It took me a long time to realize that my infertility was a loss that I needed to grieve. Once I understood that, I then had to figure out how to grieve a loss that most other people wouldn’t understand. Being raised in a “stiff upper lip” culture where grief is something quiet and hidden, and public grieving is frankly embarrassing, I had to give myself permission to grieve. Only then came the wrung out exhaustion that comes from letting all those emotions out of their box. No wonder so many of us skirt grief and wait for it to just go away.
The problem is, grief doesn’t just go away. Even if we tuck it away and wait for it to slowly leak away, we still carry it around with us. We can go for days thinking we’ve got it all under control and then the tiniest trigger can flip the lid off the box and let all those emotions come flooding out. So, we avoid social gatherings, family events, and even friends as a way of keeping a lid on our grief. But it still doesn’t go away.
In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck talks about layers of grief and how our losses compound when we don’t fully deal with our grief. As someone who only recently learned the importance of grief, this explains why I’ve so often found myself in tears at the funeral of someone I barely know. I realize now that I’m stilling letting out my lingering grief for a decades-old loss that I’ve kept buried away.
On Friday, I’ll be releasing a mini workbook about dealing with difficult social situations. It has lots of strategies for how to go in mentally prepared and how to get out again in one piece. What makes theses situations so difficult, though, is the grief that hovers under the surface, waiting to spring out at the first sideways glance. Until we take our grief out and face it, those emotions will keep coming up again and again. Is it time you took your grief out of its box?
I’m not afraid of grief – in fact, having grieved pregnancy losses and the loss of my fertility (as well as my father’s death), I think I’m aware that I can get through loss now, and come out on the other side. But I do find that tears are often close to the surface, and I’ve avoided funerals (when I can) because I’m a bit of a weeper as a result! I think maybe it’s the empathy that we know how awful grief feels that brings up those tears? I don’t know.