should old acquaintance be forgot

I just thought of something: in a few days, last year won’t be last year anymore.

Good, some people might think. The more road between us and Then, the better

Not me.

When I hear M.—or myself, but especially M.—say, “when we had our loss last year…” it is a welcome jolt. In that moment, Zoey and Gus sound so much more recent than they often seem. It has been a whole twenty-one months since they died. And as if that fact were not enough, these months have not been the regular kind. Sorrow, infertility, the second pregnancy, the twins, new friends, their grief, our memory, and more have stretched these months sideways. Their new shapes eclipse and defy the simple, boxy, snapshot image of the calendar page.

I’m glad to think of it as not that long ago. I’m glad when I feel like we haven’t really journeyed that far.  When I feel that M. and I, and Gus and Zoey not at opposite ends of a country. When they seem nearer—even if it means that for a moment, my sadness is, too.

This is why the words “last year” are so loaded to me now. Sometimes, when I hear M. use them—or myself, but especially M.—I see them capitalized with a little TM sign at the end.  Or I see them as little gravity wells, tugging on all the other words, warping the fabric of the sentence. Last year infuses whatever we are saying with the thing we are not. We are saying, “We remember.” We are saying, “Don’t you forget that we have lost.”  We are saying, “It’s not as far away as we know you think it is.” We are screaming in code.

And that’s the thing, really. Even more than a way to keep Gus and Zoey close, invoking last year feels like a way to jab everyone else. To provoke not only our sadness, but also theirs. Or their guilt. I don’t care which. As long as we keep our claim on their compassion, then frankly, either is fine.

Maybe this is weak. Maybe this is hostile. Maybe this is natural. I do not know what it is—except only that it is.

Maybe it is simply that I will seize any bridge to Gus and Zoey that I can. Any way to keep their shape—or the outline their absence—definite.

Last year sounds close enough to do that. Last year sounds so close, why, you could land there just by hopping a few steps to one side. But with “two years ago,” or anything beyond, the bridge dissolves to just a few beams. It is an extension of an extension, and where is the gravity in that? The solidity? Last year is familiar; it is land. Everything from there is uncharted. What is this thing supposed to be when it is no longer as nearby as last year?  What are we?

So, it turns out, we traveled across a country after all.  And now we are at the shore.


How does the new year (or any milestone) make you feel about your loss?  How has your loss affected your experience of time?  Please know that I'm wishing you and yours a gentle holiday season and much health and healing in the year ahead.








I live a secret life with my dead son Silas.

It's nothing freaky, no crazy eyes and too-loud whispers to someone that isn't there while everyone else moves away awkwardly in a crowded bar on a cold winter night.  Nothing like that.  Our secret life is subtle and private.

When I can't handle life without him I just sigh and look around.  I take a deep sigh, from the gut, from where the Pit used to live all the time.  I look around and sometimes I make an effort to be slow because the speed of his death still terrifies me.

Everything was crazy and amazing, and then everything was worse than crazy and more wrong than human tolerable limits allow.  Moments became dense with fear and my world collapsed.

Now I hate the feel of time pressing on my skin and shoulders.  I hate its weight on the back of my hands when I'm moving fast and time's breathless vapor is in my lungs as I'm trying to catch up to what is getting away from me, quickly, right now, now gone.

He's gone and that is everything, but that basic truth is hidden in my skin and folded into my heart.  The hole in my soul is utterly unspeakable.

I can't tell most people about this secret life but you know it already, from the way yours looks and feels.  You know the aching absence in my arms.

The torrent of humanity flows from the vaginas of women all around me and I'm drowning in other people's babies.

There is a particular type of future for the vast majority of families and I am shocked by how distant that life feels.  I expected nothing less and nothing more than the chaos of kids running through my home.

To this day I can be ambushed by a bulging belly or new wide eyes blinking at their fresh take on life.  I thought I would be better by now, but I'm not.  It's as simple as that.  I'm not.

My secret life with my dead son is mine alone.  It is the whispers in my head in the night when even I'm not awake.  It is crying in the car because of beauty from the radio or the light of the trees.  My secret life with my dead son is the absence of memory. He and I share the shadows of all those living kids and I cannot tell you about it because I can barely believe it is still so fucking true.

The Earth cast its shadow on the Moon last night.  Like a secret passing through the Universe, like the whisper of Silas's brief life, like the piece of his soul that orbits the ventricles of my heart, this spectacle is dark, subtle and private.  The shadow of his death dims the light in every room I enter, even if it is the big one with the giant furnace hanging in the sky, and everyone is there, and we are having fun.  Even when I'm having fun, I'm having fun for him, too, and I need to turn the lights down.  The world is too bright without him and not nearly bright enough.

No one else but Lu knows, though.  He's our little secret.  We smile to each other in a way that means everything and it is just barely enough.  Silas is my son and I will always feel the light of his life even though we live in the shadow of his death.  Last night was the longest night of all I'm looking forward to longer days and brighter light and the possibility of hope somewhere down the line.

smoke and mirrors.

My daughter is dead two years.

Time is like a funhouse hall of mirrors. Some memories stretch your worst parts, and shrink your best. Your boobs are all but eradicated and those thighs feel wider than possible. In the next step, you look tall and lean and impossibly good. “I want to live in this mirror,” you whisper to no one in particular. Your daughter is alive in this mirror, and you are happier than you thought possible. The next reflection, the straight, unchanged view of the present may be the most horrifying of all.

I like the funhouse mirror analogy. Because the moment Grief sneaked into the room, and breathed his hot, sour breath on my neck, it felt like a carnival ride—it was nauseating and smelled funny. I recognized the puddles of sick around me from my earlier rides. I glimpsed the freak show catatonic slip out the back leaning against the wagon, smoking a cigarette, laughing at the bearded lady. Other people’s lives of contentment are all smoke and mirrors too, I realized it back then like it was some kind of secret.

I’m not there anymore, but it makes me miss the immediacy of that early grief. All these mirrors together in one place are confusing me. They are distorting the truth. I don’t want to return to the worst moments of my life, even if the mirror makes that moment so present and exacting in its goal that it feels attractive. The rawness of grief put everything into perspective. I had no other goal than mourn, weep, survive. At two years out, I miss the surety of that perspective.  I wanted to outrun grief then. I am in some other mirror now, the one that looks normal, except that it distorts my forehead to a large teardrop shape of grief.

No, wait, time is like time. It moves forward. And you heal in spite of yourself. You heal even when you absolutely don't want to heal because the wound is the only thing tying you to your dead baby. You end up in a place that looks like healing. Or you don't. But you end up. You get two years from the moment of death and you shake your head and you wonder if you really remember anything about the early grief except that you are absolutely sure it was the worst feeling in the world. And that holding her dead body was absolutely the best of the worst moments of your life.

I try to bend time with my mind, twist it like a Mobius strip, until the beginning and end are one. On that two year strip of time, I can touch her again while simultaneously realizing what it means two years later to have only two hours with my daughter. Even if I can't change her death, I still want This Me to tell That Me to breath her in little bit longer. I would shake me. “Savor these two hours,” I would tell me. “Study her like the most important test of your life. Undress her. Look at her bum and her little tootsies. Sing her the song in Spanish that puts all your babies to sleep. This is the only two hours you get her for your whole fucking life. Get out of your pity party and kiss every part of her.”

I dreamed her once. It was winter at my grandmother’s house, and she clung to my midsection. And I, thinking she was still inside, reached down, surprised to feel her body on the outside and to see her eyes open. Lucia smiled at me. I lifted her and looked into her violet eyes. She was lovely and peaceful. It was the only time I saw her alive, and it was wholly in my subconscious. Sometimes I miss the dream as much as I miss the daughter. It was a time and moment when I believed that I knew her. She was mine. And I was hers.

I never knew her. She never belonged to me. Two years later, I don’t even have her scent in my memory anymore. I don’t remember her face exactly. I cried to our grief therapist two weeks out. “I am afraid to forget her,” I cried. And the therapist said, “You will never forget her. She’s your daughter.” I didn’t mean that I would forget that she existed. I meant I would forget what her face looks like in real life. And even then, I was forgetting. It was drifting away like the funhouse analogy. I knew it and that is why I cried. I forget her.

Pictures flatten her, stretch her out, cover her with death. I can't bear to look at them anymore. They are not her. They are like Magritte's painting The Treachery of Images. Ce n'est pas ma fille. This is not my daughter. This is a picture of my daughter, but it is not her. When she was born, her nose had life, even though it didn't. This nose, this nose is bruised and covered in dense vernix. This nose is dead and two-dimensional and doesn't look kissed at all. My daughter was three-dimensional, like my love for her. I have nothing of her now but the flatness of grief. When solstice comes, I will walk out into the darkness, bundle up and remember her with the light. It is the contradiction that I feel in me--warm and loving at the same time as her death has left me cold and alone.

The winter cradles me in its icy arms, kisses my forehead, reminds me that I am alone, but warmed by the absolute cold of grief. It is a riddle, a kind of zen koan of grief. When you have the cold, I will give you the winter. When you are burning with the heat, I will give you the sun. When you are the loneliest, you feel part of the universal tribe of lonely people. I meditate on it. If grief were a season, it would be winter--barren, empty, yet silent. The air holds no moisture, no kisses of dew. I am in Grief’s cold clutches, and the cold is somehow fitting now. In that, I take a comfort. Everything around me feels empty and cold and has lost life too. 

My daughter is dead two years. Lucia is dead two years. She is so impossibly dead. I get it now. I get it, but I still don’t like it.


When you reach the anniversary dates of your child(ren)'s death or birth, do you reflect on your grief? How has your grief changed? What is distorted about your sense of early grief? What is distorted about where you think you will be in your grief five years, ten years, twenty years from now? What would the you of right now tell yourself in the moments right after your child(ren) died, or in the moments when after you found out your child(ren) would die? 

something old, something new

I'm sure somewhere -- here, there, in a comment -- during the past three plus years I wrote something to the effect:  "If I could just fit into those old jeans.  It would be like getting the old me back."

As if a smaller ass would magically mend my heart.


When I moved to this house I was pregnant with Maddy, so I packed up all the old clothes -- the ones that fit a few months earlier, and the really nice tiny ones that fit before Bella -- thinking someday, certainly someday, soon, I will slink back into these.  (Clearly I wasn't taking the timeliness of fashion into count, which I suppose says a lot about me and the way I dress and is subject for another much more hilarious post.)  As it was, I gained almost 20 lbs more with Maddy than I did with Bella, in large part because I couldn't exercise during the pregnancy, and in no small part, because I didn't eat nearly as well.  In retrospect I'm pretty sure I was stressed out and likely depressed during that pregnancy.

Anyway, you're all familiar with the rest:  Baby is born, baby dies, can't breastfeed the pounds off, and don't feel like subjecting myself to fresh air.  Flab stays.  About four months after Maddy died I went into a running frenzy thinking I would just blow the pounds off in a matter of weeks, and wound up blowing up my plantar fascia.  The pounds stayed.  

By the time I got pregnant again last year, two plus years later, I was still 20 pounds over where I wanted to be.  In some fit of nonsense, I went on a closet cleaning purge last March (while almost eight months pregnant), and tossed out everything.  I was tired of opening the closet and seeing the old clothes mocking me.  That was the old me.  The really old me.  If I ever got down to that size again, I'd buy new clothes.  (Hell, you should buy new clothes anyway for the love of mike -- who wears those anymore?)

With three exceptions:  Three pairs of pants.  Two jeans, one pair of cords.  All designer labels, all bought after losing the Bella weight and feeling good about my bod again.  Maybe, I thought, maybe.  I hid them in the back behind all the loose fitting skirts and blouses I had purchased to hide the fact that I had another baby that wasn't around to help legitimize my midsection.

Right now, as I'm writing this, I'm wearing a pair of those jeans.  They're a wee bit tight, especially the top button that hits uncomfortably right in my three-baby pooch.

Does that make me feel better?  Yes.

It is not, however, Nirvana.


I put them on, stood back and looked in the mirror, and waited.  For what, I don't know -- lights?  Peels of electric guitars?  Suddenly clear skin and shiny hair? (wouldn't that be cool?)  Would my brain melt into a pile of lilac scented goo,  would I crave positive thinking and trot downstairs to announce, "Christmas has arrived, y'all!  Joy to the World!"

I sat and stared at the person in the mirror wearing five-year-old jeans and realized:  I am never going to be the old me.  Which is stupid, I suddenly realized, of course I'm not.  I mean, forget tragedies for a second:  I'm never going to be the old girl I was in High School again (thank goodness), or the young woman I was in grad school.  You can't go back.  You can't be the person you were before you had kids, before you met X, Y, or Z, before a certain job, or place or event or music album.   Even seemingly trivial things can shift your worldview.  How on earth I ever thought I could somehow morph into the person I was before Maddy sounds a bit wacky to me now, almost four years later.  I'm a bit stunned, to tell you the truth, that I spent so much time and verbage yearning to get back to a place and mindspace that I obviously would never return to again.  I like to say I didn't experience the station of "denial" in my grief, but today touching this denim again I think I realized I've been living in it rather heavily.  Jeans are not going to transport me back in time any more than they're going to raise the dead. 

The new me is old.  The new me is almost four years older than the old me, and that's four people years which are measured not quite as badly as dog years in grief time, but close.  There are a few gray hairs, bags and wrinkles around the eyes, extra skin around my neck.  My skin now shows the blotchiness of not two, but three pregnancies.  There's the pooch, that I'm sure some people can work off (Heidi Klum!  Call me!), but even for those of us half-way in shape, is hard to budge -- muscles have moved and atrophied, and skin has buckled around them.  I'm not sure a million sit-ups would conquer that mound.  

And then there's the inside, the stuff my fancy jeans can't possibly hope to distract me or anyone else from:  I'm more cynical (hard to believe that's possible), less trusting, less trusting of medical technology.   I'm occasionally sad, which I never can remember being.  My psyche still feels as though it's a bit bruised and achy -- no longer bedridden or uncontrollably bleeding certainly, but not one-hundred percent either.  It approaches corners cautiously, and peers around them before putting a foot forward.  I still clutch my family.  If Bella were asked what her mother says most often, after "shit" it would be "Be Careful."  I still love my friends who stood by me and think of Maddy and speak her name, and still resent the people who were silent, or worse.  Although the anger is less a hammer and more an itch.  

I still love her, I still miss her.

I realized today  this incredible seismic shift followed by modest improvement since that horrible February has nothing to do with weight loss, or the subsequent baby who helped with said weight loss.  It has to do with the simple, uncontrollable passage of time.  I'm going through my fourth Christmas without Maddy in a few weeks, I'm attending my fourth candlelight memorial service for her this Sunday.  In two short months, I will be walking through her week for the fourth time.  

I'm still changing, it turns out -- not backwards really, but forwards.  Not all great as my hair will attest, but not all bad either.  

It happens less often, it hurts less.  It has nothing to do with my body and everything to do with distance.  But it will always be there, I am firmly on this side, and I can't go back.  Despite my hemline.

I know a lot of us talk about being that person we once were -- what would you most want back?  What do you think would help get you back to that place?  Have you managed to get anything of the "old you" back?  How does it feel on this side of things?   Is there anyone else far enough out that they can see how time is helping somewhat?  Or is something else helping you move forward?  Are the ways you changed after the death of your baby/ies changing yet again as you move farther away from the event?

Colors of his home, by numbers

We moved recently. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Moved. One breath gets it out.

Though isn't it one of the three biggies of upheaval (in the course of a normal life, that is)? Getting married, changing jobs, moving? Yes, I believe it is. So not a small deal for anyone. But to me... to me it was a huge deal.

We found our first house right around the time I was finally pregnant. Two years after tossing the birth control pills, and nearly at the end of my fucking wits, finally pregnant. Not for long, though, not for long. A miscarriage, a fucking bloody mess. By the time we signed for it, some months later, I was pregnant again, just a touch further along than the gestational age when the miscarriage happened. On progesterone this time, pretty sick, but cautiously optimistic. We didn't move in for a few months still-- the old owners rented from us for a bit, and then we renovated. And then we moved and had no furniture, and my family came for the first Thanksgiving in our new place, and Monkey kicked in a way that could be felt from the outside for the first time the day before they showed up, so JD got a day of it all to himself before the hordes came and wanted their turn. It was good time. Busy, crazy busy, but good.

We hosted New Year's at the new house too. And I spent some hours of that night in my office with a couple of friends giving me tips on the thesis defense presentation I was preparing. And then my parents came again, and I defended, round and needing to use the bathroom, and I passed, and I was a PhD. And the next day I bled bright red in the mall and ended up in the hospital on bed rest. Partial placenta previa. It was scary again a few times, but in the end she was born safe and sound on her very due date, and we went home two days later.

The house was never huge, but by the time I was pregnant with A it was starting to feel cramped.  That Thanksgiving, our sixth in the house, we moved Monkey out of the tiny baby room into what was previously a guest bedroom. We painted and bought her a bunk bed. She was looking forward to her baby brother's arrival, and she wanted him to share the room with her just as soon as he could. So I spent some time agonizing over whether to buy the girly bedspreads for the bunk beds or more neutral ones, and a friend told me to go with girly because I can always switch to neutral when he moves into the room, or even let each have their own. We painted our bedroom then too-- a lovely deeper green. I was very proud of choosing both color schemes.

A's room didn't get painted until a week before he died. It had to be painted, you see, because light purple and yellow that Monkey had in there didn't look boyish enough. The same friend (my best female friend from college, my color guru, and a few other things besides) helped me pick the blue and the new shade of yellow.

When we got home from the hospital, empty-wombed and empty-handed, I shut the door to that room. The morning of the funeral, before walking down the stairs and out of the house, I opened it, and cried in the doorway. I shut it again after, for a few more weeks. We didn't use that room much until the Cub came to fill it more than eighteen months later. But at least after a while I could walk in there.

What did change though was my feelings about the house. Where before it was starting to feel cramped, now I couldn't imagine leaving. This was the only house in which my son lived in me, the only house my son was ever supposed to live in. This was the house that stood ready to welcome him. I couldn't leave that house now.

Three and a half years later I still couldn't think of leaving. But by then the house was really starting to put a squeeze on us. Toys were everywhere, and the moment you didn't pick up and put away one little thing, a pile of things big and small grew around it. And yet, I couldn't think of leaving. Then one day a house down the street, literally three doors down, went on the market. And then JD asked wouldn't it be cool if we could buy it and move there and have my sister and her husband (and their baby on the way) move into our current house. Turns out that was the only way that I could really deal with leaving-- if we were not entirely leaving.  Things went very fast from there. We saw the house, we liked it, we put in an offer. Two weeks and much negotiation later, we had a deal.

It was logistical insanity, pure and simple-- trying to move us and then my sister before her due date, in the middle of my first semester of solo teaching, in the middle of trying to apply for other jobs. It was insanity. But now it's mostly done, and I am typing this in my comfy chair in the family room of the new house. Neither we nor they are completely unpacked, but my nephew is here, and we walk to each other's houses. Which was the whole point. But not the whole story.


When we first saw the new house, one thing was very clear-- the room that was to be Monkey's would have to be painted. It was pink. And not the kind of pink that is a bit off white. The kind of pink with conviction. One wall in particular, but the other three only slightly less so. And Monkey was by then years past her pink phase. She wanted blue, and by rights couldn't possibly be made to live with pink (and neither could I, so it's all good). But we thought that was the only room that would need painting-- some of the other colors in the house were not my favorites, but certainly not something that needed to be fixed post haste. Even the baby room, the one that would be Cub's, when we first saw it looked like it was a nice subtle shade of forest green, and we thought that was kinda nice. But when with a few weeks left to closing we went to measure a couple of rooms, the owners have started moving out. And without the crib and blankets in the room it turned out that the walls weren't forest green-- they were dirty beige.

Suddenly I wanted to paint that room. And the minute I knew I wanted to do that, I also knew that there was only one set of colors I was interested in-- the very same blue and yellow of the room that was painted for A nearly 4 years back.

I thought I would be fine, see. We'd be just down the street, and family would still be in that house, in that room. His cousin now, like his brother before. My dad was coming, to do a bunch of work on the house for my sister, but they weren't going to paint the baby room. That warmed me up, made me grateful-- all of our boys, see, they would all have that room, those colors in common. And I thought that would be enough.

But it wasn't. I knew now I wanted to take those colors with me as well. I knew how to get that done too. We weren't going to use the same kind of paint this time, but I had high hopes for the awesome powers of color matching computers. The way paints are mixed in the stores is by adding correct amounts of primary colors to white and mixing. You know, in those giant paint-mixing drums they have. And the way they match any color you want is by scanning a sample and having their computer figure out which primary colors go into that one in what proportions. So we brought the cans with leftover paint to the store and asked them to match. I am sure the nice men in the paint department that day had not a clue why I needed to match the colors so very precisely. But I spent a long time there, checking and rechecking and checking again. In the end, I had my new paints. I thought the yellow might have turned out too bright, but the blue was spot on, and somehow of the two that one was more important to me.

And even then, with hours spent in the paint store, even then I thought it was mostly about how yucky that beige was. With some amount of bravado I told my sister about the new plan, and added that she didn't need to psychoanalyze this decision-- I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it anyway. It turns out, I was only half right--what I didn't know was how desperately I wanted to do it.

The way I found out was that JD suggested not taking down the border previous owners had in the room-- it was kinda cute if rather monochromatic, but it did have elements of blue, and JD thought it would work with our colors. And I felt my throat close. Anxiety. Cold, shaking anxiety. I walked around with it for about a day and then told him no, I can't handle it-- the border has to go. No problem. The border went. And I exhaled, a little.

My dad painted the Cub's new room, like he did just short of four years before for A. Just like he laid the hardwood in the Cub's room while we were in NICU-- because I wanted there to be a change between the boys, but a small change, and changing the old yucky carpet for (fake) hardwood fit the bill. I saw the room take on the colors, and I remembered that when A's room was first painted, the yellow looked too bright too. I smiled.

A while ago I told Angie in the comments here that because of the peculiar dynamics of my family, I couldn't wish for A to hang around my house, that that would feel like tying him down, like making him comfort me. But what I realized in the process of moving and painting was that I wanted to feel like A still had a home with us, that if he wanted to, he could hang around our house. And I know that has nothing to do with whether we kept a space that was recognizably his, but somehow it makes it more tangible if we do.

Our first night sleeping in the house, I lit one of my giant candles in the jar, and I thought "Welcome home, little one."


Of course, in a sort of funny throw-your-hands-in-the-air coda to the whole thing, when my brother in law went to touch up the baby room in the now-his house, he discovered that time isn't often kind to paint, and that nearly four years will sometimes do uncool tricks. The touchups were so clearly seen on the walls, especially on the blue, that it no longer looked like the same room. We showed it though-- dad used leftover paint from the new house to put a layer over those touch ups. The colors were matched after all. So now the cousins, have the exact same shades in their rooms. All sorts of fitting, no?


 Do you have signifiers of awaiting your baby in your home? What are they? Have you moved since the death of your baby? Are you thinking about it? Have your feelings about a potential or real move changed? If you are firmly in the same place, can you imagine leaving it now?



rest now

clink crackle sschwipp hum

 These are the small noises of my acupuncture clinic. They are the sounds of care, the sounds of someone watching over me.

When I come here, they seat me in a fuzzy recliner. I roll up my sleeves and the legs of my jeans and settle in. The acupuncturist drapes me in soft fleece blankets, folding them just so. He crouches next to me and gently takes my pulse. I feel like a small, sick child, in the best possible way—I am tucked in and a grown up has come to check on me. 

He asks a few questions in a soft whisper. How am I feeling? How is my mood? Am I sleeping okay? I stick out my tongue, and am told that it is a little puffy, or a little red, or looks good. Then comes the clink of a jar lid and the crackle of the plastic coming off a new needle. The tiny pinch goes into my foot, and I hear the sschwipp of the plastic sheath sliding away, leaving the needle in place. Six in my legs, four in my arms, and one between my brows, which I always ask for because it makes me sleepy. Then the best part—an electric heat lamp over my bare toes. Hum. 

“Rest now,” he says. And I do. But half asleep, I like to listen to the sounds in the room. Another patient rustling in. The soft, sibilant conversation assessing today’s aches and pains. Clink, crackle, sschwipp, hum. Care is being given. Somebody cares.

* * * * * *

I first crawled into the acupuncture clinic fourteen months ago. I walked in actually, but emotionally-speaking I was on my hands and knees. Depression runs in both sides of my family, and for several months I’d had an eagle-eye on that nearly indiscernible line between it and grief. I’d been fighting hard for every little bit of serotonin I could scrape together: long hot showers, daily chocolate brownies, stupid comedies on DVD, a few, barely tolerable minutes outdoors with sunshine on my face. This was the first six months after losing her. This was pure survival.

Then one August morning I woke up and knew I was over the line. I couldn’t fight on my own any more. I was tired, pissed off, and scared. We talked about antidepressants, and decided to try acupuncture first – I had a friend who was studying it, and he recommended a clinic where I could be treated in a group setting, in a comfy recliner, and pay just twenty dollars.

So I crawled in, and I told the acupuncturist everything—this perfect stranger. He listened so quietly and didn’t turn away. There were very specific questions about my moods and the care I received during and after the loss. And then he said the best thing—that treatments would not get rid of my grief, but would lessen the depression and anxiety so that I could grieve more fully. Well, how about that? This place just gave me license to grieve.

So I have grieved there—twice a week, draped in blankets, with heat on my toes and needles in my arms, I have cried silently and dreamt of my daughter resting on my chest. I’ve imagined a new future, a new child. And I’ve simply slept. This whole time, I’ve been treated with nothing but tenderness, and the needles have done their job—I no longer feel like I’m in free fall towards the pit.

Photo by Green Heat

When I say that acupuncture helped me, most people don’t understand the enormity of what I’m saying. My baby died, and nothing can make that better for me—not the love of family and friends, not the beauty of nature, not support groups and bloggers, not hot showers and brownies. These things are all crucial parts of my grief journey, and I would be lost without them. But nothing makes a dead baby better.

However there is something about the acupuncture clinic that is, miraculously, healing a part of me. Its gentle professionalism may be off-setting some of the damage done by the carelessness of my medical doctors. It might be the fact that the acupuncturist is simply a stranger, not friend or family. When we talk I don’t need to take care of his feelings, and the only thing I owe him is a check for $20.

And then there are the cozy blankets. I am so used to working hard at taking care of myself, and others. So much that I do requires an outlay of energy—even the things I do for myself, like taking a walk, or calling a friend. Acupuncture is an utter reversion. I am a child under those blankets. Something bigger than me is at work. Someone knows what they are doing. Someone cares and wants to make things better.

I have lost all sense of that kind of order and goodness in the world since my baby’s death. In the clinic, amidst the clinks and sschwipps and hums, for a couple of hours each week, I find it again.

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Acupuncture is my thing. What’s yours? Is there a person, place, or activity that has supported you unconditionally? That has eased your walk with grief? That has restored your faith in… anything? When you are in the dark, it can be hard to talk about the good stuff, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what could possibly help this most un-helpable thing.