There is website for help in these challenging times. I didn’t even pay attention to the name of it, once I found out that I have to pay for this site — the name of the site is not important. However, I did take a photo of the quote on the landing page that is an introduction. It said, “Grief is not optional. It’s the price of admission.”
I like it. No one gets out of this life unscathed. There is a story about a woman who lost her son. She came to Buddha and begged him, “Merciful Buddha, you can make miracles happen. Please bring my son back to me!” Buddha said to her, “Yes, I can bring your son back to you, but only if you bring me a mustard seed from a house where no one has felt grief or suffered tragedy.” So, the woman traveled all over the world. But she could never find even a single household that was not touched by calamity or misfortune of some kind. I would go on to argue that it is sometimes the tragedies and wounds (mental and physical) that make our character, that shape us into the people we become. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest of fires.
An interviewer once asked Eric Clapton about the death of his three-year-old son, who fell from a window. Mr. Clapton said that he liked working from the place of pain and darkness. I think that is one of the differences between us — one of many, many, many differences — I tried, but could not write anything of any value or beauty out of my grief and my pain. The only value in the grief is being on the other side of it, and knowing it did not get the best of me. I am still here.
In November of 1999, I had a stillborn daughter. About a year later, I had a miscarriage. A little more than a year after that, I had Sammy, a live and healthy baby.
I’ve written about this before, and I will definitely write about it again. Being a writer means healing through writing, whether the pain is of the body or the mind. However, very little of my writing about grief is the language of beauty or even sentiment. Most of the time, I recount the event as if reading an outline written by a high school freshman: this happened, and then that happened, followed by this, and then this. There are places I insert my thoughts, about screaming inside my head and the fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop felt like me holding my breath for days and weeks. But in the two decades I’ve lived since my Ruthie, I have been writing the same thing. I have been thinking the same story.
It’s not like I could spin grief into pearls. Some writers can, of course, but not me. I know that grief isn’t always depression — even in the beginning, at its worse, there were times I could laugh, something I cannot do when I am depressed. But, of course, depression is part of grieving, which is a process, like any stage in life. One of my biggest fears at that awful time was getting so lost in my misery that I might never find a way out. I consciously worked hard not to appear as if I was drowning in my own sorrow, and by acting that way, I found that I could hold my head above the turbulent waters. I knew that my husband was suffering, too, and I did not want to add to that burden, not in any way.
There are events in my life, immigration and my stillborn daughter, that are so life-changing and significant, that they alter my very DNA. I don’t much trust people who haven’t suffered through a significant loss or struggled or suffered in some way. I mean, how do they know what they are made of? How do they know who they really are?
John A. Shedd once famously wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” I like to think that those whose ship has seen rough waters and storms at sea, have the pride in knowing they have weathered the storm, and know they are survivors.