Grief is part of the human experience. We all know this. By the time we reach our 30s, most of us have already lost someone we loved, whether it be a beloved grandparent or a beloved pet, or if we’re really unlucky, someone much closer to us. Losing someone in death is perhaps the most difficult and permanent of all griefs, but it’s not the only type of grief we experience in life.
As infertiles, we know and understand a lot about grief because we go through the process over and over and over again. With the start of each period, we grieve the end of a dream. Some of us have to grieve the loss of a pregnancy, a much-wanted and already-loved baby. Some of us have to grieve the idea of ever being parents or of experiencing all the ups and downs that come with carrying a child in your womb. We grieve because we don’t feel “normal,” because we don’t feel like a woman, because everyone else seems to get pregnant without much thought and we are reminded of our body’s shortcomings at every turn.
And as a mother, I have come to realize that there is grief in every part of parenting. My friend Leigh and I speak often of this. We grieve because our babies have stopped being babies. We grieve because they are constantly growing up, leaving us behind little bit by little bit in each step forward they take. They start preschool, they start kindergarten, they make friends who become more important to them than Mom and Dad, they stop needing hugs and kisses, they stop needing us…and we grieve. And we grieve when they grieve, for whatever they grieve for and for however long the grief lasts. As a mother, grief is constant.
But grief doesn’t end there either. It isn’t contained to just death, and infertility, and mothering. We face grief around every corner, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in much larger ones. We grieve the loss of a job we loved or needed. We grieve not getting the job we really wanted. We grieve when a phenomenal vacation has come to an end. (Maybe not everyone does this, but I do. Oh! how I do.) We grieve the end of summer, the end of the holiday season. And we grieve relationships that end not by death, but by circumstance or choice. Sometimes someone moves away. Sometimes we just drift away from a friend who once was our whole world. Sometimes we are forced to face a divorce we never could have predicted, as my sister is right now. And sometimes a close friend, for whatever reason, decides that she is ready to end our friendship, and we grieve again.
That’s where I’m at right now.
For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you will probably remember my good friend Lillian. The one who gave me the most face-to-face support during and after my miscarriage. The one who experienced three miscarriages of her own before giving birth to her daughter and another one shortly after I learned I was pregnant with Skittle. The one who kept Cupcake at her house for nearly two days while I was in the hospital giving birth. The one with whom I did frequent Mom’s Nights Outs, and weekend getaways, and jam-making, and cookie-baking, and playdates. Remember her? For over three years, she has been a huge part of my life and, now, she has unexpectedly decided that she does not want to be a part of it anymore.
It’s a long, complicated story that I am still trying to make sense of and much of it remains shrouded in mystery for me. I won’t bother going into all of the details here because it’s just too much. And really, the details don’t matter because, in the end, Lillian still decided our friendship was over. She explained it away by saying it was clear to her that our personalities didn’t fit together. I am too sensitive, too easily wounded, and she apparently felt like a “bull in a china shop” with my feelings. And in that, she may have a point. I am emotional and sensitive and I do get my feelings hurt easily. And Lillian’s first priority is always Lillian. She has no filter and is quick to anger and says and does a lot of things that can and have stung my heart. But the funny thing is that I have never admitted to any of it unless Lillian has pointedly asked me if she hurt my feelings. And isn’t it odd that I’ve been able to get over and let go of it every time she has hurt me, and yet she somehow cannot let it go? And that the only two times she has confronted me with issues in our friendship is because I hurt her feelings, not the other way around? Like I said, it’s complicated and mysterious and I don’t understand much of it myself.
I think the hardest part is knowing how much time I invested in our friendship. I gave her a lot of myself and recently worked very hard to fix things when it became obvious they weren’t going well. I devoted myself to our friendship for an entire year while my husband was telling me I deserved better and that I was wasting my time. I was willing to do what needed to be done to find some healing between us and she gave up. And she can say it’s because I’m too sensitive or blame it on clashing personalities or whatever her excuse of the day is, but the truth of the matter is that she made a choice. It was a choice to end our friendship and only she has responsibility in that. Clearly, I valued it more than she did and I’m glad to know that now, but it’s still hard to swallow. And no matter how it ended or why, it still feels like a rejection. Like something is wrong with me. Like I did something bad, even when everything I did had truly good and honest intentions behind it and I wanted nothing more than to be a good friend to her.
But the intensity of the emotions that came in the aftermath has mostly subsided. I have worked through the grieving process rather quickly and am now at a stage of acceptance and, almost, indifference. These days, I am feeling somewhat relieved that the constant drama with her is over for good and I am free to live my life as I please without the concern of what she thinks or how it may piss her off. I miss her sometimes, and all the laughs we had. And I miss the fun things we used to do with our mutual friend Leigh and the three of our families. I miss the memories and the sense of community her friendship gave me. I miss her because, in the best of times, she was a dear friend who offered a lot of support and a place where I could truly let my guard down. But in the worst of times, I felt guarded all the time and I don’t miss that.
It’s a mixed bag of “stuff” you get with a loss. With grief.
And yet, if you live a long and full life, grief is part of the package. It’s part of the price we pay for love. It’s part of being human.
I kind of hate that, but I’m learning to accept it, instead of fearing it. Instead of running from it.
I’m learning to embrace it.
To be grateful for it.
Grief is beautiful.
Even when it’s hard and ugly, it’s always beautiful.