Today's post is by Nora's Grandma Gerry.
Grief…. it seems to be always around me now. I have found that when I am alone in the car, I can actively grieve and cry. I can let the emotions flow and I don’t have to try to explain them to anyone, as many times I can’t even explain the tears to myself. Today I dropped my husband off at the airport in Milwaukee—over an hour away—so I had plenty of time to cry and let the tears flow after leaving him. Halfway home and after several tissues the trees opened up to a field to the southwest, and a rainbow that was low to the ground appeared out of the overcast clouds, as if a signal to me that things will get better. They will, but it will take time.
When I am at work, at home with friends or family, or running errands I keep the grief bottled up—actively avoiding it. I have found that many people think that the grief for a child that didn’t live outside the womb should be short-lived. As a society we keep quiet about such things, as if to say if we don’t acknowledge it, then we won’t be sad. I am hesitant to talk about Nora to some people due to this taboo.
I am also puzzled at that lack of compassion people have over stillbirth. Some individuals that I work closely with did not even acknowledge the loss of my granddaughter with an “I am sorry for your loss.” They have treated the situation like it didn’t happen. Other people who acknowledged the death tried some very clumsy condolences such as, “It was God’s will” or “There will be other grandchildren.” My inner voice always SCREAMS at them, “You don’t have a very compassionate God!” or “What about my dreams and hopes for this granddaughter?’” But I just say a thank you and tell them there are no words. And I go through the day pretending that I am all right, when I know perfectly well that a big piece of my heart is missing.
I have found that some people will accept my grieving and allow me to talk about it when I need it. Those few people—family and very close friends—I will treasure forever for their support and love. Some people just don’t understand what it is like to have someone die before their time. I have experienced it too many times. Recently I had a friend say to me in an exasperated voice that it was “time to move on.” I can’t begin to describe the anguish and pain that tore through me when this friend made that remark. My heart actually hurt. However, I didn’t let it show. I wanted to say, “Tell me please, when will the pain go away? Will I just wake up one day and be done grieving?” I don’t think so.
Why can people who have living grandchildren talk about them but I am forced to keep my love for Nora quiet? I know that people who have not experienced this type of pain cannot understand it. And when that person does experience something of this depth, I will be there with the right words.
Perhaps staying too busy or cocooning up in my house are not the appropriate responses to grief. But as a teacher, I had no choice but to shove grief to the back of my mind until summer because I had a responsibility to my students. When summer came I felt I needed to form a cocoon to process Nora’s stillbirth, my daughters’ and son-in-laws’ grief, and the grief of my husband and the rest of the family—to understand how it has affected each and every one of the people I love. I have tried to remain strong for all of them—keeping my emotions at bay when I am with them, maintaining the appearance—Keep Calm and Carry On.