Embracing the Uncomfortable

Grief is not about keeping everything inside

abstract watercolor illustration of a glowing paper lantern flowing down a river at night
Image created via Midjourney

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
-Naomi Shihab Nye, from the poem "Burning the Old Year"

I always pause to reflect on my previous year at the onset of a new.  I am not looking for a sweeping reform of myself, but, as my husband likes to say "there should be progress."

2017 was a year of fear and healing, being pregnant for the third time in two years and finally welcoming our rainbow baby in August.  2018 was a year of adjustment, with having an infant at home again, and realizing that my husband was grappling with anxiety that we had previously not recognized.  2019 was a year of "getting back to even-keel."  While toddlers are a challenge, I find them easier than an infant that is so helpless.  We figured out as a couple how to support each other, through a lot of hard work and a fantastic marriage therapist.

What will 2020 bring?  When Nelle and Iris died inside of a 6-month period in September of 2015 and February of 2016, I unapologetically put myself first.  Then I became pregnant again and focused only on that pregnancy, and the newborn that we brought home.  As my husband's anxiety emerged, I spent a lot of energy on him: understanding his triggers, and trying to convince him of the safety and support of our family.  I felt at times that I was holding everything together, and I am not resentful.  He was there without question and without wavering when I needed support, and the definition of a partnership is that I would do the same for him.

But I could also tell what I gave up of myself in that time in 2018, and watched it spill into 2019 and we worked to get back to "even-keel."  Now, the place feels good, and I am eager to carve out time for myself again and pursue the things that I love.

I was writing less and have had to take a step back.  This blog was born from the grief that erupted after my daughter was born still.  That grief still continues to linger, though not as prominent in everyday life.  I was able to form a central "theme" for my writing for so long, but have recognized now that it has branched into more than just grief.  It is also about healing, and finding that "new normal" for myself in things that I "didn't used to do" before my daughters died.

Grief is uncomfortable.  It is uncomfortable for the person carrying grief, and it is uncomfortable for everyone else, not knowing what to say or thinking that we should be "over it" by now.  It has taken years for me to understand that I will always carry grief, because a little piece of my heart is missing.

Part of that discomfort has allowed me to push myself in other ways and step outside of my comfort zone.  I have never considered myself an artist, and am now trying to learn to paint.  I have always wanted to be able to create art, but never felt that I had any talent and would become easily frustrated.  Now I am working with a friend who is showing me tips and techniques so that I can gain some skills, but more importantly, confidence and pride in my work.

Would I have pursued art if I had not lost my daughters?  I honestly have no idea.  But I am definitely in a place where the uncomfortable is not as scary as it once was.

And on a final note on this blog and the writing that I have done over the years around grief and will continue to do.  A dear friend of mine unexpectedly lost her beloved grandmother in December.  She told me that grief is not about keeping everything inside, and making everyone else comfortable.  It is about continuing to acknowledge and honor the person that lived and was loved.  Never forgetting and not remaining silent about that loved one's impact on our lives.

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