Saturday, March 10, 2012

Waking Up Is The Hardest Part

"You are getting your PhD in grief." -- My mom, to me

In the last ten months I have lost my father and two children. I can say, definitively, that for me, waking up is the hardest part of grieving. I have always -- for better and for worse -- sought refuge in sleep, so even in the midst of tragedy, I am a sound sleeper. There is little worse than waking up from a deep sleep, and in those first flutters of consciousness remembering, "Oh, shit. That was not a dream." David and I found out on February 27 that this baby, like the one last summer, had not made it. I woke up the next three days sobbing when I realized the memory of the miscarriage wasn't some messed up nightmare, but our reality. I had this same exact experience in the week or 10 days following my dad's death: wakefulness, consciousness, heartbreak.

February 27 was a day of sickening deja vu. Being at the radiology clinic almost 11 weeks pregnant, a pessimist and worrier of the highest order hoping that my bleeding would turn out to be the spotting that about one-third of women experience in a pregnancy. I knew the minute I saw the ultrasound that we were in trouble. Again. You then have to endure the worry for your spouse, the "I'm sorry's" from the doctor, the getting out of the clinic and into your car while sobbing or trying not to sob in public, all the while passing women with swollen bellies or children already born. I am so over crying in public now, which is part of the PhD in grieving. My crying comes in waves. Sometimes I'm fine, sometimes I collapse in a heap, and that can be in my kitchen, if I'm lucky, or if I (and others) aren't so lucky, I might be in public. I've learned that the best thing I can do is let it come, wash over me, and then fade away. The more I try to fight it or stifle it, the longer it'll stick around. So I surrender to the crying, even if I look like the crazy person on the bus.

The bad deja vu continued with the consultation with our obstetrician followed by the D&C at Sibley, although this time it was less nerve-wracking since I knew what to expect.

Blimey, what can I say about this? There are so many feelings, all of them personal, though I'm pretty public, if you haven't noticed. One thing I can say with surety is that I am pissed off at God. This is not a feeling that is helped by the rapidly-depleting pregnancy hormones leaving my body; you get postpartum moodiness without the postpartum joy of a kid. I got enraged seeing David pray on February 28. I said, "It pushed my buttons seeing you pray to a capricious, cruel God." He had a brilliant and true response: "You don't know what I'm saying to Him." Someone left us a voice mail in the days after the miscarriage commending David and me on our faith and expressing some envy of it. I was thinking, "Are you fucking serious?!" Me, whose spirituality after this event ranges from giving God the Silent Treatment to cursing at God?

I don't feel bad about this in the slightest, by the way. I think God can handle my wrath, and Yisroel (Israel) doesn't mean "struggle with God" for nothing. I just see this as continuing my Jewish tradition of fighting with God. I have told my Jewish spiritual teachers that I am pissed at God, and they all say, "Sounds about right. You should be." I only went to services on Purim night to support my husband performing in the shpiel; I survived being there by knitting through the entire megillah reading [reading the book of Esther]. It was that or Xanax, kids, and I chose the non-pharmaceutical approach. I was ok there until I recited mourner's kaddish for my father, the memorial prayer for the dead, and became wracked with grief over the child we had just lost. I felt like I was saying kaddish for him or her too, and it completely knocked me off my feet. If I had thought about it before hand I probably could have anticipated this, but I didn't, and it bowled me over. Once again, the crazy lady sobbing in public!

I went to services last night, and approached them with mixed feelings. Sometimes I just took comfort in the familiarity of the melodies and prayers. Sometimes I was the master cynic. For example, singing "Yedid nefesh, av ha'rachaman..." -- "Beloved of the soul, Father of compassion...," I thought, "Seriously? Father of compassion? Try again!" Sometimes I just thought, "You suck, HaShem," even as my heart acknowledged that I don't have all the answers, or access to the master plan, if there even is such a thing. I don't know, nor do I particularly care. My friend said to me of the miscarriage and my anger at God, "Sarah, this is not a matter of God. God wants life. We are fragile, biological creatures, and this stuff just happens." Perhaps she's right.

I have a lot more to say about this, including a pointed post about what to not say to someone who has miscarried! All of it is heartbreaking and awful, though I feel like I am finally coming back to life at this point. Laughter is coming more easily, the tears slightly more infrequently. I am starting to talk to people I was avoiding. I want to blog again; I was so sick during my pregnancy that anything optional went out the window, including writing.

I am trying to balance grieving a tremendous loss in a healthy, mindful way. I'm not avoiding the painful feelings by: staying too busy; numbing out with food, alcohol, or illicit substances; or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. I'm trying to give myself room to take care of myself while not sliding into outright depression. So, yes, I nap when I need to, but I also am getting together with supportive friends, working out as much as I can, and making plans for the future. It is truly a day at a time, and some days are better than others. Heck, some hours are better than others.

I want to close by saying that I am so thankful that David and I haven't gone through this alone. Our friends' and families' practical and emotional support has been invaluable to us. They have cooked meals for us, come to spend time with us, called/emailed/texted us, sent cards and flowers, and just generally been there for us when we've needed to cry, vent or talk. Many of my friends have helped me collect myself when I wanted to haul off on one of the many people who said something heartless to me in my grief. For all this and more, we are grateful. Loss of a pregnancy is hard enough to go through with the support of loved ones. We have so many friends who have miscarried and told nobody, and I can't imagine going through this alone. I'm grateful we don't have to. Love you all.


Janet said...

I'm so sorry, Sarah. It sounds like you are having the most productive reactions in the worst of circumstances --- processing, friends, help, honesty, exercise, getting out. I know that doesn't make the circumstances any better. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

Shayna said...

Just reading through your old blog posts and read this. Really sorry to hear about your dad. I remember him as a mensch. How is your mom? And Lilly? May H' comfort you all among the mourners of Zion.

Sarah said...

Shayna, thanks for your comment, and for your kind words about my dad. Lillie is doing ok; she is married and raising her 4 year-old in Massachusetts. My mom is doing well and is still in Memphis. How is your family?