Grief washes over me.
It is not the same grief, not like it was almost four years ago. It is not the same at all, but it is still grief.
In its barest form, can grief be anymore than a wish for what once was? A desperate and primordial wish to return to what was? A return to a place that is safe and comfortable. Tragedy, perhaps, forces us to inhabit a skin we do not think of as our own.
We find ourselves looking at the new us, pink and raw, fragile and still broken, and we are perplexed. Angered. Bewildered. We scratch at the new skin, convinced the old is still somewhere underneath. Time goes by and we at least become more accustomed to it. No more do I catch sight of myself in the mirror and wonder who that woman is, with the frazzled hair, nails bitten down into the quick. She does not smell of the un-showered, dressed in dingy browns and greys.
And then, suddenly, I catch sight of myself, my circumstances, my life in a new light. The suddenness of it is mystifying.
I cleaned out the bathroom cabinet last week, prior to beginning my big renovation.
A lifetime's full of the accoutrements of pregnancy attempts. The ovulation predictor kits. Empty bottles of fertility drugs. Pregnancy tests. Sperm safe lubricant. The pads I use when I miscarry.
Each of them an entire constellation of feelings and emotions. Galaxies of hope and despair, dragging me right back in.
I protest. I protest mightily, I am not that person. I am not that woman. I am not the beleaguered mother of dead children. I try to dig in my heels, but what is mere woman against the physics of galaxies.
I sit on the floor of the bathroom, agreeing to be in that space again. I sit and think about the first tube of pre-seed, what I thought was the answer to all of our fertility woes. I look at the dosage of the drugs and try to track them back to another appointment and another protocol - was this year 2? Year 3?
I think of the futility of OPK's, displayed by the variety of manufacturers represented. I think of that nurse, the one who smirked when I quietly spoke up. "Para 4, gravida 1. It's just that he died thirty minutes after he was born. My son. His name was Gabriel."
She didn't get it either.
She, like so many, looked at the skin stretched over me, wrinkled and scarred, and she turned her head.
I turn my head too.
I walked away from all of this, I walk away from all of this. I sigh and stand up, sweeping it all into a black garbage bag. All of it. Great handfuls of my hopes and dreams, armfuls of despair and sadness. All of it, into one black garbage bag.
I haul it out of the house with leftover bits of tile and paint chips and packaging from the new bathroom mirror.
I am not her.
Standing on the back deck, my sides heaving from the pull of that galaxy.
This is grief.
This is what catches you, suddenly, as you mind your own business.
This, the reminder, that skin you wear now, it was not always so.
Does this definition of grief seem to ring true for you? Have you been surprised by how grief can catch you when you were least expecting it? How far are you from your loss and are you better equipped to handle these surprises? What have you learned to cope with them? Are you getting comfortable in your new skin?