Thoughts on Mourning and Being Grateful

Over the last few weeks I have talked to friends that have cancelled their weddings. I have mourned with friends as they have lost a loved one without getting to fully mourn or even to celebrate the life of their loved one with others. I have talked to seniors in high school that aren’t getting the closure and ending that they imagined. I have talked to family members and friends that are missing big life events like babies being born, college or grad school graduations, family trips, the ending to a great school year, or simply just missing community. 

Right now there are so many unknowns and it’s ok to mourn that this season does not look like you imagined it would look. As I have listened and processed with others in this season, I have noticed that so often we are sitting in this tension between the excitement of really big events and at the same time feeling sad and disappointed. Regularly I catch myself feeling so angry and frustrated and yet so content and thankful in the exact same breath. The dichotomy of emotions, excited/disappointed or angry/content, it can be exhausting. Trying to balance it all and process it all at the same time is challenging, but it’s also necessary. The most difficult part is when we let ourselves feel shame as we wrestle with the tension.

While obviously very different than a global pandemic, I have been remembering and channeling many emotions that I felt during my pregnancy and giving birth. 

Since I was a little girl, I had dreams of enjoying pregnancy and that the day I gave birth would be a magical day. I imagined the announcement and the gender reveal. I imagined getting to breastfeed and all of the cuddles that the newborn stage would bring. In reality, pregnancy and the triplets’ birth was not at all how I had pictured it. I of course am so grateful that I have my 3 blessings but pregnancy was painful and TERRIFYING. I literally thought one or all of them would die everyday. And then they were born, and I laid in a room alone for 2 hours wondering if they were alive. They were rushed to the NICU, 2/3 not breathing. And then I couldn’t hold them for a couple days and they were in the hospital for 5 weeks. We couldn’t really have visitors in the hospital and there was a lot of fear and unknown. 

I had to give myself permission to mourn not having a “normal” birthing experience. I cried each night as I set in an empty nursery at home pumping milk into a machine for 5 weeks while my babies set in a hospital room without me. I mourned not having a “normal” pregnancy and that I had to go to see a doctor almost every week while pregnant. I was scared every time. I mourned that I never got to surprise Derek with a positive pregnancy test. I mourned not ever getting that sweet calm newborn stage at home with one tiny human. I mourned that I won’t ever have any more kids.

It’s ok to mourn that this season is different than most peoples’ “normal” engagement. And that probably your wedding won’t be “normal” either. It’s ok to mourn that you missed prom and graduation and countless other rights of passage. It’s ok to mourn that this trip that you had planned for years or months is not not going to happen. It’s ok to mourn that your child doesn’t get to finish out the year with the teacher that was so good for them. It is ok to mourn that your child doesn’t get a birthday party, or that you don’t get a birthday party. It’s ok to mourn that you miss your friends and church. It’s ok to mourn that you were just starting to find a healthy rhythm to life when all of this hit, and now you are back to being full of anxiety and feel alone. Let go of the guilt. Let yourself feel the feelings. The only way to get through your emotions is to get through them. (I have been listening to a lot of Brene Brown these days – if that speaks to you, go listen to her podcast. Find language and peace with your emotions.) Another thing they said on her podcast was that there is no room for comparison of grief. The worst loss is your own. We need to let go of the guilt that comes with knowing that someone else’s pain is always “worse” than our own. I’m going to say it again. Let go of the shame. Let yourself mourn.

But as you mourn, remind yourself of the truth and goodness and wonder that is around you right now too. It is both/and. There are both things to mourn AND things to celebrate. Sometimes in order to find the other side to this coin, we have to simply be still and listen. We also, just have to give ourselves permission to feel all of the feelings. Just like I would go through all that mess and pain every day 100 times over to have my 3 amazing healthy kids. It’s ok to lean into both of those truths. I mourned a “normal” pregnancy and birth story but at the same time celebrated that I get to watch 3 adorable and wild humans form a bond with each other and with me that few people will understand. I gained community and support beyond what I could dream because I could not survive on my own. I rejoice every day knowing that I get to be a mom to 3 of the sweetest and coolest kids I have ever met. I can be both thankful and completely content, but also angry and disappointed at the same time. Take time today to both allow yourself to mourn AND to be thankful. Life was meant to be lived leaning into both. 

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