Grief ... It Just Is.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The son of a family member by marriage recently had his own son. We've never met the son or the new baby, but we love the grandmother, and we are so happy for her and her family. The new baby is about a month younger than Bert, and we've gotten to see a couple pictures of him.

A few days ago, Joe came home from work and, as we were talking, he suddenly told me he had a new photo that he wanted to show me. The photo was of the father of the new baby, shirtless and holding his new son skin-to-skin in the hospital.

Joe said, "I guess at this hospital they have the dads do that -- take off their shirts and hold the baby."

I couldn't respond. Because without me even realizing it or even any warning, I immediately started tearing up. I opened and closed my mouth a couple times, trying not to lose it, and Joe's face changed as he suddenly realized,

"... I was supposed to do that, wasn't I?"

I nodded.

"... But I couldn't because ..."

I nodded again. And the tears came.

As I wrote about here, there are a lot of things we didn't get to do with Bert when he was born because of his health issues. As I wrote about in that same post, I figured out that my post-partum healing would not be nearly as physical as it would be emotional and mental, coming to terms with what happened. Overall, I think I'm doing pretty well. But something I've also realized in all of this is that grief comes and goes in waves, it's not a straight line at all.

I think we usually associate grief with the death of a loved one, and, yes, that is such indescribably painful grief. But grief can also be associated with other things, such as when what you hoped, expected, or thought would happen in a situation turned out to be the complete opposite.

Some days I feel like I'm doing a good job of working through my grief, and other days some things will happen that just overwhelm me out of nowhere, such as the photo I just talked about or another health issue that Bert is dealing with. At his one-month appointment, Bert was diagnosed with an umbilical granuloma, which when treated, really is no big deal. The odds of getting it are 1 in 500, but as Joe said, if it's some crazy thing with crazy odds, Bert will get it. The granuloma was treated on Thursday, and we followed the instructions about giving it 24 hours, pulling the band aid off, and checking it. When I checked it Friday, I thought it still didn't look right, and it still had discharge coming from it. I called the nurse line at our pediatrician and left a message, and late Friday afternoon we got a call back that we'd need to take him to the Saturday sick clinic at one of our practice's other locations to be checked out and likely re-treated.

Like I said, this honestly is no big deal right now. But finding out that Bert had another health thing that required another "emergency" doctor's appointment hit me hard. It just took me right back to all the things that happened in the past five weeks of his life, and the overwhelming emotion this time wasn't sadness, it was anger. I told Joe I just feel so, so angry. I'm so angry about what happened to him, and that spiraled into me also being angry about what happened to Joe and me, angry about some things that went on in my own home after Bert was born, angry about something else that happened this summer that's unrelated to Bert's health but that I'm still dealing with, angry that I didn't stand up for myself in some situations like I should have. So right now, I'm angry. I'm angry, and I want a total do-over I won't get.

As I mentioned before, too, I know that life doesn't ever go according to plan, and I know that things could have turned out a lot worse. But I'm not sure in the history of time anyone ever felt better about their feelings after being told it "could have been worse." In reality, I'm pretty sure when someone is told that, all that happens is that they continue to feel their sad/angry/whatever feelings AND they now feel guilty for feeling those feelings, so now they just feel worse overall.

I am just trying to tell myself that grief is a process. Some days are great, some days you're taken right back to the thing or things that make you sad and angry. It's like this graphic that I've seen before:


Maybe it sounds like I'm whining or like I'm ungrateful for what I have. In reality, I am very grateful for Bert and all of the prayers for him and his current state of health. But, while my physical self is right on target for post-partum healing, my mental and emotional health is still a couple months behind. And you know what? THAT IS OKAY.

So if this is you right now, or past you, or maybe future you, please know that whatever you are feeling ... THAT IS OKAY. For as long as you need to feel it. I pray that you have someone to reach out to to talk to about it, and if not, I am happy to be that person because I understand. Talking about it has really helped me a lot. And if it happened to you five years ago and you still need to talk about it a lot ... THAT IS OKAY.

To be even more transparent, there is no happy ending to this right now. Right now, I'm in the middle of it, so it just is.

Here's a cute picture of Bert, though, because who doesn't love that? 

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