Metamorphosis of Holiday Grief

For many of us, the holidays are just another day. A day to reflect on how much our lives have changed since that (or those) fateful day(s). While many others have to go on celebrating holidays with other loved ones, too often grief is a topic that isn’t discussed. People prefer not to talk about those who are missing so as not to dampen the mood of excitement. What a lonely time to be surrounded by so many but forced to put on a smile and pretend that the grief in our hearts and minds has disappeared suddenly.

I’ve been told, “I didn’t want to upset you so I didn’t ask about them. I thought it would be better not to say anything.” That is a very isolating statement although filled with love and ignorance. I am eager to share ridiculous stories of my brothers and dad. I would much rather be given the chance to speak rather than be silenced by the heedless actions of those who I spend my time with. Grief is desolate as it is. Give the grieving space to be who and where they are during times that are meant to be joyous. Let those who want to share the same stories you’ve heard a million times as they would be told even if those who are missing were still here. We all have those repeat stories we love to tell again and again.

This year the holiday grief has morphed a bit for myself and my family. Both of my beautiful nieces became mothers this year. I have spoken before about the unexpected milestones in our lives and here we are again. I remember the last Christmas I was able to celebrate at home in Ohio with my dad Bubba, both of my brothers, my mother, and my nieces. It was a special time and none of us had any idea that it would be the last.

I am ruminating about how so much has changed in such a beautifully sad way. Those sweet babies will never get to laugh wildly at their grandpa and uncle. They won’t get to sit on Bubba’s lap while he naps. They will miss out on the magical love those three men would have shared with them. And at this moment my heart breaks in a new way. My tears feel different, heavier maybe.

So I am here to remind you that if you care for someone who is grieving no matter the timeframe, ask them if they want to share a memory of their loved ones. Or at the very least, tell them you sympathize with them and their feelings. Give a safe space for them to feel whatever they feel. Not everyone will be ready to talk or share but just holding space will give comfort not many grievers experience.

So to my sweet great nephews Raiden & Xander, I will always hold space for you. And I will continue to do so for your amazing mommies.


My Lonely Secret

*Trigger warning – miscarriage

I drove from Austin to Dallas for a company training event. I was in this beautiful hotel in downtown Dallas and excited for what the weekend held for me. I never would have expected the hours of horror I would encounter alone in that hotel bathroom.

It was a crisp December evening and I was waiting for my assigned roommate to show up. I had never met her but I was excited to explore downtown, find some delicious food, and chitchat. Since she never showed up I headed down the streets of Dallas checking everything out by myself. It was such a nice night and the food did not disappoint. After a couple of hours, I headed back to my hotel room to relax and prepare for the full day of training that lay ahead. That’s when it all began…

I wasn’t expecting my period so when I started getting cramps I rolled my eyes. That’s not something new for me. I’ve always struggled with crippling menstrual cramps since I was a young teenager. The kind where you can’t eat, drink or sleep. You’re just trapped in the prison of pain and nothing helps to even ease the misery. So I thought if I could take some Tylenol before it got too bad I might be able to change my normal outcome. But this wasn’t going to be anything normal or anything I had ever experienced before in my life.

For the first hour or so the cramps felt strong but similar to the pain I’d experienced a million times over again. I tried laying on my side with a pillow between my legs hoping to relieve some pressure but the pain just began to intensify. I went to the bathroom and realized I was bleeding. I thought it was so weird because again, I was not expecting my period. I was on birth control to help regulate my cycles and for the intense cramps that I always dealt with.

Going into the second hour, I was bawling. I was in so much agony and had no idea what was happening. I kept the tv on hoping that the noise that came from the rectangle on the dresser would pull me out of this haze of suffering. I turned it up in a way to implore my mind to become distracted even if it were for just a moment. Nothing worked.

The bleeding became heavier and the pain was so violent that I couldn’t move from the position I had on the toilet. The deep gripping spasms were so profound I couldn’t even catch my breath and I ripped all my clothes off with the hopes that having no pressure on my skin with help alleviate this torment. So I sat there, naked, alone, sobbing, and bleeding to the point where I felt lightheaded. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified and sluggish. That’s when I realized what was happening.

I sat there for what felt like an eternity with blood and tissue pouring from between my legs. I would look down and between my blinking tear-filled eyes, I could see it all. I was having a miscarriage there in that bathroom, fatigued, confused, and so alone. I should have called for help and I should have gone to the hospital but instead, I sat there on that toilet until the excessive bleeding stopped. It wasn’t until after 3 in the morning that I was finally able to move but just to the cold floor that held my feet so firmly.

The feelings that followed are still hard for me to comprehend. I felt ashamed, I felt pathetic, I felt scared, and I felt more alone than ever before. Although I knew what had happened, I couldn’t really make sense of it all. I was so tired and felt as if I was dreaming with my cheek smashed against the cold hard floor of that white bathroom. I still had some cramping and bleeding but it was easing up after hours of havoc.

I finally managed to pull myself to a sitting position and looked down. I had blood on the insides of my thighs, on the floor, and on the toilet. I didn’t know what to do so I wrapped myself in a towel and went to lay in bed. I cried softly to myself. I didn’t call or text anyone. I just lay wrapped in that white towel, in the white-covered bed, and stared at the tv until my alarm when off.

As my alarm sounded I took a deep breath in and turned to lay on my back. I was exhausted and terrified of what had happened. I reached for my phone to turn off the screaming sound of reality. I had to get up and go to work. I gathered my weak limbs and stood up on my shaking legs that carried me to that white and now red bathroom. I cleaned up the toilet and the floor before I got into the shower. I washed my powerless body as best I could in such an uncertain time. I wasn’t sure what else I was supposed to do. So I got dressed, grabbed some breakfast to try and gain some strength, and headed to the training.

I still had some cramping and bleeding that day. And when I was around people I smiled and acted as if nothing had happened. How do you tell someone that you didn’t realize you were pregnant until it was in pieces falling from you? I didn’t tell anyone until two and half years later. And I just recently shared this with my own mother two weeks ago. It’s a strange thing to be ashamed of but here I am, still feeling a weird sense of shame and sadness.

Unexpected Milestones

The first year after a loss is filled with so many firsts. The dread of celebrating anything without them is daunting. The weeks leading up to those days are agonizing and seem to go by so slowly yet speed by without you realizing. You feel a new and perplexing grief that fills your world in a way that’s indescribable.

The grief you carry changes and morphs many times over. Some days it’s bearable and you remember to laugh and feel alive. Other days you feel as if you’re stuck in quicksand, the harder you fight, the more suffocating it feels. Each day is unpredictable and that’s what makes grief unmanageable at times. All you want to do is scream and fight, run and hide, just not be you.

The worst part of it all is that life goes on without them. YOUR life goes on without them and that seems impossible. How can you keep living when they aren’t? You start reaching these milestones in life. You start new careers, get promotions, start new relationships with people they will never get to know, and you think about marriage and babies. These are all milestones that are expected but still so hard to accept. Life keeps on as if nothing has changed even when you’ve changed into a new person, again and again.

Then you have unexpected milestones. I’m a baby sister. That’s one of my identifying factors and something I’ve always been very proud of. Today is the last day that I will be younger than my big brother Adam. I don’t want to close my eyes to sleep because this is a terrifying moment in my life. How can this be possible? How can tomorrow come and expect my world to not crumble all around me? How can my lungs be expected to accept the task of breathing without hyperventilating? It’s times like these when I can’t recognize if this is my reality.

So tomorrow will come either way. If I lay awake until my alarm goes off or I fall into a stupor, half-dreaming, half-awake. And my heart will be broken once again, in a new, unknown way. I will cry until my face hurts and my eyes swell. Hopefully, I will also laugh and remember I’m alive. But I don’t know how grief will show up on this unexpected milestone, my birthday.