Santa Clause didn’t visit, but grief did
Today is my five year blogaversary. Tah – dah!
It’s strange to think that five years ago today I clicked “publish” on this blog for the first time.
And, to be honest, I’ve found myself thinking “What sort of moron launches a blog on December freaking 29th anyway?”
In fairness to myself of five years ago, as I was dangling on the edge of our final failed treatment, I was also spontaneously combusting from many things. The lack of empathy and deluge of tone deafness my fellow humans had to offer during my baby making odyssey was one of them. Thus, I heaved my first post on this blog, “What’s the Fertile World To Do?” out into the world, and have been blogging non-anonymously straight from the trenches ever since.
Utterly unmoored with too much to process, my blogaversaries mostly fell by the wayside. There was always more healing to do, something else to say goodbye to, another slice of injustice to lament, one more piece of collateral damage to integrate.
But on this unprescribed path nothing in our society and upbringing has prepared us for, I’m feeling as though five years is a milestone. Not just five years of blogging per-say, but making it five years at all with any sort of healing trajectory.
And so I thought, in terms of writing and posting, “maybe this is where I’m supposed to reflect on my experiences, provide some wisdom and hope and all that jazz….” But I’m going to need some time and, as usual, I’m really not sure what will come out. Writing is funny like that.
I have many processes and practices that have pioneered me towards wholeness. As far as answers, I have few if any. There is a plethora of things I wish I had known “then”, but are they relevant? I don’t know. They are things that had to be learned in their own time and own way I suppose. And for me, truth is a much greater muse than hope could ever be, possessing the capability of falling anywhere really on the hope and despair spectrum.
This coming January 31 is the five year anniversary of us stopping treatments, which is bringing the realization that I’ve got a good month to hash out my reflections on this five year thing. More posts to follow on this, I’m sure. And as always, your insights are welcome.
In the meantime, in the continued spirit of “what is now”, I leave you with one thing I do know amid galaxies of that which I don’t.
One Reason Why
Santa Clause didn’t visit, but grief did
I awoke on Christmas morning shrouded in a blanket of peace. I luxuriated in the sensation of having made it this far into the season, feeling not horrible – relatively reasonable actually, all the while. I then exited the bed, took some delight in the ample sun and settled into some of my usual morning routines as my husband slept in. I had been looking forward to our “day off” together.
We went on to open a few presents, ate and showered. By the afternoon though things had started to shift. We chose a movie and sat down to watch it. I noticed an exhaustion take over, not just tired but a notable lack of life force tired. My appetite disappeared. I slept a little. The food I had planned and general engagement in the day I had anticipated seemed so…..off. I felt deflated, almost physically unable to participate as my husband started dinner.
“What’s going on?” I thought. My apparent physiological downturn had no actual emotion I could label or identify. And there were plenty of other possibilities to point to. Perimenopausal PMS. The excruciatingly dark time of year. Possible nervous system disorder symptoms.
I rallied before dinner. I had mixed feelings but pulled out the good china anyway. I changed my clothes. We had a lovely, memorable dinner with important conversation but physically, something was just astray. We watched another movie. I went to bed, drained. I slept three more hours than usual. After a day of doing what I had thought was practically nothing.
I woke up the next day with that subtly familiar “life has thrown me against the wall” feeling, that sense that bleeds through all levels of your being, from least to most dense. As the day went on, the fog slowly lifted. By that evening, and into the following day, it was all gone. There had been no weather shifts or other changes that would aggravate my nervous system disorder. I was even closer to getting my period. And there’s no reason the 37 extra seconds of light per day would suddenly make a difference when in years past they never have. Wondering about my rather quick re-entrance into the land of the living, it hit me.
GRIEF!!!! You sneaky little bastard.
Backtracking to the beginning, it all started to make sense. My sleeping patterns had been inexplicably off all week. As far as waking up Christmas morning, I’ve felt that tingly feeling before. It’s the ever fleeting high of survival. Coupled with the fact the full reality of the day hadn’t sunk in yet.
Stymied? Well, yes. After all this year had been overall much “better” than previous years, in line with my general healing trajectory. I had implemented self-care and coping strategies, albeit some of them goofy, that not only were now relevant, but that actually did make a difference for the better. I had not been dreading the day and appreciated some time with my husband, daydreaming and also having concrete discussion about our future. Not something that could have been entertained in years past.
Plus, on “regular” days my husband and I have got this hanging out at home thing down. He’s a chef, I’m a good planner, decorator and right hand man, so to speak. We both love being home together. And it’s certainly not as if I’m just so dumb I forgot to tune into what I currently have to enjoy and be grateful for. No wonder the sudden feeling of “hard” and of my body straggling through a pond of molasses took a bit to unravel.
And I was no longer limping around weighted down by the ghosts of what should have been either. Sure, I thought of my children from time to time, wistfully thinking that had that last fertility treatment worked they’d be four years old now, or some other configuration of ages had things gone differently. But I was mostly aware of trying to move around in a reality beyond the dream of them.
Should we do presents, or is that just a reminder of what’s not there? Is a formal dinner set up really the right thing? It doesn’t quite feel right, but I don’t want to lose the art of making and having formal dinners together. Why am I being invaded by the intrusive sense that we “should” be doing something more when another part of my is screaming to do less? And I don’t even know what in the hell to wear. Tell me, what DOES one wear on the occasion of missing children at Christmas??
While all of this may appear neurotic to those possessing the privilege of never having to walk in these shoes, such questions in actuality come from a place of wanting to do right by ourselves amid very tough and unfortunate circumstances. Bystanders have just a few minutes of this reality to get through here and there, my husband and I have the rest of our lives.
And so that, my dear friends, is one reason why this journey is so hard. Our losses, our children are in us on the deepest and most physical of levels. They transcend well beyond thought and theory. They are not something the entirety of us ever really forgets. When an experience affects you on all levels of being, the cognitive mind often has to take a back seat at a moment’s notice as your other components bleed, breathe, heal and reprogram.
A mother’s body knows. I’ve experienced some significant shifts in my healing this year and yet, have also experienced blatant physical symptoms on the past three major holidays. You could send me to Mars for Christmas and my body would still be telling me what day it is. And that’s not a guess. Even in the face of the onset of my nervous system disorder on Dec 23 of 2016, when I was experiencing a most miserable, debilitating, scary and out of control physical state, I could still detect a physical lifting of the fog after the holidays. Even under those extreme conditions.
Why might it be harder on holidays than on “regular” days? Perhaps because you don’t live your entire life programmed that children will be an integral part of your January 17, 2019, for example. Or any other specific non – holiday day for that matter. But you do live your entire life programmed to envision that your children will at some point be an integral part of major holidays. And then there, they are not.
Though my husband and I are open to the idea of traveling during Christmas in the future, this is one of the reasons I’ve hesitated. It’s bad enough to be in your home as you’re held hostage by cellular morphings beyond your control and not of your complete understanding. But to pay money and go to the trouble to get somewhere, only to have to go through the same thing, could very well add insult to injury. Maybe not forever, but for me, up until now at least.
This is also hard because we’ve been conditioned, incorrectly, to think all of these things are “choices”, and that a “shift in attitude” is all we need to alter our “flawed perception” and get us “back on track”. The notably surfacey and under – developed “Change your thoughts, change your life” philosophy may apply to some situations, but in regards to life altering traumatic loss it may as well read “Change your thoughts, change just about nothing at all.” Our job isn’t to stand on the back of our grief, trauma and injury, crack a whip and holler giddyup!, no. It is more-so to feel, observe, accept, facilitate, and surrender when necessary. No easy feat. Personally, I’d rather be able to affect change by whipping and yelling. It’s just easier.
I have to admit, I felt a bit foolish that the roots of my recent holiday experiences eluded me, having been through so much grief already. But, as in other moments, I’ve never experienced it this way within this configuration.
It has been my honor to have you read and respond to my ever unfolding process (which I see in many ways as “our” ever unfolding process) over these past five years. You have allowed me to be seen and heard in ways I otherwise would not have been. You have generously given me the gift of witness, and for that I deeply thank you all.
22 thoughts on “One Reason Why”
You know, I learned a very long time ago that ‘the body remembers what the mind tries to forget’ and you’ve summed it up perfectly here.
What a journey we’ve all been on, I am honoured and grateful to read the words and the wisdom imparted by yourself and other ladies as they move along this unchartered territory we’ve all ended up navigating.
I love reading your blog posts, they are thoughtful and insightful. I look forward to reading many, many more as you find your path. Hoping this new year is kind to you xxx
I’m glad I’m not the only one – what’s stored in my body is an ever unfolding lesson, that’s for sure.
Thanks for reading, Bamberlamb! I’m grateful for you and for our tribe too, and for the poignant summations on your blog of what this journey really feels like.
“Unchartered territory” covers it perfectly – glad we’re “on board” with one another as we trek forward.
Wow, what a great blog! Thank you for taking the time and doing the emotional work on my behalf. Slept 12 hours last night (well, I was in bed, sleep may have been a little fractured), then slept another 3 hours on the sofa. Admittedly I have been out to the shops – for a whole hour – that’s enough to tire anyone out isn’t it? It was a toss up between housework/tidying up, or going out into the real world. As there is no one likely to call round unexpectedly, the messy house didn’t matter. Going out into the real world did.
The sucking black hole of NO CHILDREN – EVER, visiting on the holidays to hug Mum, or one day, Granny, stretches off to infinity.
This loss definitely infiltrates everything. Thank you for your comment, Lesley. I can definitely relate to your altered sleep patterns and the extra work people in our position need to do to make the most basic of decisions (tidy up or go out?). Having lost the framework from which we expected to have to make decisions, we should all give ourselves a pat on the back for being able to decide anything!
It’s been an honor to call you friend and to see how your life has unfolded the past five years. Your honesty and heart have touched so many lives. xx
Right back atcha!! And thanks to you for blazing the trail in the first place.
I love what you said about not yelling giddy up at our grief but instead facilitating it. I too had an off day on Christmas, and at one point had come back to bed crying and contemplating sleeping for hours. Instead, I got myself together (in PJs and no bra no less) and made our formal dinner. My answer about what to wear is whatever I damn well please in the comfort of my own home 🙂 But overall I was eternally grateful for spending Christmas just the two of us instead of having to rally not only for myself but for an audience of not entirely understanding family members.
I hear you on your Christmas “off day”, your sharing of it makes me feel less alone:-) It’s amazing to me how much we have to rally to pull off the most taken-for-granted traditions. I feel the same way about spending the day with my husband – for as isolating as this life experience can be, we really just need to be with each other on Christmas Day. He said to me that he “just wants to be with the one person who gets it” (aka me!).
Amen sister! Here’s to all of us badass CNBC gals out there – thank you for still writing when I lose my own words. 5 years hot damn!
Thank you, and thanks for reading! Cheers back to all of us!!
Huh thank you for your insights, it now makes sense that while we did Christmas co completely different this year(I couldn’t face another family fun day) and actually spend the 25th driving all day, I still felt emotionally wrecked. Of course the body and mind knows on a cellular level regardless of the distractions thrown at it…..and here I was feeling silly for not having found a magic answer for surviving Christmas easily. I’m kinda hanging out for a random day in January TBH….a nothing Day that has no expectations, so has the potential to actually pass by with little emotional effort required!
I appreciated your post on this, SD. Those random days with no expectations are what saved me, in spite of grief being ever present those first few years. The pressure to find “answers” for these things is ever present and so misleading I think. But it’s also equally hard to resist the pressure (from ourselves and others) and to try to live the moment for what it is, as that in a way puts us in the place of having to acknowledge more loss, I think. I always tried to live in the moment, making that decision by a slim margin, as I figured I would at least be connected to myself and my own experience that way. So here’s to making it through one way or another and to finding some benign January days.
l love “fleeting high of survival”. Know that one well as well as the advice to change your thoughts and change your life. I love how you get so real about the childless experience. And it is true that decisions, like getting out the china and deciding what to wear, have a deeper more thought out requirement when your holidays and do not fit the convention and your “why” may elude you. Thanks for your great writing.
Thank you, Maria, and thanks for the validation! Oh how I could go on forever about how “change your thoughts, change your life” misses the mark…… I love the concept of our “why” eluding us. The next time I am spinning and grappling in what I think should be a simple situation, I will gently remind myself that it’s just my why eluding me. Sounds a bit dark, but I’m sure I will actually find it quite settling.
I’m still in the confused ‘what is Christmas without children’ haze although I’ve had a fabulous one. It’s great to hear real stories, I always tell it how it is and feel only my close family try to understand, everyone else cannot compute!! Accepting this helped me and of course blogging 🙂
May 2019 bring you adventures
Acknowledging the empathic and emotional limits of others has helped me too. It took a long time for me to get there though. Thanks for pointing out that it’s possible to have a good holiday AND be in the ‘what is Christmas without children’ zone. The idea that the two can co-exist will be helpful to people, I think. Best to you too for a fruitful 2019.
Yes, our bodies do remember. As far as I can tell, maybe even longer than our minds do…
Thanks for the excellent quote by Elie Wiesel. And for everything else ❤
I find myself wondering how much would be in my body if I hadn’t been practicing yoga – I do think a physical practice of some sort helps one to connect and facilitate the moving through of this stuff. But I also think to a certain degree, this will be in my body forever. Who knows? Thank you too for your insights. XO
Beautifully written. Thank you.
Dear Sarah – thank you so much for your blog. Reading your posts has finally allowed me to feel what I feel and allow anger in to do what it should (explore how we feel and give us strength to stand up for ourselves). I was always pushing down my negative reaction to everything (including “belly rubbers”) – I read that post and LOL – and shouted to no-one “see I am justified” – it suddenly seemed so obvious that I would be angry at such behavior – I lost all my children and no-one gives a monkey’s! I give myself a pat on the back now for feeling what I feel – telling myself its OK – some days I will speak my truth and others I will not. I look forward to your posts and the way you unravel this difficult navigation through pain, loss, more pain, rejection from fellow humans, relearning and peace. I also appreciate the humour you add – like what to wear and getting out the good china (that made me smile) – I actually took a good top to wear and then didn’t wear it – just my Christmas jumper all week (its the first I ever owned) – I used to hate them. Thank you for your words – please keep writing – thank you too for your gift of witness – your replies make such a different.
Hi Jane – Well good for you for welcoming the tough emotions in (though if you’re anything like me, it may be after a bit of natural resistance!). It is not easy, can feel counter intuitive to much of what we’ve been taught, but it’s the key to coming through this with some semblance of wholeness I think. Rage was probably my biggest emotion through all this. And yet it slowly started to dissipate for me starting at around the 3.5 year mark. Surprise, surprise, but feeling it is what allows it to eventually move through. Keep patting yourself on the back!!