Wednesday, June 6, 2012

True Refuges

"Your lost Joseph will return to Canaan, do not grieve
This house of sorrows will become a garden, do not grieve

Oh grieving heart, you will mend do not despair
This frenzied mind will return to calm, do not grieve

When the spring of life sets again in the meadows
A crown of flowers you will bear, singing bird, do not grieve

If these turning epochs do not move with our will today
The spheres of time are not constant, do not grieve

Don’t lose hope, for awareness cannot perceive the concealed
Behind the curtains hidden scenes play, do not grieve
."  -- Hafez, "The Lost Joseph" (full poem here)

"I'm here without you baby, but you're still on my lonely mind
I think about you baby, and I dream about you all the time
." - Three Doors Down, "Here Without You"

I don't know how much more I have to say about the horrors of miscarriage, except to say that they seem to get exponentially worse. With one miscarriage, it's like, "Well, this sucks, but 25 percent of all pregnancies end this way, so we'll grieve, hope and proceed forward." With two in a row, it's like, "Uh-oh, I hope this doesn't indicate a trend. Just bad luck." With three in a row, you become a "serial miscarrier" and the stakes change. Our most recent miscarriage is like a gigantic hole in my heart. It feels like more of a profound loss, in part because it's our third blow of this kind in a year, and I think in part because we felt some relief that we heard and saw our baby's heart beat. Even though I still worried, that gave me some hope that things could be ok. Nevertheless, it turns out our daughter had an extra thirteenth chromosome, which is incompatible with life. Knowing this was a little girl, and not an anonymous "it" makes this even more personal and painful.

One thing this year-long curriculum in grief has taught me is how much of a precious gift it would be for all of us to give each other the gift of mindful listening. In our culture, "help" has become synonymous with "fix": people see David and me hurting and want to relieve us of our suffering, so they make offers of "help" from the reasonable to the sublime to the ridiculous. The people who have been the greatest help to me have been those who say, "This sucks. You are in the middle of something awful and unfair, and I am so sorry for you." Bless you. One of the reasons that you don't say anything when you enter a Jewish house of mourning is that there is nothing to say. Loss is ineffable.

All of my old complaints about the hurtful things people say and do in their attempts to "help" still stand, though I have some new complaints too. The primary one is women offering me advice for their fertility problems, which are not our fertility problems. There are many stages where reproduction can fail, and I find myself exasperated with advice (again, well-meant) from people who have a totally different problem we do. They don't realize that their suggestions are equivalent to suggesting Lupron, a prostate cancer drug, for a breast cancer patient. But hey, they're both cancer! To all you progesterone pushers: all the hormones in the world would not have negated an extra chromosome, but that will be a later post. I am not immune to this desire to "help"; God help you if you ask me about Lyme Disease, because you will get an hour lecture full of strong opinions! Then again, in my defense, Lyme and co-infections have one cause, though many presentations of the diseases. Infertility is quite a bit more complex since it can have different causes, many causes, or be completely idiopathic.

I am all about care right now for David and me. Frankly, right now, other people's needs come significantly below ours. In trying to determine how to best care for myself, I keep asking myself, "What and who are true refuges for me?" This has guided how I am spending my time and who I am spending it with. No refuge for Sarah, no Sarah. This means a lot of calls to me are not being returned, and that's totally as it should be.

To my great surprise, one of my most helpful refuges has been meditation. It is surprising because my meditation cushion is kinda the loudest place in the house nowadays. You wake up to what is when you meditate, and if what you're waking up to sucks, it really hurts! I listened to a dharma talk today by Sylvia Boorstein titled "May I Meet This Moment Fully, May I Meet It As A Friend." I've been repeating that throughout the day. Some days, like this morning, I was able to compassionately touch my grief in my meditation; other days, it is too intense, and I return to the traditional metta (loving-kindness/blessing) practice.

Loving, compassionate, close friends and family members have also been a true refuge, as have both of my spiritual communities: my Jewish one and my meditation one. I found out last Wednesday that our baby died, yet I couldn't imagine being anywhere other than with my sangha (meditation community). I was hugged by so many people, and got kind follow-up emails from people sending me metta and checking on me.

Little Kacy, our dog, is a true refuge, as always. And on a different wavelength, good TV, in moderation, provides much-needed distraction. What are your true refuges?