat in the Doldrums, drifting in the windless waters. My sails are sad. I am not even thinking about my course. I am just sitting and staring. And I am really taken with how safe I am feeling in this uncharted place. I feel taken care of, beyond what friends and family can do. It’s like God has been with me all along, and I didn’t even know. One day it would be even clearer that God does not abandon us when things go wrong, it is too often we who abandon God when we don’t like the way things turn out. But all I know right now is that I feel insulated, and it feels divine.