Nothing on my calendar, but there’s a file in my widow's brain marked “ June 23rd, a day you have something important to do.”
Several days of wondering pass before I remember; 30 years ago today I was supposed to give birth to my first child. Every time someone saw that I was expecting they would ask when the baby was coming. Tired and excited, I would answer “ June 23rd”. Thankfully that beautiful person joined the world 10 days early, and my life has never been the same.
June 23rd I am now aware is International Widows Day.
In the quiet, I ponder the idea that grief is much like a child born from your own being, a part of you in a way that is so real and transcendent it changes you forever.
It comes into being through love, grows in the darkness, demanding energy and life mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
In my complete exhaustion, I try to set my grief down. But like an infant it whimpers, cries or wails communicating its need to be held and cared for.
I’ve looked around me to see if anyone can carry this heavy child of mine, just for a few moments so I can regain enough strength for the day.
“This is your child and no one else’s”, strangely I’m told as if I were somehow unaware of this obvious truth.
A few others awkwardly try to give my grief words to make it go away, this is as strange and as painful as if they were telling my own infant to disappear. When I tell them of the hurt it has caused, hoping they will avoid further unintended harm, I am dumbfounded when they abandon me.
Some pretend it’s not there, perhaps pretending all is well will make it so- ignoring what is before them, I become invisible, and further diminished.
But some understand I’m not asking them to take my grief, to fix it or make it disappear. Some understand the weight is so incredibly arduous to bear I don’t have enough energy to express what help I need. Some see, or know like those loving grandmothers who hold and quiet the crying infant and place it back in the new mother’s arms, that loving compassion is all there is to give. Some understand that just being present, and listening lessens the weight.
There are those who will tell you how you should raise a child to behave, how to quiet them and control them; and there are those who will help you understand how to love, honor and care for the unique child you are traveling this life with. The difference is fear and love.
I am more than familiar with parenting out of fear to avoid pain and harm. Motivated by protection, it has its place as a reaction to an actual threat. Creating a safe nurturing environment and seeing a child for who they are is a beautiful way to live this one life we have if at all possible. Protect and nurture. Grief is needing all this from me.
Women have been birthing children from the beginning of time. And while there is an element of mystery surrounding the creation of a human being, and every birth story is unique , there is much that is expected and known.
No one can guess or determine the length of labor, or exactly what the child will look like or their unique personality, however we do know birth is traumatic, extremely painful, and exhausting. We know both infant and mother will need nourishment, rest and care. In our modern world we understand our ability to lessen the pain through the process as humane or compassionate. To do otherwise would seem to be cruel, an unnecessary cause of suffering. Caring for a griever is no different.
People have been grieving since time began, it isn’t that mysterious unless we are determined to be in the Dark Ages, inhumanely deny its reality or try to childishly pretend it is unknowable. To be human is to love, to love is to grieve.
Welcoming, embracing or even understanding grief in the midst of complicated trauma is impossible. Healing from the trauma is different than carrying the grief. Grasping that trauma and grief are not the same has absolutely been pivotal. Learning coping skills and doing the hard work of trauma therapy doesn’t just happen with the passage of time- it takes work to heal. It takes support to heal.
I am learning how to carry this part of me, learning to nurture the unwelcomed, never having doubted this grief is mine.
I have determined to search and be grateful for compassionate support and turn from and release anything less. I am creating a safe place of protection, love and trust around my heart, mind and soul. This grief is mine, like any of my children, forever mine, forever all the love I still have for my beloved.
June 23rd 2022, my garden bouquet, a heavenly messenger and comfort