Every August this part of my story surfaces for me. And although it’s been four years, the grief lives in me, in different ways. I’m bringing this post up from the archives because I know so many can identify with this pain. You are not alone.
It usually hits me in the middle of the night when the house is quiet and everyone else is sleeping.
It burns in my throat, and my chest gets tight so I can’t breathe.
The tears roll back into my hair.
I put my arm over open my mouth and try not to sob.
And then I start to get a headache, and I tell myself I can’t do this – can’t get a migraine from the grief.
On August 23rd, 2013 we cried because there was no heartbeat on the monitor.
On August 24th we cried as we said goodbye to our boy whom I had carried in my womb for 18 weeks.
In September I cried because my belly should have been big and round. But it was empty and flat. Well, as flat as it has been after having three babies. I couldn’t help but imagine it an empty black cave.
In November, I cried on my oldest baby’s birthday. Because a dear friend had her baby that day too. And I was fine. I was happy. So happy for them. But I couldn’t stop crying as I stood in the hot shower thinking about bringing them a meal, wanting to hold this brand new baby girl. Is it appropriate to ask for a private moment with the baby so you don’t have to bawl with an audience? “I just need a second with your 5-day old infant.” Probably not. Why do we insist on saying we’re fine when we’re not?
I held her. And I didn’t cry. In a way, the weight of her ministered to me. I sat by the fire with her mama and daddy, next to the lit Christmas tree, and held her warm heaviness. It was what I needed.
Like when her mama had written me four days after we said goodbye to Emanuel –
So maybe this is a completely crazy thing to ask you right now, but for the last three days I’ve been canning peaches and praying for you guys. Today I just felt like I should ask you if you wanted to learn how to can peaches…
Can peaches. Do I want to can peaches? Sure. Will it be awkward? Maybe.
So we canned peaches. And at first we didn’t talk about it. But little by little, like the skin we pealed from 7 quarts of slippery sweet peaches, I let it out.
Grief is interesting. It comes and goes as it pleases with no care as to where you are or with whom you might be. Sometimes you think you won’t be able to hold up in a situation without losing it. And you’re fine. And other times it blindsides you, overwhelms you with no warning.
Like that time in the grocery store – my first time to the store a week after we came home from the hospital. I had just checked out, collected my bags, and as I was turning to leave, I passed a young mom with a newborn. You could tell it was a fresh one, tucked in the baby carrier. The floodgates opened. I ran to the car, and before I could stash my groceries in the trunk, I was all-out sobbing. Sobbing in the Northland parking lot. I just drove. And wept.
Holding each other up through grief is funny too… There is no one-size-fits all. I might need to talk but someone else might need to be quiet.
It’s not normal to ask someone to can peaches 3 days after they give birth to their stillborn baby. I would never have had the courage to ask. I would have pushed away the thought and convinced myself that it was a weird thing to do. But my friend asked. And I will never look at peaches the same. Peaches were a balm to my soul.
I didn’t know what to do with others’ grief before. I used to avoid it. I didn’t know what to say or do.
Here’s what I know now:
Make the meal.
Sit in the silence.
Let the person talk if they want to.
Ask even though it’s awkward.