After the immediate devastating shock of losing my child passed, my new reality began to settle in. “NOW, WHAT?” This is the question I found myself asking. Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, published her book, “On Death and Dying” in 1969 which gave us a framework for identifying and understanding key emotional reactions to death and grief in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kubler-Ross noted that these “stages” are nonlinear and can overlap or some may even be missed altogether. I believe I experienced all of these emotions except acceptance during my 32+ hours of labor. Anger and depression have been the most prevailing emotions while acceptance keeps knocking at my front door. I haven’t answered although I desire to. There’s just too many loose ends.
This question visits me at least 2–3 times a day: while I’m lying in bed, in the shower, washing dishes, folding clothes (in which, I do not do often). There are various areas of my body, spirit, and soul that are left in shambles after my son Nyle’s stillbirth. As I’ve stated in one of my previous blogs, this loss changed me and it changed me in every way possible. My physical body needs healing, my emotions need constant regulation, and my spirit needs restoration.
There are so many changes women experience within their physical body while being pregnant; some ethereal and some not so enjoyable or flattering. The first thing our body does is prepare for the baby, but after loss, the body begins adjusting to their absence. It was evident that my body was physiologically shifting back into servicing me, but it felt like my body was forgetting all about Nyle and perhaps too quickly. I’m grateful that I did not experience any postpartum complications but, my body is just another reminder of my loss. I can no longer rub my belly or eat a delicious green smoothie and feel Nyle respond. My partner can no longer come home from work to rub and kiss my belly, connecting with his son.
I met with a doula while I was pregnant and she told me, you will grieve while being pregnant. You will grieve your old body and your old life, because pregnancy and motherhood will change you permanently. During my pregnancy, I gained a lot of weight. My feet grew and went up a whole size and I can only fit 2 pairs of shoes from my entire shoe collection. I’ve had to buy new clothes postpartum, because my maternity clothes are too big, and my pre-pregnancy clothes are mostly too small. This has begun an entirely new process and challenge. I came to know that the doula was right about pregnancy, but I felt like at least if my son was here, it would all feel worth it. My body feels vacant and unfamiliar. I need to heal the disconnection I feel between my body and I.
From Kubler-Ross’s framework, I’ve experienced denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. Anger and depression are the prevailing emotions for me. There exists this deep sadness beneath the surface and sometimes it is triggered and awakened with an episode that causes me to cry and retreat into emotional and sometimes physical isolation. Last week, I was at the voting polls with my mom and we were chatting and laughing together and then I heard an infant crying. Immediately, tears welled up in my eyes. I began to think about how I never heard my son cry. He was birthed in stillness and silence. What would Nyle’s cry sound like? How would it feel to hold his little body close to mine and comfort and soothe him? I will never know. That pain pierced my heart as I handed the man my ID at the polls. My mom began to comfort me as best as she could, but no matter what is said or done in an effort to soothe me, my son will never come back. I was ready to become a mom and care for my son, but that opportunity was snatched away from me. Will I ever get the chance to birth and mother a living child? I don’t know and it is not a privilege promised to me. That is the reality I’m faced with, daily. I experience anxiety around not knowing what stimuli will trigger me next.
It’s not my doctors I’m angry with or even my body, it’s God. There, I said it. I AM STILL ANGRY WITH GOD! I prayed to God for the first time in almost 7 weeks. It was painful. It felt like I was begging God to speak to me after I suffered God’s betrayal. I don’t want to play hide and seek with God. It’s exhausting. These thoughts can induce depressive episodes, so I have to use disruption and distraction to keep myself from emotionally spiralling into the deep dark hole. I’m still working on learning the dance between allowing and letting go. My emotions are in constant need of regulation due to my loss. I often wonder, when will there be more joy to drown out the discomfort. *deep sighs*
After this tragic loss, I’ve found myself distrusting God and experiencing a lot of anxiety from the trauma. I struggle with fear and anxiety of experiencing another life altering loss. It’s almost like this anxious thought of who or what will I lose next. I feel like human creation is inherently flawed by design and we all live each day at the mercy of chance. I used to pray often and felt inner peace and security, now I feel unraveled and fragile. My spirit feels dull and sometimes hopeless, while my mind and body does its best to “keep living.” “Keep living” were the two words my grandma would always tell me. She said that this was our responsibility no matter the circumstance — But I want to thrive. I want to feel that zeal for purpose and life again. I graduated with my Master’s degree this past Friday, and although I was proud of my accomplishment and know I will do great things within my industry, there lingers the question, “is this a chasing of the wind?” I’m in an existential crisis. My spirit needs restoration.
Ruins are the remains of human-made architecture: structures that were once intact have fallen, as time went by, into a state of partial or total disrepair, due to lack of maintenance or deliberate acts of destruction (wikipedia). I feel like this is the condition grief has left me in. My spirit feels desolate at times, but then, I thought about how ruins are extremely important sites for learning. Ruins are sites that historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists visit to collect information. Many ruins have become heritage sites, preserved as deeply valuable to humankind. Ruins have also been bought and rehabilitated for personal and public usage.
While I don’t believe that everything happens for “a reason” or with some divine purpose, I do believe that there is a lesson that can be learned. I will never champion trauma, but as long as there is breath in my body, I will seek, I will inquire, and I will be receptive as life speaks.