Friday, December 1, 2017

This is What Grief Feels Like Now

It feels like forgetfulness. Every day I make a big cup of water that I take with me to work. It's a seamless part of my morning routine. Today I forgot. I didn't remember until I got to work and went to take it out of my cup holder. How odd. How predictable.

It feels like achy muscles. There's tension in my jaw and neck that I'm not fully conscious of.

It feels like tired. I resist going to bed at night. I don't want to lie awake and give grief an opportunity. I'm not willing to open myself up to it. I have too much to do. I crave distraction. I find it in the form of addressing Christmas cards with elaborate designs that occupy my hands and keep my brain focused on something else. I find it in reading--books about obesity, immigration, Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Anything but something that might bring me back to myself. I find it in a cross stitch project. One x after another in neat little lines. I find it in television. Netflix into the wee hours. The dark shadows under my eyes are alarming evidence of this. Being tired makes everything so much worse. Of course, you understand, that's the point. It's supposed to hurt. This is grief.

It feels like wistfulness. Like counting years and months and I'm too old to have another baby. But am I too old to have another baby? I'm not sure I want one, but I definitely want one.

It feels like guilt. Zuzu asked me last night where Eliza was buried and I couldn't answer her. At the time, I couldn't bury her. Letting her ashes go, imagining here in the Everywhere felt like a reasonable alternative to the unthinkable sadness of a tiny, baby-sized grave. How could I put my baby in the ground? How could I choose a stone to commemorate my child? We didn't want to be those poor, pitiful people who visit a child's grave. And now, seven years later, I hate myself. I think, how could I not have done that? How could I have let her go out into the everywhere when she was the thing I wanted to keep more than anything else in this world? We didn't want to be those poor, pitiful people who have a dead baby, but not burying her didn't fix that. How can I have no answer when her sister asks me that simple question? What kind of mother can't keep track of where her baby girl is? This is the question I come back to when my grief doesn't hurt bad enough. It is my greatest regret as her mother.

It feels like stress. My strategies for coping with the ordinary stresses of life falter and fail me. Ordinary work place issues--stacks of ungraded papers, questions about spring schedules, committee concerns--suddenly become heavy weights in the pit of my stomach. A phone call that is friendly and cordial but delivers news that I wasn't hoping to get about university policies leaves me blinking back tears. Someone has a question for me that I'm perfectly capable of answering and instead I feel frantic and short of breath.

It feels like dread. This is a month with much to look forward to and I'm not feeling any of the anticipation.

It feels like faking it. I hope I'm doing this. I hope I look like a reasonable professional. I hope I look like a happy mom. I hope that Zuzu can't quite tell how hard I'm faking it when I gush about her art work while wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head and then read something on my phone until my eyes close.

I want to be distant and quiet and still. I want to snuggle my kids and breathe in the smell of their heads. I want to be alone so I can scream and rage.

I need a nap. A massage. A cup of tea. A flickering fireplace and a warm puppy. I want to go to bed and wake up on December 7th.

I lay in bed this morning instead of getting up to do yoga stretches. As I lay there, I tried to decide whether I was staying in bed because I'm so damn tired, or whether this is part of the way I punish myself for failing Eliza. I want my body to hurt. I need to feel achy and hungry and tired.

Because this is what grief feels like, and sometimes I don't know if it has hold of me, or if I'm the one who won't let go. It's both, I think.


  1. I think of you often this time of year. Sending my thoughts and love.

  2. This is beautiful. And so true. You & Eliza are in my thoughts.

  3. Thinking of you and Eliza. I'm so sorry and I know it hurts.

    We didn't bury Larkin either. Right now her ashes sit in the same place on her table, 26 months later. Plans to scatter them, but no guts to do so. Sometimes I wish we had a place to go, to visit too. But those ashes aren't her. They are just dust. You know?

    I'm faking it too. I wonder if I'll ever feel like I'm not.

    Anyway I just wanted you to know your words touch me. They terrify me too. And I cry and commiserate. I read often but never comment. It's so much easier to click like on your Instagram and breeze past the hurting stuff. But here I am. Feeling all the feels right along with you and sending all the love and light I can.

    Also..I know no matter how much you hear it it's hard to believe it, but you didn't fail Eliza. Not even a little. We hear it a lot in the early stages of grief but then I think people stop saying it...I don't know why...but please mama...please be gentle with yourself.


    1. Thanks, Tina. I don’t want to scare you. Honestly, you’ve been through the worst of it. There’s just a 6-day run for me where I lose my balance. I know from experience that it will get better again.

  4. I’m incredibly sleep deprived and can think of nothing to say except, I understand. I’m sorry you are not getting ready to celebrate seven. I love you and your baby ducks. Keep trudging, my friend.

  5. I am so sorry for you and all the Mamas whose children are not here with them. I hope your sweet girls bring you extra joy this month.

  6. So well said. Just want to echo Tina. You did not fail her. These heavy days are long and hard, but she is forever love and forever loved, forever your perfect baby Duck.

    Aching with you for what should have been.

  7. I don't know if this is comforting or not (I suspect not, so I am sorry for sharing it but at the same time I feel compelled to do so), but I think these feelings are inescapable with loss. I cannot conceive a child (well, I did, once, and it ended in an early miscarriage) and I now torture myself with 'How could I not...?' 'How could I not have known my eggs were likely poor quality?' 'How could I not have thought to seek reproductive assistance earlier?' And, most recently, 'How could I not have thought to take that Aspirin when I should have?' I wish I knew how to escape this hell.

  8. Sending love to you and remembering Eliza.

  9. I will never, ever forget your first button nosed baby duck.

  10. Nodding along, sending love, remembering and missing Eliza with you.

  11. I love this post so much; it's all so true. You & Eliza are much in my thoughts this week. <3

  12. Oh, Brooke, I love this post, but of course not reading that you are in the throes of grief - and for that I am so sorry. We have yet to bury our daughter and we are coming up on four years. Somehow, I just can't do it. It doesn't seem like it is enough and I keep thinking there will be a right time or place, but I'm beginning to suspect that may never be true. How could there ever be a right time or place? In any event, you should not be feeling like you failed Eliza in any way - you didn't. Please be kind to yourself.

  13. Lovely post, Brooke. I totally get it. I tell myself sometimes: I did my best. Sometimes it works. Most times I still can't believe I never held him.
    Warmest holiday wishes to you and your three girls.
    E from A Sky for Blue (I'm never signed in on my phone!)