Grief is Labor in Reverse

It is my distinct honor to introduce Glow in the Wood's newest regular contributor Burning Eye. After a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy, Burning Eye's first baby Joseph was stillborn on December 27, 2012, at 35 weeks. Writing and art have been integral parts of her grieving process. I am so deeply moved by her writing and artwork, reminding me of the urgency in the early months and the timelessness of grief. Her blog is These are the things I'm made of. Please help me welcome her to the Glow in the Woods family. --Angie

I am having another contraction.

Grief is labor in reverse.

It starts with a cry. Low, animal cries, coming from my throat. Our baby, our baby, our baby. Our baby is silent. Still.

A death, a birth. My heart dilates, bleeds, breaks open. The pain blurs memory. Those first few days no longer clear, but I can tell the story I’ve recreated.

We leave the hospital with empty arms. A false rewind, our bodies staggering backwards towards before. The house, half-ready for a baby. The stroller dismantled, repacked into the box. Receipts dug out, diaper bag and car seat and baby swing turned back into gift cards. Borrowed breast pump returned.

At first the contractions are close together. Every few seconds, wave upon wave of unbearable clenching and release.

Once that contraction is over, it’s never coming back, the yoga teacher says. I breathe, trying to relax into it. Tears stream down my face. Once this one is over, it’s never coming back. Never coming back.

These first few weeks out, we’re allowed to scream and shout and rage. Too hot, too cold. Stop touching me. Get out of my face. No, come closer, hold me, touch me, rub there. Anything is permissible. Our family and friends stand by, ready to run for the ice chips. Ready to run into our arms. Ready to call for help.

The contractions slow. A few minutes to catch my breath, a few hours. These moments in between are a strange relief. The eye of a hurricane. I know the winds are about to shift direction.

Change position.

We walk. We clean the house. We distract ourselves with tv and movies, podcasts, stories read aloud. We rock in the glider. We hold each other. We let the dishes pile up. We rearrange the furniture. We sit still. We walk.

The contractions begin to come further apart. Every other day. A contraction or two is no big fuss. No one jumps for the hospital bag. No one calls or texts the news. The sympathy cards go from three or four a day, to two, to one. Then an empty mailbox.

The contractions are more erratic now. No point in timing them. The literature speaks in averages, months to years. Years. A lifetime. Your life will never be the same once that baby comes, people said when they saw my pregnant belly. My life will never be the same.


What stage of labor is your grief now?  How is your grief different now from a week ago, a month ago, the time immediately following your loss? What are you able to do in the moments when you catch your breath? When the pain returns, how do you cope? How do you change position?