Saturday, April 9, 2016

Grief - How Long Does it Take?

I've been asked, how long did it take?, referring to grieving the death of my baby girl.

Meaning (I imagine), how long until you...
...'got over it'?
... felt better?
...were done grieving?
...felt like yourself again?

The true answer -- the answer that no one wants to hear -- is, there is no end to grief.  Just like I will love Joan with all of my heart until the day I die (and beyond), I will also grieve for Joan until I take my last breath on this earth (and see her again).

Grief is not linear, or neat.  There is no clear end.

Image source

I started grieving the moment we got Joan's diagnosis and were told that her life would be brief.  I grieved while Joan was still alive and moving in my belly.  Sorrow mixed with joy in equal measure as I experienced all of the firsts of pregnancy -- though not in the way I expected my first pregnancy to be.

At some point after Joan's diagnosis I remember my doctor commenting on how well I seemed to be handling it.  It being continuing my pregnancy knowing that Joan's life would likely end around her birth (far too soon).  And I was almost surprised to hear myself reply, I have a feeling the hard part is yet to come.

As difficult as it was carrying Joan (without a doubt one of the hardest things I have ever done), in many ways it was the easy part.  Living the rest of my life without Joan is the hard part.  We were blessed to have had the time we did with Joan, embracing and cherishing the moments we had with her and allowing her life to unfold.

So, how long did it take?  Nearly five years out, as we approach the anniversary of Joan's diagnosis, I can tell you it does get easier.  Gradually.  My grief is not nearly as intense and debilitating as it was in the early days, on a daily basis.  But there are still days (fewer and farther between) that knock me over like a tidal wave as grief hits without warning, strong as ever.  More often, day to day, there is still deep joy mixed with deep sorrow, in equal measure.  Joyful moments come with a melancholy side of, wish Joan was here.

Now grief feels more like trying to get used to these two emotions, joy and sorrow, existing in tandem, like inseparable twins.