Feeling Seen

I'll continue to write because grief deserves to be seen.

Watercolor of a sorrowful woman looking into the distance surrounded by red flowers
Image created via Midjourney

I've been thinking about this blog a lot lately. It began three days after my daughter, Nelle, was stillborn. Writing became a necessary outlet for my grief. Some days, I could barely do anything — but I managed to land at the keyboard and write.

I continued to write through the devastating loss of Iris a few months later, and then the subsequent pregnancy and birth of my rainbow baby. I wrote about the hard moments of parenting after loss... but gradually the pain and reminders subsided. They still happened, but they weren't as sharp or frequent.

Then the pandemic hit and I was thrust into a different type of loss. That year we spent in isolation made me question everything I knew as a parent. Every decision had an unknown outcome. I was exhausted all the time and my kids were impacted in a way that they hadn't suffered when our babies died. I had to be their emotional support as well.

Now that time is also, seemingly, behind us. We have returned to most of the normalcy of our pre-pandemic life. Over the past year, I touched on different topics: the remnants of my grief around pregnancy loss and the pandemic. I've mentioned my career pivots and and the resurgence of my personal creativity. In some respects, I'm returning to being a "whole human" in ways that I couldn't while I was in the deepest parts of grief.

When I started writing about pregnancy loss, I wanted other women to feel seen. People would reach out to me and say, "I feel the same way. Thank you for putting it into words." Others, who had not experienced loss, would say, "Thank you for helping me understand what you're going through." Pregnancy loss is utterly lonely.... and the pandemic was as well. I wrote for myself, but also to help other people feel less alone.

Now, I wonder if I still have a purpose for this blog going forward. Does it become a "gap filler" until the next tragic thing in my life? I'm almost always reflecting on the hard moments, every Friday morning when I sit down to write.

Over the past year, my creative work online has expanded significantly. I'm writing regularly on Medium, Substack, and I have a newsletter. I have a decent following on LinkedIn and a meager following on Twitter. With each of those outlets, I have a specific "persona." On Medium, I talk about processes and systems for productivity as a freelancer, and my newsletter is more of the same. On Substack, I rail against corporate injustices and misconceptions about remote work.

My personas on each platform aren't 100% "shiny" all the time — but I do try to stick to specific themes. Vulnerability and the ugly parts emerge sometimes, but they're not the primary focus of that work.

Years ago, I remember being frustrated by an online yoga instructor I follow. Every single day, she showed up on Facebook and Instagram with a bright, shiny face. Sometimes an inspiring quote. My daughters had died and I was sickened by her perkiness and, what I felt, was a lack of authenticity. I wanted to see the ugly parts.

Now, I understand more. A bit. The ugly parts can make people uncomfortable. Interspersing it occasionally makes me human, but too much can dilute the other work that I'm doing — work that I also consider important.

Anne Lamott says:

Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability.

So this blog remains a space for the difficult things in life. It will always be about pouring my feelings onto the screen, but it is also a reminder for anyone who reads my other work that I'm not 100% shiny. If they want to be part of the uncomfortable moments, they can come here.

This space is for people who can never be fully whole because little pieces of their hearts are missing. A place for people who know that grief exists because love exists. A place for people who are frustrated by how society utterly fails grieving people, and makes us feel like something is "wrong" when we continue to grieve years later.

Yesterday, I went to the local hospital — the hospital where I gave birth to Nelle and Iris. The lobby has a tree decorated with ornaments in honor of all babies gone too soon. This will be my seventh Christmas with a broken heart. Behind my mask, I cried as I looked at the ornaments on the tree, many of them etched with a baby's name.

The tree made me feel seen. A sign prominently announces its purpose. I met with the hospital's perinatal bereavement coordinator and she gave me some votives and ornaments for Nelle and Iris, to add to my collection from years past.

I'll continue to write because grief deserves to be seen.