Good grief is this saying my mom often uses. I don’t really get it. But she says a lot of weird shit, to be honest. Most of them I can make some sense of even though they’re not words. For example, Gazinta.
Something that goes into something else.
“Did someone get the bill from the server? We need to do the gazintas to see what everyone owes.” (How many times does 5 gazinta 20?)
“Where’s the gazinta for the phone. I need to plug it in.” (That charger gazinta the plug.)
This is just one of many. My mom has so many non-words that my husband created a dictionary in his phone when he first started hanging out around my family to keep track of them. They’re epic.
Good grief is one I know is used by others but I have really only heard my mom use it regularly. I looked it up and it is described as “an exclamation of surprise, alarm, dismay or some other usually negative emotion. For example Good Grief, he dropped the cake.” For some reason, this past month I’ve been mulling over this term because as a phrase it has taken on a certain meaning, that I understand. Good grief, I’m going to be late again. Good grief, he won’t stop talking. But when you break down the words it got me thinking, what is good about grief? When is grief actually good? Who decided this was going to be a phrase we use.
It’s hard to believe that just over 2 weeks ago we had the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Not that this is a particularly fun read, but if you want the context of it when it happened check out this post from last spring. I actually just re-read it myself and cried, and laughed a littleso I guess that’s good.
As anniversaries often do, they cause you to reflect. To look back on a period of time in a large scope, as a culmination, and think about the whole period of time. On the one hand, I couldn’t believe a year had passed. How had it been a WHOLE year since my dad died? How did I have no dad for an entire year? How did we all survive? The morning of the anniversary all the emotions came up again and it felt like it just happened. And that is was so long ago. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED since then.
I had a positive pregnancy test the next day. All of the details about those first few weeks have been shared already so I will spare you. But what a wild ride. One that should be filled with joy, and probably some healthy level of anxiety. But what felt more like shock and terror. I had a baby. 6 weeks early. In New York. I missed 3 baby showers. The Red Sox won the World Series and the Patriots were in the playoffs on their way to another Super Bowl. My mom moved into our house. My brother got engaged. So many things that my dad wasn’t here for.
So much happened. So much that I feel like I didn’t even have a second to breathe let alone grieve the loss of my dad. My dad was my homie. I would call him often on my drives home from work and just chit chat about sports and food and random crap. I went grocery shopping for him or with him often since grocery stores are the bain of my mother’s existence. My dad loved the grocery store, but it had become difficult to navigate with his constant foot/leg injuries and ultimate amputation. He still liked going though, getting out of the house and eating grapes out of the bag while driving around like a mad man in his motorized cart. Which was always super embarassing because YOU PAY FOR THOSE BY WEIGHT, DAD, SO YOU’RE BAAAAAAAASICALLY STEALING THEM. Whenever some wild stuff went down in the sports world, I would call to get his take…because, don’t worry, he always had a take. He hated everyone who he considered a “punk”, which is basically everyone. He hated the Boston haters. But also hated the Boston homers who were obsessed with our teams and had no ability not to be biased. He definitely hated everyrandom dude who called into the sports radio stations thinking he knew something more than anyone else and his opinion was special. But then essentially did the same thing in a non-radio setting. LOL
On the anniversary of his death, we went to Maine, everyone’s collective favorite place. He always said he wanted his ashes spread at Nubble Lighthouse. Which, fun fact, is illegal I guess? But we’re “rule breakers” so we headed up there anyway, and definitely created a bunch of sneaky ways to spread them so that we didn’t get caught. Mom always says she would never make a good criminal. It was a chilly, beautiful, bright blue-sky day which was nice. We drove up there, climbed down the rocks, gave a little toast and then laid dad to rest per his wishes. We blared the Elvis version of “How Great Thou Art” from my car which was his JAM. No one loved funeral music more than the Big Cat. Side note, who loves funeral music?
We decided to bring a little “cat” to Long Sands as well. And made a little visit to the cottage itself to bring stuff to the tree we planted there-thanks for the generosity of some coworkers. Then we went to the restaurant we had gone to after my wedding to hash out all the fun details of the soiree. At that restaurant, after ordering a HUGE spread of appetizers, my dad casually suggested we “get another round”…
You want another ROUND of appetizers, Dad? Who does that? We nixed that because that is NUTS. But we went there and had a delish lunch and cocktail in honor of the big guy. Mom described the spicy sauce that she wanted on the side as SIRASO ALLEY-OLI…known to most other people siracha aioli. We all had a really good, and needed, laugh. A bunch of them actually. We decided Dad would have really enjoyed that day. It was a good day.
Grief is weird. Everyone deals with it so differently. I’ve done my fair share of denial and ignoring. Pretending and distracting. Certainly the big days make it hard to fake it. You notice his presence missing on the holidays and birthdays and big happenings for sure. But the things that really bring out the grief for me are the mundane things. Grocery shopping. I’ll never do it again without thinking of him. And I definitely “test” a few grapes each time in his honor. Produce in general makes me think of him. A deliciously ripe canteloupe will always bring up memories of big cat. No one could appreciate a ripe melon like him. Corn. He was the most excited, grossest eater of corn on the cob there ever was. Him eating corn would clear off the deck in Maine. When I drive home from work, particularly after something notable in sports, I often reach for my phone looking to hash out the details. When I try to remember how long to roast a chicken or how long I can keep a random item in the fridge before it spoils. Whenever I hear Motown, any soul music in general really, or Randy Travis (random I know).
People don’t know how to handle others’ grief. I know I didn’t, still don’t most times, if I am being honest. You want to say something or do something, but you don’t know what to say or do. Sometimes what comes out of your mouth could end up being hurtful or insensitive when it’s not your intent. Particularly if you haven’t lost someone super close to you, it is hard to relate. I know I have felt this way.
A friend of mine posted this graphic on Facebook. It was perfect timing because I was working on this post and trying to figure out the best I guess, advice, to give. I think this is pretty on point. Everyone grieves differently and needs different things at different times, so it is definitely not a one size fits all checklist. But I think this graphic definitely illustrates some things you can do when a person in your life is grieving.
In my mind, there are a few major things to consider:
- Grief doesn’t have an end date. I had a friend reach out a few weeks after my dad passed and checked in and said something along the lines of wanting to touch base but didn’t want to bother me. And I totally get that. In fact I am pretty sure I have said that. But, in my opinion. it is never bothersome to check in. Even when I couldn’t respond or didn’t respond right away. Or just said thanks or sent a heart emoji. I still appreciated people checking in. It never felt like a bother. I think people feel this often though and it prevents them from reaching out. The hardest thing for me was when it felt like people moved on living their lives and I was just going through the motions wondering how I would go on. As the days went on the texts were fewer, the phone calls even less, the cards/notes/flowers non-existent. You realize, not that everyone has forgotten about you, but that their lives have gone on. Not that they don’t also miss your dad, but that he wasn’t their dad. Not that they don’t want to support you, but that they have other things to do, too. We can’t all be sad everyday. But your life will never be the same. You can’t just go on doing the normal day-to-day things, because canteloupe makes you think of your dad. So, my advice: call, text, send cards. On random days. Check in two weeks later, 2 month later, 2 years later. On a random Tuesday. The first few days/week are a total blur. The real smack in the face happens later.
- Don’t ask “Is there anything I can do?” or “Let me know if I can do anything”. The answer is yes, and you can do something. But, the idea of the grieving person having to decide what it is you can do, or ask for something or remember to let you know takes away the helping portion. Like the graphic mentions below, being specific is amazing. If you care about this person, it is likely you know them decently well. Do something you know they’d like. Also, for the record just a visit, a favor, something off of their plate would be appreciated-doesn’t need to be costly or grand. People in my life were kind of enough to send a text saying “two bags of groceries are on your back porch” or mail a gift card to our favorite restaurant. Self care things like nails or hair or spa would be great. You know what’s not fun? Paying for a manicure for your dad’s funeral. Luckily, I had friends call ahead and take care of that for me and my mom. Dog walking. House Clearning. I’m a big fan of grocery delivery gift cards and things that can be used later on too. Of course the food right away is great as well, but sometimes you get so much and there is only so much room in the freezer! Any of these kinds of things (or whatever that person likes) are helpful, thoughtful and appreciated. Just the idea that you do something instead of ask. Or maybe give a list of three options. I’d like to do something, which one of these is best…From personal experience when given the option I will usually say thank you, but we’re good. It’s a lot harder to turn down help when it isn’t optional!
- The parallel play one is so on point. Do you ever just not want to be alone but also not want to talk? Offering that is an amazing show of support and also understanding. Reliving the trauma that led to the grief is exhausting, physically and emotionally. But being alone in it is also scary. Coming over to watch movies or netflix or garden (not for me lol) or whatever and not asking questions is an awesome idea.
- My experience is that when people are afraid they are going to say the wrong thing, they say nothing. Guilty as charged, by the way. But, don’t do that. Even if what you say is “I don’t know what to say” the person knows you’re thinking about them and that is definitely appreciated.
On the outside, this post has nothing to do with fertility or motherhood, or the purpose of this blog. But it does. The thing about my dad’s passing was that it was in the public. People expect you to be a disaster. People know about it right away. They try and help you even when they don’t know what to do. They give you things, send you things. They understand when you’re not yourself. They don’t expect you to be OK. Right away, or at all.
But the grief of losing a pregnancy, especially, early is a very lonely place. The grief is still there, and all those after-effects are too. The only difference is no one knows what you’re going through. No one knows you’re not ok. No one tries to help you. You suffer this grief alone. Often more than once.
You know why women typically don’t share pregnancy news until after 12 weeks? Because, statistically that’s the highest likelihood of something going wrong with the pregnancy. And it happens A LOT. The logic behind this is so faulty. There is a chance you will go through this horrible trauma, so you should definitely suffer in silence? I understand a person choosing to do this for their own self-preservation (especially in the age of publishing pregnancy announcements via social media in grandiose sometimes obnoxious ways #alsoguiltyAF). But, if you really think about it; the sort of assumption/pressure/feeling is that you shouldn’t tell people because people shouldn’t know if this happens to you just adds to the shame and loneliness. Because it is something to hide. Like you did this. Telling people your dad died is equally as expected as NOT telling something you lost a pregnancy. It’s weird.
This is the whole reason I wrote the blog. I needed to put this out there so people knew I wasn’t ok. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t grieving. I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t grieving the loss of my father, so why should I have to act like my life is fine while grieving these other losses and going through immense pain internally? I hoped that putting this stuff out there would bring some sense of normalcy to it. Help people know they are not alone, even if they didn’t want to share publicly themselves.
Maybe people won’t want to tell the world about their pregnancies super early, and you should do and tell whoever you want about whatever you want! But I do know that once people knew my story, they did want to talk about their losses and grief with someone who understood. So, maybe the more we are open about these experiences, the more people won’t feel like they’re supposed to suffer in silence. And that they’re allowed to grieve these losses. And maybe we can get them a casserole or walk their dogs, because they need that too.