Grief Uncovered

We have begun the process of written interviews with some individuals in our life. We are asking a number of people the same three questions in order to showcase the broad spectrum of grief- what we learn from it, how our perceptions of it have changed, etc. We are excited to post the fourth in the series.

The three questions posed to each participant are:

  1. What is your experience with grief?
  2. What were your perceptions of grief before?
  3. How have they changed or been proven true?

Thanks to Rachel Lewis for being real with us and sharing her thoughts on each of these questions.

  1. What is your experience with grief?

Grief came barging into my life, unannounced and unwanted, when my second pregnancy abruptly and traumatically ended in the first trimester. I suddenly felt thrust into a new life, one I did not want, one without the baby I was desperate to keep. And I could not find my way back to the joy and peace I had before this loss. This loss was ambiguous – who did I lose? Who would she have become? And even though it felt like I had just lost a child – the world insisted she was just a pregnancy. Did she count? I had no choice but to grieve, but I questioned if the depths of my feelings were unacceptable.

My time walking hand in hand with grief continued to get complicated, as relationships often do. I experienced the loss of four more babies in the first trimester. And then we fostered a son for a total of three and a half years – and reunited him with his birth family twice.

Our family felt this loss of his presence in our lives deeply. And yet, we had “signed up” for this. As though a signature on a dotted line could keep my heart from becoming completely enmeshed with that of a boy who called me mom.

My losses were complicated and compounded. They were ambiguous and challenged societal expectations and norms. Therefore my grief made me feel “other” everywhere I went.

2. What were my perceptions of grief before?

I believed grief only came with major trauma. That loss, and subsequently grief, was the outlier. It was the exception, not the rule. I was naïve to believe that you only experienced grief when you are old and your loved ones pass after a long, long life. But loss and trauma are not outliers. They happen to each of us, and they happen earlier and harder than we expect.

And it’s not just the huge losses either – the ones that the world looks at and says, “Why yes, that is a big loss and you deserve to grieve that.” It can be the million small things that accompany a loss. You grieve the intimate moments you would have shared, the laughter, the dreams. You grieve when you hear their name even when years have passed. Grief is not just from death. You grieve lost opportunities, jobs lost, transitions, and relationships breaking down. It is not linear and it is not one-and-done.

3. How have my perceptions changed or proven true?

For much of this time, I railed against grief. I questioned it – challenged it – tried to bury it – tried to hide it – tried to change it – tried to lessen it – all to no avail. Grief was here. It was here to stay. And I could choose to look at grief as an enemy I must try to defeat at all costs – even at the cost of me. Or I could embrace grief as a friend.

The loss is the enemy.

The loss is a tragedy.

But grief is a best friend that says, “I know these people are so important to you. I know your values. I recognize how much this hurts you. And I’m here for you, and for them, to validate that they are loved, they are missed, and they are worthy of remembering.”

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