Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of experience with grief. The two heavy hitters were my infertility and my mother’s death. My mother’s death was a public grief. I was allowed– encouraged– to take time off, given space and time to heal, and offered support by so many friends and family. There were rituals associated with this grief too. A wake, a mass, a memorial- this were public events set aside for the explicit purpose of honoring her life and expressing our own sadness that this life was now over.
Infertility, on the other hand, is a private grief. Though I never experienced a miscarriage, every failed cycle felt like a profound loss. But I couldn’t really talk about it. I certainly could take time off work because why? Because I got my period again? That never seemed like a good enough reason. Every 28 days, like clock work, my heart broke a little as I began to come to terms the death of what I wanted so badly. And yet, I couldn’t really articulate this out loud. It was sorta like my own personal Voldemort.
Thanks to a buzzer-beater IVF treatment, I did get pregnant and had Chick. And yet I find myself wondering why can’t we honor private losses in a similar way to public ones. In the U.S. at least, I think this is because we don’t have a language for private loss. It isn’t as clear cut. There are no rituals, so expression of private grief is much harder.
That’s why I think this post about how some westerners are adopting a Japanese ritual specifically for miscarriage and abortions is so interesting. When we say something out loud, when we name our sadness and our pain, we can learn how to live with it. Not how to let it go– I don’t think there is such a thing as forgetting something so profound– but how to weave it into the story of who we are.