Laboring Through Grief

Why can't you see a broken heart? The similarities between birth and death are many. We fear what we don’t know. I remember fearing the birth of my firstborn, wondering what labor would be like, asking everyone what their experience was like. And yet, everybody’s birth story is their own and every birth is unique. My son’s birth was different from my daughter’s. There were some similarities, but in the end, each was unique.

Death is the same. Prior to my husband, I had never been with someone as he died. I feared his death, not for the fear of his afterlife but for the fear of the actual process. Would he be in pain; would I be able to make him comfortable; would the kids be scared by having him die at home; would I? In the end, the fear of the unknown was for naught. His death, as odd as this may sound, was a peaceful, beautiful thing.

I cannot imagine having missed it. I cannot imagine our children having missed it. It was a gift he gave us before he left this world. I feel honored and blessed that he chose to share it with us, that he allowed me to take care of him, and that I had friends and family and hospice who made that possible.

As much as the actual process of dying is like childbirth, so is the process of grieving. This isn’t my unique view, it’s just the analogy that I relate to most. In the same way that I labored through giving birth to my children with contractions coming out of nowhere, pain gripping my body and throwing me to the bed, I am gripped by grief.

I can be fine for hours on end, even laughing, and in an instant, a dagger of pain sears my heart, a wave of tears pours out of my eyes and the most guttural, animal cry comes from my throat. I fall into a heap on my bed or the floor or the steering wheel of my car. And then it passes. Until the next wave hits. At some other unpredictable moment, just like contractions, except these never seem to get closer together, I can’t time them, and I won’t be getting a baby at the end.

I’m still not sure what I get at the end. I’m waiting to find out. I just know I have to go through this laborious grief process or I won’t get to the other side. Again, I'm fighting with that fear of the unknown. I fear what lies ahead. I fear creating a new life, one that doesn't include my husband, a world that doesn't contain him, a family that contains just three, and a future that doesn't have him walking beside me.

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