This week I joined a temporary writing group that is exploring grief. This is my first piece of writing inspired by the prompts – and this is me finally coming out of my shell and sharing what I am living.
Where is my grief in my body? It is in my feet that are supposed to ground me, my fleshy front upper and inner thighs (why never the back thigh and never the calves?), surrounding my sit bones deep inside the cheeks of my ass, my hips that can’t bear to dance anymore, my entire back, shoulders, neck, and the tiny muscles at the base of my skull (who knew those tiny muscles could ache so much?). My grief is in my brain, which now interprets nearly everything as pain, fills with fog to keep me from thinking clearly, and troubles my sleep so that true rest is a rare treat. My grief has a medical name, fibromyalgia, but I know it is grief from a life full of trauma and loss and empathy without boundaries that makes its home in my muscles.
My grief is also in my yoni and my womb, the places that hold the deepest violations, and yet birthed three incredible humans. The places where I am broken, where hormones wreak havoc on my emotions, sometimes turning me into a monster, and where my cycle plays hide and seek, disappearing and returning on its own terms.
My grief is my motherhood. There are places in my heart and my womb that grieve never getting pregnant by choice, raising two babies entirely on my own, and continuously letting go of a child that is both mine and not mine. He is of my body, residing within me as a child does, and yet turning to another mommy to soothe his soul.
How do I explain what it feels like to hear my son tell me “Get Mommy” over and over when he’s lying in my bed during our weekly sleepover?
How do I explain how it felt to live in the home where he grew into his attachment to the woman who chose to raise him? I know I don’t deserve to be his choice because I didn’t choose him. I gave him away. It doesn’t matter what our love story looks like or how amazing this deeply intimate open adoption is, it is a fact that I gave him away. I chose not to be mommy and no amount of closeness as his Amma will change that for either of us.
There is this phrase in the adoption world – the primal wound – to describe what exists in a child “taken” from his birth mother. I know this wound, the way my body felt like it was missing a limb the first time I left him. This strange and subtle pull in my cells toward him, as if my body is ceaselessly whispering “mine, mine, mine.” I know the emotional bleeding that never stops, at least a drop every day, sometimes a stream, and the rare days where it seems as though my blood is boiling over and I will bleed all over everything that is good in my life.
Shame lives in my bones. Shame that I can’t seem to triumph anymore. I am no longer the invincible young woman who conquered teenage motherhood and poverty and mental illness and raised a second child conceived in rape and built a successful career and led a transformative community. I am ashamed my body is too heavy with pain and exhaustion to raise a child or lead a community now. And that my heart is too broken to make a shared home with my son’s other parents, who offered me their trust and kindness when they welcomed me into their home, into their relationship with our child, and even supported me for 9 unemployed months.
Three years come November I have been hiding – hiding from this wound that won’t stop bleeding and hiding from the empty nest that leaves me facing myself for the first time as an adult. I have been trying to bypass the grief through love and family and happy endings. Grief has finally caught me and now I am immersed in it, gasping for air, wondering how to keep pretending life goes on as normal.
Two days last week I couldn’t face the world and called in sick and now I have no more time off. I have to be here, in a workplace that denies my side of the story. They gave me a performance review this week stating I was moody and withdrawn, and lost my enthusiasm when they turned down my attempts to turn my under-employment into a win-win. A nonprofit with a mission to build community and honor people’s wholeness, yet they don’t care about my win, just theirs. And they don’t care why I am moody and withdrawn, they just want me to get over it. Because grief and chronic illness don’t belong in the workplace. I am grieving the dream of this job where I hoped leaders have integrity and my best self is embraced rather than rejected.
I am grieving the children who left home, especially my daughter-soul-mate with whom texting from over 800 miles away is just not the same as sharing life.
I am grieving the community I lost when I relocated to a new city in a new state to be close to my son and now I have no local friends because when my friends became family it became too complicated to be the kind of friends we used to be.
I am grieving and finally giving it voice.