bereavement

I think I'm ready to post this now.

This post is probably going to ramble. But I think writing it is going to help me, so bear with me for a while. It’s going to be heavy, and I make no apologies for that.

Last Tuesday I wrote a blog post and saved it to my drafts folder. It was my announcement to Tumblr that my wife and I were expecting our second baby. Four hours and one tearful telephone call later, I deleted it, because it was no longer true.

It was the first ultrasound, 12 weeks in. There had been no heartbeat, no growth in two weeks. The nurse told my wife that it’s possible that there had never been a heartbeat; at first the baby can grow in size without even beginning to be viable.

These things happen, we’re told, there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it, and nothing that you did caused it. But we look for explanations because it’s so hard to believe we’re so powerless, it’s so hard to believe we could possibly have no effect on a situation in which we feature so centrally.

And so no matter how logically we look at it, there’s still a nagging bit of superstition that says it was tempting fate to look at the Baby Names book. Or joke with a friend about being disappointed in how quickly you conceived because you wanted more time to practice. Or draft a Tumblr post announcing the pregnancy hours before the ultrasound. Even though you did these things after it had happened, you can’t help but feel guilty, logic be damned.

My wife and I are getting through it together, supporting each other and giving each other space where we need to. She has a great support network of online and real-life friends who have been through the same experience, and she’s come through the physical aspect well, so far. As is our way in these things, there have been tasteless jokes and guilty laughter, because sometimes finding laughter is the easiest way to stop crying. “I guess I can drink at your birthday dinner now,” for example. Don’t judge.

It’s a strange form of bereavement, losing an unborn child. When my mother died suddenly 14 months ago, there was a definite hole, a space where she should have been: Her spot on the sofa, in the kitchen listening to the radio, in my Facebook replies. Her presence was no longer there in the present. This is different. This feels like a long strip of the future has been ripped away. Plans and eventualities erased. Or, we hope, postponed.

Having gone through this now, I will say this: With one or two exceptions, resources for male partners going through a miscarriage are on the whole, terrible, in my opinion. In many cases, I don’t feel like they’re geared to me. They seem to be geared to men who need to have the concept of ‘pregnancy’ explained to them and who have to be advised not to pressure their wives into sex afterwards. (Seriously that’s a running theme throughout: “You may feel ready to have sex again before your wife, who may find it takes longer to be emotionally ready. Let her take her own time and don’t rush her.” Am I wrong for believing men who pressure their grieving wives into sex shouldn’t be procreating in the fucking first place?)

There’s that ‘anger’ stage of grief, I guess. Better to direct it at crap husbands and advice columnists than anyone else.

So yeah. That’s what I’m going through. I wrote this because I think it helps to write about these things, to put my thoughts down and out there. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

If I had lost a leg, instead of a boy, no one would ever ask me if I was ‘over’ it. They would ask me how I was doing learning to walk without my leg. I was learning to walk and to breath and to live without Wade. And what I was learning is that it was never going to be the life I had before.
—  Elizabeth Edwards
When I am sad
I don’t cry, I pour
When I am happy
I don’t smile, I beam
When I am angry
I don’t yell, I burn
The good thing about feeling in extremes
Is when I love
I give them wings
But perhaps that isn’t
Such a good thing
Cause when they go
You should see me
When my heart is broken
I don’t grieve
I shatter
It quickly dawned on me that in losing her, I had lost that enveloping sense of unconditional love. The remaining few people who loved me did so in a conditional sense, meaning that it could be withdrawn at any moment. I think that’s when my fear of abandonment intensified severely; based on past evidence that everyone who I love leaves me eventually, and the removal of the reassurance of unconditional love, I became fearful that unless I did my utmost best to make those important to me happy, their love for me would wither up and die, and then they would be gone, just like she was.
—  The Consequences of Losing a Mother Too Young #1

i spent half my life writing poems for you,
so when they asked me to write something
to say at your funeral, I couldn’t really refuse,
but believe me, I wanted to.
it is one thing to write about a person you love
whilst they are living. when they are dead,
it’s a different experience entirely. you will never
read the words I’m writing. you will never read my words again,
you will never read again, or laugh again, or hold my hand-
i’ve been crying all day, i can’t do this again.
every word i write destroys me afresh.
i know they wanted this to be a celebration of your life,
not a pained realization of all the ways in which your absence
will break my heart every day for the rest of mine, but
my god, I don’t even know how to breathe without you.
what can I say? i can tell them that you were the most
wonderful person i knew. i can say that your laugh was contagious
and your smile full of joy. i can say that your embrace felt like heaven and
that your hand fit perfectly in mine. i can say that there will never be another
person who shines quite as bright as you did, my love, but it’s not enough.
there are no words to describe how much I love you, or why.
you were compassionate. you were kind. you were everything i want to be,
and talking about you in past tense is tearing me to shreds
because that is what you are now, a part of the past,
no longer part of the present, never in the future.
your heart stopped beating and in that moment, so did mine-
because so much of me lived within you.
i am empty, a fragile shell of a girl, and i cannot write this,
i cannot say this because every time i think of you,
or move my mouth to form words i start to cry
because i do not think i can live here, in this world devoid of sunlight,
in this grey matter where you do not exist.

i will tell them you were beautiful in every way possible. i will tell them
that love shone out of your eyes like beacons of hope and that
your every act was done with kindness. i will tell them that
without you i would not be here to write this.
right now, i wish i was not here to write this.

this time tomorrow you will lie still in a wooden box, six feet under the ground.
i have spent hours of my life watching you sleep, my love,
but that was when you were breathing.
the lid of your coffin will be closed. i will not be able to
kiss your forehead, tears dripping down my cheeks.
i never said goodbye, not for real. i always thought i would see you again.
tomorrow i will have to say goodbye, watch you go back
into the dust from which you were made. i do not know what kind of dust
God used to make you, my love, but my goodness, I think it must have been special.
you will lie in that cold box, and I will cry the heart wrenching cry of a person torn in two,
because in that moment i know there will be nothing i could want more than to be lying under the ground next to you.

—  grief by Emily Gayle Waldman