Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Setting Grief Aside
Where has my grief gone? It feels remote and inaccessible lately. And with distance from my grieving self comes distance from Noah. I know that grief for my child will always be with me. But it’s gone underground again.
I was talking with a friend and fretting about days that go by without thinking of Noah or feeling anything when I walk past his picture on the piano or in the den. Memories of the living Noah recede into the shadows as I’m increasingly caught up in other things. That seems healthy, my friend says; that seems natural. I’m sure she’s right. But I hate how inexorably life rolls forward without Noah. I hate the numbness that comes from sensing his absence where his presence should be.
I’ve fought against numbness throughout this journey. I’ve felt most alive when grief flowed freely, when tears brought me closer to my love for Noah, and when writing about it brought release. I plunged headfirst into grieving in the first year or two without understanding the need, with traumatic loss, to “dose” my grief and pace myself lest it become overwhelming. Of course, I had no choice at that point; I was undone. With time, it became easier to choose whether and when and how much I wanted to give way to grief. Psychologists Jordan and Baugher say that grief eventually becomes a more voluntary response that we can control, as opposed to the involuntary grief of earlier stages.
But grieving takes enormous energy and some part of me must have recognized this when I put it aside a few months ago after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis . I had to stop and really listen to my body’s need to rest and heal. At night, I tried to ease into sleep with relaxation exercises; when I woke up, I prolonged the sense of rest by reading in bed. I concentrated all my prayers and meditations on my health rather than anything to do with Noah. And I put a lot of effort into staying positive—not my natural inclination!--and keeping anxiety at bay. At the same time, I was intent on finishing a book inspired by this blog that will be published in July (more on that this summer). I needed all the energy I could muster to meet my deadline and take care of myself. I see this only now as I reach the end of 20 radiation treatments and begin to reclaim my time, my body, and my grieving self.