It was a cold and sunny October afternoon in the Windy City as my husband drove me to the hospital for a surgical procedure that would remove any traces of my 12-week pregnancy.
Earlier that day we had gone for an ultrasound with nervous excitement. We were going to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Minutes passed as we eagerly waited to hear the rhythmic ‘thud, thud’ of our little one, our eyes unmoving from the screen that displayed the tiny image. But the only sound that broke the silence was the beating of my own heart — so loud that it drowned out my husband’s concerned inquiries as the ultrasound technician left the room. It drowned out my doctor’s voice as she explained what may have gone wrong. It drowned out everything around me, until the bitter Chicago wind jerked me out of my stupor as I stepped into the cold.
Walking towards my car, I became acutely aware of the piercing sadness that had taken hold of my entire being. It was pure sadness — untarnished by thoughts of guilt, blame or regret. I was suffering from the loss of my child. Adding self-blame, guilt, shame or regret to that suffering would have been cruel. I had learned, through years of practicing mindfulness, to love myself unconditionally. In that painful moment, I knew I deserved nothing but kindness and self-compassion. Practicing mindfulness had also taught me to ‘turn towards’ the pain, instead of ‘turning away’ in avoidance. So I let the sadness seep through my body, feeling its inexpressible sting. I was not ready to accept what had happened, but I accepted the sadness. That in itself gave me a profound sense of calm.
Worries about how my loved ones, who lived oceans away, would take the news, how my 5-year-old’s little heart would break when she found out that she was no longer a big sister, and worries about my ability to sustain a life (since this was my second loss in eight months) started to cloud my mind. When I realized that my mind was taking me down a dangerous path of worrying, rumination and self-doubt, I forced it back to the present moment, to the emotional and physical reality of what was happening to me. Worrying about those things would unnecessarily intensify the already painful experience. I was confident that I would help my loved ones with their pain when I was ready. But at that moment, the only thing I could do was take care of myself and that is what I did.
Eventually, the physical scars healed but the emotional scars lingered longer. But in time, they faded too. Every time I think back to that day, there is one image that stands out with clarity. It is the image of me, on the way to the hospital to say goodbye to the precious life that had briefly lit up my world, looking up at the unusually cloudless and sunny October sky and actually feeling grateful. As I closed my eyes and let the sun hit my face through the car window, I remember saying a quiet ‘thank you’ to the universe for such a beautiful day.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at [email protected].
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