I am not a stranger to grief. We've been acquainted for some time. We first met when I was 14. I had lost a few people in my life prior to this, but this was when I got up close and personal with the raw, surging pain that was to be part of me forever. My mother lost her battle with cancer aged 40 years of age. For a long time I held off the my new friend, in a battle of wills that isn't really possible to win. I didn't want to feel that immense pain, I just wanted it to go away. And so began my dance with trying not to feel. To be brave. To be strong.
Years and years later I grieved again for my friend. He died on this exact day 14 years ago. Again much too young. Barely a man. And again I held off grief. I was brave. I was strong.
My grandmother died. My grandfather died. My good friend Helen died. But I hid. I refused to break. I tried so hard to build up a wall around me so I wouldn't feel. It hurt. It felt uncomfortable. It was scary to feel something so big.
Then I started losing babies. The first and second miscarriages were very early, and I was disappointed. The third was harder to deal with. The fourth nearly claimed my life, and I was scared and hurt and sad. It took courage and determination to keep going. Always brave and strong. That was what I needed to be. Then came Poppy.
My pregnancy with her let me forget about my grief over her tiny siblings. I lost them to keep her. She was the one who was meant to come home with me. I loved her more than anything, with everything I had. I let down that wall and she was nestled against my heart.
And then she died. God took her too. I couldn't understand how I could be expected to still be brave and strong? How? My brick wall crumbled, and when Poppy died, she took my whole heart. It hurt so much! All those years of holding grief at bay, and finally I succumbed to constant pull towards the abyss. I felt it. I really felt it. It was raw and painful and...beautiful. There was beauty in this because it came from love. Love is powerful and joyful and meaningful. But it is also devastating and heartbreaking.
It took me a long time to open myself to the world again. It's not that I wasn't living. I went about my business. But I was in a holding pattern, not going forwards but refusing to go backwards. The possibility of more loss almost crippled me, so terrified was I of what it might do to me. So I hid behind my hastily reconstructed wall and hoped for no more loss. The problem is, you forget about love too.
Then we lost another tiny baby. My body decided it wasn't ready to bring joy and delivered me more grief. And it broke me again. I lost hope. I could see no way to be brave or strong. I was a coward and I was weak. I needed to rebuild, somehow. My whole journey since I met grief was wasted because I couldn't be brave or strong anymore. And then I realised: What am I afraid of? Am I afraid of grief? Or am I afraid of love? Why am I battling against something that can not be conquered?
So I chose to walk alongside my grief. And I found I could live with it. I can feel it. Because it is born of love, of joy, and I am equal to it. Being strong is not about not feeling. It's about being strong enough to feel your pain and not let it destroy you. Being brave is just recognising fear and choosing to confront it. Again and again, if necessary.
Last weekend we miscarried again. It was scary and painful and traumatic. But I will not run from the pain or try to hid it. I will cry and feel like my heart and hope have been ripped out again. Grief is not welcome here, but if it needed to come, I will not lock the door. Because love is in my heart. I can't lock it away forever. I will bear the grief so I can enjoy the love. I am strong and brave, though not in the way I thought.
I am equal to whatever comes. I am strong. I am brave.