2011 Walk for Remembrance and Healing

During my routine annual exam a couple of weeks ago, my doctor asked several questions about how I’ve been handling my grief following the loss of our baby.

She was prompted to ask lots of questions because by the time I finally saw her I had been forced to sit in the waiting room and watch far too many smiling pregnant women parade past me and I couldn’t take it any more. Her innocent, “How are you doing?” greeting as she entered the examining room immediately brought me to tears. It’s not that I normally have a problem seeing random pregnant women–they DO exist in my every day life and do not normally make me cry. But damn! Why so many? And why do they have to look so happy?!

My tears must have surprised her a bit and she spent the majority of my appointment time determining whether or not she should pull out her prescription pad or set up a psych evaluation for me.

Ultimately, she decided that I was not in immediate need for either drugs or a series of counseling appointments and she assured me (or assured herself) that I was “grieving appropriately.”

What does it mean to “grieve appropriately”? I’ve been thinking about her assessment ever since I left her office.

It has been almost eighteen months since our loss but some days it feels so raw and immediate. The most random things can bring emotions unexpectedly to the surface. Anyone who has experienced loss knows exactly what I am describing–the commercial that makes you cry, or the socks on the floor that make you yell.

There are lots of things that can trigger emotions and usually we know what they are. Most often we avoid those things that we know will be difficult–like when I politely declined to attend the baptism of our friends’ baby, when I avoid walking down the diaper aisle of the grocery store, or when I removed myself from the “Babies-R-Us” mailing list.

Other times, however, we make a conscious decision to do something or go somewhere we know will be emotionally heart-wrenching. We stuff our pockets full of tissue, calculatingly decide to not apply mascara, and march out the door to face grief head on.

Like today.

Today I attended the Share Parents of Utah Walk for Remembrance and Healing. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I did not attend last year’s event.

When I saw that the program listed “Mrs. Utah 2011” as the speaker, I kind of cringed a little. “Just what I need,” I thought, ” some shallow, perfect, pageant princess telling me to think positive thoughts.” She didn’t do that. Instead, she tearfully spoke about her own pregnancy losses, her struggle with infertility, and the recent loss of her brother and sister-in-law’s baby–born still just a week before her due date. That sure sounded familiar. She eloquently talked about how her views of life are forever altered and she accurately described the “unspeakable grief”  and the connection parents feel with children who “we never get to hold or do not hold long enough.”

Following her talk, another woman sang. I do not know how she got through the song since she lost her baby just four months ago.

I was struck by the conflicting thoughts I had–at times I felt comforted to be surrounded by so many people who truly understood my grief, and at others, I felt so sad to realize how many babies die and leave their families heartbroken. That thought was emphasized with the balloon ceremony. Those of us who had lost babies were given a balloon and as our baby’s name was read aloud, we released our balloon. Music played softly in the background, dozens and dozens of names were read, and for several minutes the sky was filled with pink, blue, and white balloons.

Tears streamed down my face as “Melanie Irene” was read out loud and I watched my pink balloon float gracefully upwards until I could no longer see it.

I felt as though I was letting go all over again and I cried and cried and cried.

Is that “appropriate grieving?”

I don’t know. I simply don’t know.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kerry Hankins on October 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Gail…I’m crying now as I read this….I’d love to know more about this event. I would like to remember our babies in this way….xo


  2. Posted by angie on October 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Sweetie this is a beautiful! And so so sad. I love you and wish so much I could take away some of your pain. I think any way you choose to grieve is not only appropriate but absolutely right. There can be no wrong way to mark and remember such a big loss. Life hands us these things we’re supposed to know how to deal with but we aren’t given instructions on just how to do that. We make it up as we go. You are so amazingly strong and wonderful and I’m so proud to call you my friend.


  3. Gail,
    This sounds so beautiful. I am touched by the speaker and I think my reaction would have been the same. An amazing lesson in itself.

    I just think of you all the time. Know that your friends have not forgotten, either, and we hold you in our heats always.
    I love you and have so much respect and admiration……


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