Grief: My Wise and Uninvited Teacher in 2020
The year 2020 has shaped up to be a challenging year for many, and a devastating year for many others. For me, the year 2020 began dewy fresh and pregnant with possibility, especially considering the news that my husband and I were expecting our first child. Beaming with excitement, I planned for a fall baby and started making a list of potential baby names.
Sadly, by the middle of February, I learned that this pregnancy would result in a miscarriage, and a couple weeks later, I experienced the devastating void of the loss. This is when Grief shook my hand and introduced himself.
Soon followed March, when the pandemic began to pervade our lives. This meant that it was no longer safe for me to visit my father, who was courageously battling an aggressive brain tumor. We would often FaceTime, but his tumor had made his speech very difficult, and seeing each other virtually just wasn’t the same as being able to sit right next to him, wrap my arms around him, and watch the birds go by together.
In April, Grief knocked again.
In April, Grief knocked again. My father passed away exactly nine months after his initial diagnosis. My family and I surrounded him as we witnessed his birth into the afterlife, and were left behind to bear death’s labor pains. It was then that Grief invited himself into the room.
Somewhere in the week between my dad’s passing and his virtual funeral, I learned that I was pregnant once again. This unexpected and timely pregnancy somehow gave a new and heavier gravity to the loss of my father — the end of one beautiful life marked by the beginning of a beautiful new one. However, in June my heart broke again, as my second pregnancy resulted in another miscarriage. By July, Grief had fully made himself comfortable within my home, stared me in the face, and didn’t blink an eye.
Leaning into Grace
Before really knowing Grief intimately, what I’d heard was that experiencing Grief was not linear, which I have found to be wholly true. He will sometimes sneak up on you at the most inopportune of times, uninvited, and impose himself at any given moment. It is these occasions, I have learned, that are opportunities to invite Grief to pull up a chair and allow me to lean into Grace, and by doing so, acceptance.
Grace, to me, means to allow space. Allow space to feel the sadness, to ruminate on regrets and unrealized expectations, or even to allow myself to feel numb — to not be my most productive and vibrant self, to sleep if I’m still just so dang tired, to be okay with saying no to plans with well-intentioned people, and to allow myself to just be without self-judgment or imposing voices of shame.
In Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals, author Thomas Moore writes, “You cannot choose your dark night, it is given to you. Your job is to sift it for its gold.” This quote has echoed in my mind throughout the entirety of this year. I would never have chosen these dark nights for myself or anyone, but still, they came. My job now is to honor them, to find stillness and space to make meaning of them. As humans, from childhood we create meaning in all of our experiences, whether we realize it or not. In these moments of heartbreak and pain, as Moore writes, life is “pared down to the essentials,” and we have the opportunity to delve deep into ourselves and learn our most essential needs.
I find that the beauty and gift of Grief is that his presence is a unifier and a bridge builder. My experience with loss has increased my capacity for empathy and my ability to feel my neighbor’s pain in a way I never could have previously imagined. It is within this shared pain that we are able to build bridges, and it is there that we can see each other more fully.
Though uninvited, Grief has been a wise teacher, not in any way that makes logical, mathematical sense, but as a guide to a deepening and widening of my capacity to love and forgive, to hold Grace for myself and others, and to have a keen awareness of gratitude for the life and love that I do have. Grief, I’m learning, is not one to be wrapped in a pretty yellow bow and neatly tucked away. I presume — and accept — that Grief will stay with me as I move through new experiences and create new meaning, strengthening my character, and continuing to deepen my compassion.