How to build resilience in the face of grief - my story
Trigger warning: This blog post might trigger some traumatic events regarding death and loss as I go into descriptive detail in order to give full context of the emotions I felt and how I was able to move through them.
December is a hard month for me. A month that should be for celebrating the holidays. But with all the merry and cheer I have to remember the losses that have come about in my life in this month. I decided to write out this blog post as a full descriptive story of both of the losses, how I grieved and how I was able to build the resilience in the face of grief
Saturday December 5, 2020
I woke up on this day with such emotions. You see the week prior I knew I was pregnant. I had the “implantation bleeding” around the time I should have gotten my period. I felt more bloated than normal, my boobs were already becoming bigger and hurting and I was tired as fuck! But for that week (as much as I tried to hide my bloated belly at work) I remained neutral in case this was just a period from hell coming on.
Still I knew, which is why I purchased a pregnancy test. I did one on Thursday and it was negative, but found out I did it wrong. I decided to wait until Saturday morning to do the 2nd one so that I didn’t have anything else to do as I knew my mind wouldn’t be able to think
Saturday morning 1st thing, I peed on the stick. Waited the 5 min which felt like forever! Came back and in clear letters it said “PREGNANT”
Holy shit! You see, I was 43 my husband 50 and we were not even trying, actually didn’t even think it was possible. But yet, here the pregnancy test showed it was. We made a pact that we didn’t want children but yet we didn’t stop it from happening either and God had other plans.
I wrestled with whether we should tell our mothers. I made a short list of who I wanted to tell at this very very early stage – 5 weeks to be exact.
The whole weekend, I took it easy – walking on the treadmill and getting flooded with “congratulations” and on an emotional high that this is it!
Went into work on Monday, and felt I had to tell my boss (not sure why) but I wanted to be sure that in case anything happened regarding sickness or anything that he knew why. I told a couple of my friends at work and kept on working.
Tuesday and Wednesday going along and came home Wednesday evening. Feeling a little ick Wednesday evening and thought well here comes the sickness. I remember seeing a drop of blood and didn’t say anything just went straight to Google which was a huge mistake.
Yet, I was still hopeful it was nothing. However, Wednesday as I was sleeping I felt it. The pain in my lower back and abdomen woke me up. That was when it all started. I woke up to go to the bathroom, but didn’t turn on the light as I usually don’t. I wish I would have that time. That would have been the last time I would see Baby D.
Tossed and turned all night and woke up with some light bleeding.
Thursday December 9, 2020
It kept going on Thursday and I called my OBGYN during lunch who I was supposed to have my 1st appt the next Monday. She told me to go to the emergency room to run some tests and here is where I panicked. I knew but did not want to admit this was really happening.
I went back to work and went into my friend’s office and told her I needed to go to the emergency room. I hadn’t told others yet so she said she would take me and we told our boss.
It was a loooooong time at the emergency room, still bleeding but still hopeful because it wasn’t heavy. Took some tests, and ultrasound what seemed like forever as they were moving the wand around trying to find the baby. Finally I was done, but waiting to speak with the doctor.
When I did speak with him, he said that they didn’t see any baby, but it could be that it is really early in the stage. He was concerned about my hormone levels that they should be higher at this point and that they are low. I was to make an appt with my OBGYN to take the levels in the next 3 days to see if they went up or have dropped.
Still hopeful at this point, I did just that.
2 days passed and the bleeding has not stopped. My boobs were not hurting anymore and going down. This was it, I knew at this point it was over.
My appointment at the OBGYN solidified what I was dreading. My hormone levels dropped even more and they were going down.
In 5 days I went from being excited to having it stripped away in literally a heartbeat! An emotional roller coaster that would go on for the rest of the month and there would be no Baby D!
In the days that followed even though I was grieving this loss, there was that hopefulness that it was possible, something I never had thought given our age and all the other times that we were actually trying.
We thought about trying again, especially in the next few months given there were so many cases of rainbow babies happening within 6 months of miscarriages. And even though we started to try, we finally decided that we go back to our pact of not having children and this was God’s plan for us all along.
Today 12/9/2021 A year later
I sometimes think of “what if” and what it would look like, who would I be? Would I be more mature, stronger, less selfish??? But I know that it is not about me, it is about that child in this world. I know motherhood is not in the cards for me, it is not who I am or want to be – and that’s ok!
I am ok!
What can I say about my dad? He was the sweetest, most caring man who hardly raised his voice. A man of a few words but always knew he loved me by giving me the big bear hugs that he did.
I can always find my dad moving around , doing something in the backyard, fixing something, working out. Though he loved his sweets, he was always moving so it seemed ok. But it all stopped when he retired, wasn’t as active, yet still eating his sweets. But I was still surprised when I got the call from my mom in October 2017 – 1 month after moving to Dallas – that my dad at age 79 was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma Cancer. I was surprised because he never had to go to the doctor or hospital and frankly thought my mom would go before him. But still, God had other plans.
I talked to him briefly, letting him know he will be ok and how much I love him.
Around Thanksgiving things got progressively worse. My mom called and was crying that she did not know what to do anymore. He is falling all the time, hitting his head and not getting any better. I was heartbroken! Here, my dad who is so strong is now so weak and my mom trying to keep it together is slowly falling apart. I was devastated and wished there was more I could do, but was told to stay put. So I did
Things were not looking up for my dad, it was if when he received the diagnosis it was more like a death sentence and was quickly giving up. He ended up in the hospital the 1st week of December. When my mom called me to tell me, she said that they are doing all they can to get him better. He was walking around but not much, still falling a lot. I asked if I needed to go out there and she said no that she would let me know. I wish I did not listen to her and changed my New Years flight to leave at that moment.
2nd week of December, still not getting any better but we were still hopeful. December 17th I went to this huge outdoor Christmas light event in DFW with a friend. We walked around enjoying ourselves, this would be my first winter in Dallas coming from Chicago this was definitely a different feel. I get back home, go to sleep.
December 18, 2017
Midnight and my phone rings, my brother is calling from my mom’s phone saying that my dad’s heart stopped and is trying to revive him. He tells me he will keep me posted. I panic and get a bag packed and looking at flights coming in.
I get another call soon after from my brother, hearing my mom crying in the background that my dad had passed. My husband was right behind me and all I remember is my knees buckling and I balled crying in his arms. I couldn’t believe, just 3 months and my dad was gone forever!
I found a flight that got me in that morning and packed what I could in the state I was in. It was the worst flying experience ever! I tried to keep it in, but I was crying throughout the entire time. Seats packed, rude people, and stewardess trying to sell me on everything, but I was in a daze, I was in shock, tears kept streaming down as I just couldn’t believe my dad was gone.
I get in what seemed like forever and saw my mom, hugged her so tight and balled! The next 5 or so days I spend time with family, planning the celebration wake and just trying to hold it all together. I remember taking out my stress, my frustration and my grief the only way I knew how, exercise and journaling.
One workout I did in the basement with all of my dad's workout equipment and all of really everything of his. I pushed myself so hard, that I literally ended up on my knees crying after I was done - like the life was sucked out of me! I wrote all the ways I was feeling in my journal, just letting it all out, not putting any rhyme or reason to what I was saying, just getting out all the emotions I was feeling. For me, writing and moving were my ways to cope through this grieving process.
December 21, 2017
Day of the wake, celebrating the life my dad lived and his time here on earth. This was probably the hardest day as it was the first time I saw him since I left. My mom said that it was just as well as how he looked before he passed was something she was glad I didn’t see. Still, it still haunts me to this day that I never got to say goodbye.
Seeing him in that casket was hard, not going to lie. I tried to smile when I saw my family and looked at photos but I was in pain, I just couldn’t stop crying.
It was a nice ceremony however, as nice as it could be. A celebration of this nice caring man who lived a wonderful life as a navy veteran traveling the world, as a husband, and a father.
Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that grief not only comes in stages, but comes in waves. It hits out of nowhere and holidays such as his Birthday, Father’s Day and now Christmas is hard and was harder that first year. But even times that I remember walking along side him playing as we bump into each other and laughing, those are the memories that I cherish and will always cherish.
Another thing that gets me through is knowing that I was privileged enough to have him as my dad for so long. There are so many people I know and in this world that don’t get to say that. I had 40 years of a happy life with him and so many memories made in those years.
This is why I base my life on experiences rather than things, adventures and memory making will stay with you and those around you for life and beyond.
I am truly blessed to have the dad I did and have his smile…I will always and forever be daddy’s little girl!
And I am ok!
To become resilient in the face of grief and tragedy, does not mean you don't care for that person or situation it means that you understand that you did everything you could given what you had and that there are things in our life that are out of our control. It is also having gratitude for the lessons you learned, for the love you shared, for the pain you endured to know that you are always going to be ok no matter what!
If you are feeling overwhelmed and that there is no way out, there is help out there for you. Call a crisis hotline, talk with a friend, talk with a therapist...just always know you are not alone and you too can get through this and be ok!
One last thing to add: Hold your loved ones close, spend as much time with them as you can. You may get 40 years with them or only 5 days, either way make sure they know they are loved!!