We’re not here to fix our pain, but to tend to it.
So far this is the most helpful book I’ve read during my grief journey, although it is not about baby loss specifically. “This book is not about fixing you, or fixing your grief. It’s not about making you “better” or getting you back to “normal.” This book is about how you live inside your loss. How you carry what cannot be fixed. How you survive.”
The dedication page reads: For those who are the stuff of other people’s nightmares.
I’ve pulled out the points I related to the most, but what’s below is not comprehensive. I would strongly recommend reading the whole thing. I kept breathing sighs of relief — the more I read, the more validated I felt in my own grieving experience.
There is no getting over it (grief), but only getting under it. Loss and grief change our landscape. The terrain is forever different and there is no normal to return to. There is only the inner task of making a new and accurate map. We’re not here to fix our pain, but to tend to it.
Real safety is in entering each other’s pan, [and] recognizing ourselves inside it.
No matter what anyone else says, this sucks. What has happened cannot be made right. What is lost cannot be restored. There is no beauty here, inside this central fact. Acknowledgment is everything…Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.
Every object in your life becomes an artifact, a symbol of the life that used to be and might have been. There is no place this loss has not touched.
There is nothing wrong with grief. It’s a natural extension of love. It’s a healthy and sane response to loss. That grief feels bad doesn’t make it bad; that you feel crazy doesn’t mean that you are crazy.
Grief is part of love. Love for life, love for self, love for others. What you are living, painful as it is, is love. And love is really hard. Excruciating at times.
Grief is visceral, not reasonable: the howling at the center of grief is raw and real. It is love in its most wild form.
We assume that if something is uncomfortable, it means something is wrong. People conclude that grief is “bad” because it hurts…We behave as though grief is something to get out of as soon as possible, an aberration that needs healing, rather than a natural response to loss.
Grief is as individual as love….that all grief is valid does not mean that all grief is the same…Defending the uniqueness of your own loss against the comparisons of others is just not going to help you feel better.
You didn’t need this. You don’t have to grow from it, and you don’t have to put it behind you.
When I speak to someone within the first two years of their loss, I always tell them, “This just happened. It was a minute ago.”
Part of our strange cultural relationship with grief comes from a seemingly innocent source: entertainment…All of our cultural stories are stories of transformation, redemption. ..We demand a happy ending. Nobody wants to read a book where the main character is still in pain at the end.
Grieving people are met with impatience precisely because they are failing the cultural storyline of overcoming adversity. If you don’t “transform,” if you don’t find something beautiful inside this, you’ve failed.
The people in my life…-they all wanted me to be OK. They needed me to be OK because pain like mine, like yours, is incredibly hard to witness. Our stories are hard to bear.
It’s terrifying to think that someone who seemingly did everything right could still die. It’s terrifying to look at a person torn apart by their grief, knowing that could be us someday. Losses like this highlight the tenuous nature of life. How easily, how quickly life can change.
No matter how much our culture insists on it, spiritual and meditative practices are not meant to erase pain… The way to get through the pain of being human is not to deny it but to experience it.
Grief no more needs a solution than love needs a solution. We cannot “triumph” over death, or loss, or grief.
Everyday life is full of reminders and grief landmines that the non-grieving wouldn’t even think of. When someone you love dies, you don’t just lose them in the present or in the past. You lose the future you should have had, and might have had. They are missing from all the life that was to be.
Find ways to give your sense of injustice and anger a voice.
One of the reasons our culture is so messed up around grief is that we’ve tried to erase pain before it’s had its say. We’ve got an emotional backlog sitting in our hearts.
Feeling like you’d rather not wake up in the morning is normal in grief, and it doesn’t mean you’re suicidal. Not wanting to be alive is not the same thing as wanting to be dead.
There’s power in witnessing your own pain…Pain wants to be heard. It deserves to be heard. Denying or minimizing the reality of pain makes it worse. Your pain needs space. Room to unfold. I think this is why we seek out natural landscapes that are larger than us…The expanding horizon line, the sense of limitless space, a landscape wide and deep and vast enough to hold what is — we need those places.
Your mind is doing the best it can to keep a bead on reality when reality is crazy (re: cognitive changes such as short-term memory loss, short attention spans, etc).
Feelings of anxiety are normal for those who have survived an intense loss or trauma. Inside your grief, the whole world can feel like an unsafe place….you can’t rely on old comforts of believing that your fears are unlikely to come true. You can’t lean on the statistically low risk of certain illness or accidents happening. Just because you saw your people half an hour ago does not mean they’re still OK now. When the ordinary safety of the world has already failed you, how can you ever feel safe here again?
When you feel anxious, make your exhale longer than your inhale.
Recognizing anxiety as a symptom of something rather than a predictor of reality is a useful distinction.
Anxiety is a manufactured feeling state that has nothing to do with current reality: it thrives in an imagined (negative) future.
Rather than continue to run successive disaster scenarios…it’s far more effective and efficient to…trust yourself. Tell yourself: Right now, as far as I know, everything is fine. If a challenge arises–of any kind–I trust myself to respond with skill. If there’s something I don’t know how to do, I trust that I’ll ask for help.
Pain is not redeemed by art. Whatever you might create in your pain, out of your pain, no matter how beautiful or useful it might be, it will never erase your loss. Being creative won’t solve anything. Art is not meant to make things “right.”
Pain, like love, needs expression….creative practices can also help you deepen your connection with that which is lost. Death doesn’t end a relationship it; it changes it.
Being dismissed, cheered up, or encouraged to “get over it” is one of the biggest causes of suffering inside grief.
If someone truly wants to help you inside your grief, they have to be willing to hear what doesn’t help.
Not everyone deserves to hear your grief. Not everyone is capable of hearing it. Part of living with grief is learning to discern who is safe and who is not, who is worthy and who is not.
It’s one of the hardest aspects of grief–seeing who cannot be with you inside this. Some people fade out and disappear. Others are so clueless, so cruel (intentionally or not), you choose to fade out on them.
Grief is not a problem. It doesn’t need solutions. Seeing grief as an experience that needs support, rather than solutions, changes everything.
Grieving people would much rather have you stumble through your acts of bearing witness than have you confidently assert that things are not as bad as they seem.
I wish this for you: to find people you belong with, the ones who will see your pain, companion you, hold you close, even as the heavy lifting of grief is yours alone. As hard as they may seem to find at times, your community is out there. Look for them. Collect them. Knit them into a vast flotilla of light that can hold you.
We grieve because we love. Grief is part of love.
In telling the truth, and in hearing the truth, we make things better, even when we can’t make them right. We companion each other inside what hurts. We bear witness to each other. That’s the path of love.
It’s OK that you’re not OK. Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. May this book help you carry what is yours.