As it turns out, the month of May can be a tough one. It's not just Mother's Day that makes it a bit of a sticky subject for me. There's so much Spring in the air now, that I can't seem to stop the "What ifs" from coming. Mostly, what if he got to stay? How would our lives look with Ryan among us as the winter chill finally melted away. As he began to crawl. Play in the grass. Adventures at the park. There are so many wonderings that come with time moving forward, and it's hard not to spend all my time longing.
So I'm fortunate that there are two reflective prompt thingies circulating social media this month to help moms like me put their longing and their grief into something more productive -- or at least more focused. I find I always manage the grief storms more comfortably when I have something to focus that energy into. (Like Ryan's garden or writing).
Throughout the month, I plan to focus on some combination of both -- each day reflecting on one of the prompts from either: The "#MayWeAllHeal" campaign or Francesca Cox's "31 Days of Creatively Me." (Which can also be found on Instagram with the hashtags: #creativelyme and #facetsofgrief.
Today's Creatively Me prompt was "Facets of Grief." And I thought for a while about the whole "Stages of Grief" thing and where I would be on that list of stages. Denial? Acceptance? Anger? I actually think there are many more than the common 5 stages. And although by "traditional" methods I'd probably be lumped in the "acceptance" category, I hate that word because I don't "accept" his loss. And I will never accept it. Acceptance is about agreeing, consenting, or even receiving something as being enough. None of those explanations fit how I feel about Ryan being torn away from me so quickly and cruelly. But I have been exploring my feelings--even the uncomfortable ones--on a fairly regular basis. And by textbook definitions, exploration would fall under the "Acceptance" stage. So here I am.
So the facet of grief that I've been clinging to lately is a willingness to explore. That's what I do when I write, when I participate in memorial events for Ryan and other babies like him, when I spend hours planning a garden for him. I'm exploring what this new life means. Because, agree or disagree, my vision of myself is a bit adjusted now. I'm exploring what it means to be happy. What it really means to be sad. I'm refusing to shy away from my fears and anxieties in my new pregnancy, and instead of denying that those feelings exist, I'm exploring them in order to help manage them. Anger hasn't been a feeling I've tapped into too much since Ryan died... I've felt disappointment, loneliness, sadness, and longing. But anger, especially about Ryan's death, hasn't yet reared its head too strongly--which, I'll admit, is worrisome. But I know that when it does (if it does?) I'll be ready to explore it too.
The "ugliest" emotion I've felt that I was really reluctant to explore because it feels so dirty on me, is jealousy. I've lived my life avoiding jealousy. It gets you nowhere. And yet, I find now, that's something I feel so frequently I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it. Jealous of new moms. Jealous of families with children. Jealous of pregnant women. This is something I thought would go away once I got pregnant again, but the truth is, it hasn't. And although at first, I shyed away from it and pretended it didn't exist, I was eventually "shown the light" that only once I embrace it, and let it in, will I be able to let it go. But I'm still working on it.
I'm proud of myself for being so open to exploring grief. I was so afraid of it in the beginning. Crying for days about the loss of Ryan's life, but also for the loss of the life I had before he died. The grief of knowing that life would never, could never, be exactly the same as it was before. I didn't want this grief in my life. And I won't say I'm thankful for it. And I won't say I'm happy I have it. But I will say that I'm grateful that I have been open to exploring it. Because only in being open to it, can I work through it. Only in acknowledging it, can I manage it. Only in exploring it, can I learn how to live this new life.