Last week when doing laundry, a red bandana that was intended for the “dress-up box” I’ve been meaning to compile, somehow found it’s way into the laundry. Along with a book, a cloth diaper, and a bottle of silver glitter nail polish. Obviously Noah was helping put things away, and in my rush to get chores done, I dumped the basket and all it’s contents into the wash without much ado.
As you can imagine, red bandanas and vulnerable white clothing items in the wash together results in just what you would expect. Pink tinges. Pink cloth diaper (So sorry Bear Bums Diaper Service), pink t-shirts, onesies and socks.
As I maneuver my way through the day-to-day tasks of this new reality of mine, (click here to see my previous post) trying to stay engaged with my job, my husband, friends, and especially Noah…I find myself all the sudden incredibly upset, for what would appear on the outside, no reason at all. Logically I know my hormone levels are still out of whack. I know my emotional tea kettle has exceeded its pressure threshold. I know I’m really not upset because the lawn hasn’t been mowed….even if that is the thing that sets off my whistler. I am fully aware that these overgrown grass induced meltdowns are external evidence of the shredded mess within.
Although I know being the “I’m going to research what’s wrong with me” type has only led me and my trusty colleague, Web MD, to diagnose myself with rare diseases such as Neuroaxonal Dystrophies, causing more unnecessary stress due to the inaccuracies of my Google Doctorate’s Degree…. I still do it. Behold, I was researching the stages of grief. My hopes were to determine where I was on the continuum and how far I had to go in order to achieve some sort of closure. How many more steps do I need to take to get this awfulness over with?
I have come to the conclusion that I’m either a bizarre case, or that stages of miscarriage grief must not be easy to outline in a “text-book” definition. Therefore I’ve been drafting my own stages in real time. I’ve come to determine that grief isn’t just ‘stages’, or steps that you take until you become ‘sober’ again. Instead it’s like the red bandana. It finds the vulnerable places within you, the purest, whitest places and tinges them. It permeates throughout the entirety and colors all that is good and clean with a shadow of the pain. It won’t come out. It may lighten over time, and several washings, some heavy duty cleaner… But it will always be evident. At some point, these clothes will become put away, used for ‘painting only’ or just boxed up when they are out-grown. Then one day, they will resurface and the memories of red bandanas will rise to the top with them.
Here are the stages I have experienced….but there isn’t a clear beginning and end. They intermingle and come or go as they please.
The Numbness Stage. It doesn’t seem real yet. You are sad, but as I tried to describe to friends….you feel like you are watching a very sad movie. You are outside of your body and watching, like a wall flower. It’s not really denial as Kubler-Ross describes. It is touching something so hot you feel the intense burn momentarily but then the pain turns to numb. You know its going to hurt again soon. When your senses get over the initial shock.
The “What if” Stage. It is ever consuming. What if I hadn’t gone to New York? What if I hadn’t forgot to take my vitamins for a few days? I drank a cup of caffeinated tea every once in a while, and I was told no caffeine. I lifted a 27 pound toddler several times a day, what if I hadn’t carried him around? The guilt tears you up. I’m partially praying for genetic testing results to report a chromosomal abnormality so that I can have something other than myself to blame.
The Sadness Stage. The numb begins to wear off, and the white hot pain sears in such intensity. Your heart feels broken. You cry yourself to sleep, when you are alone you cry while awake, and sometimes even when you aren’t alone. Someone can habitual just say, “hey how are you doing?” The sorrow pours out, and they get more than they anticipated. Hopefully that person is caring and supportive and will just hold you and pat your back and help you return from the dark cloud you just got sucked into.
The Control Stage. About a month ago the lawn mower broke. Chris tried to fix it a few times, with not much luck. With the stress of our world lately the grass grew and grew until it was a jungle all around. So much is out of your control. Your body is out of control. Your emotions. Your plans are screwed up. You grapple for the reins on something. Simple house cleaning tasks, projects. Paying bills. Getting the lawn mowed. I tried to hire someone to come out and mow, I couldn’t get any lawn service to call me back, I couldn’t get a teen age kid….I was so desperate to get control of the yard that I ended up borrowing a mower from a friend, pushing it across Robb drive and down our street like it was a stroller. I primed that motor, and pulled and pulled the cord….couldn’t get the damn thing to start. I just lost it. A total meltdown. The frustration of not being able to control the big things was only exacerbated by not having control of the little things either.
Eff you. Eff you. And you can go eff yourself stage. This is the tea-kettle stage. The steam from all that sadness and lack of control builds up and the anger spews with a rumble and flash of lightening. Someone gets struck. Unfortunately, its usually the someone who loves you the most. Irritation, jealousy, and crazy hormones creates a nasty beast. I’m sorry honey.
Between all of these is the Pretend Stage, which fills in the gaps, pretend you are okay and move along with your life. Nobody wants to continuously be around someone who is such a hot mess….so you have to fake it sometimes.
I don’t believe my rendition of the Grief Model is complete. Likely I will add a few more stages before I get to a “healed enough to function well again” place…. but I need to finish the laundry story…. as I was shaking out, folding and putting away, pink and not pink clothes, I discovered sparkly silver glitter subtly decorating each piece. It made me smile. Maybe amongst all the pink tinged grief that losing this baby has caused, I will be able to find the silver glitter. The sparkle that life does provide.
Amanda Schlatter is a Reno mom of 2 year old Noah, a teacher for the school district, and an advocate for children and families. After seven years of suffering the disease of infertility, she and her husband finally succeeded in pregnancy through the help of a charity called Baby Quest. More can be read about her journey atwww.babyjailbreak.blogspot.com