Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gratefulness and Grief

One of the things I've been learning through infertility is the 'duality' of things. For one, gratefulness and grief. They seem to be on opposite ends but they really are a combo.

(I love this and have been saving this photo for something. Since there are two flamingoes that make up a one gorgeous pair, I thought it'd be cool for this post!)

I've been thinking about this topic for a long time- things like these keep me awake at night! (Do you do that too?)

It has come up because I think sometimes we feel like we should not be 'down' or should only be for a short time. There are a few logical reasons for this.

One, I think we are nervous  about how we look- as it portrays that we are not grateful or thankful for what we have. It makes us look greedy, needy or dissatisfied. For example, I am married so I should find sufficient peace and happiness in my marriage and be grateful for that, instead of continually aching for children.

Totally. I'm all for 'counting my blessings', believe me! It makes sense. But honestly, at times, depending on the context, a response like that can be somewhat harsh.

Two, as Christians, there is that sense that we should be 'happy' because of what Christ has done for us, and though this is true, maybe being happy-all-the-time is unrealistic. We can be full of joy but we may not be happy about everything. I think there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happy being more of an emotional response, where as joy is maybe being positively assured and knowing you are okay deep at the core of you? Maybe? Hmmm... (Maybe I'll leave this for a Part 2 or something... )

Three, often grief involves questioning God himself, our concept of who God is and faith and sometimes we are nervous to do so. Fair enough.

I find grief a hard word to describe. My definition would be something like- engaging in and responding to the situation that has left a large impact, or something like that... There is also the famous five stages of grief that are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This is a useful way to understand the way grief is expressed, as we go through it.

With infertility, because it is not a one-off situation and there is no closure for a while or at all, even the five stages of grief may be an insufficient way to express it, as instead, it is an ongoing process, and the 'stages' pop up here and there and we get better at dealing with them, but they come back throughout life. Complicated.

For me, in terms of infertility and miscarriage, it is easy to think that it is simply all about babies. Like if you plonked a baby on my lap, all will be solved. Sadly it is not that simple, I have discovered there are more layers to this.

I grieve:
  • the loss of being able to ovulate as a woman usually does,
  • the loss of being able to conceive all by ourselves,
  • the loss of carrying a baby/being pregnant to term,
  • the loss of giving birth to a baby,
  • the loss of bringing up a child,
  • the loss of having a child that looks like us.
Now, please please know that I am aware these things may change in the future (or could already be changing) and we do have hope that it will, and pray that it will, but as we live in the present, this is the reality for me now. These are the issues I'm having to engage in and process through. Does that make sense?

It is not necessarily that I'm sad or crying all the time, it is more that these issues are always close to my heart, I wrestle with them daily and I have an ongoing discussion about them- with God, others, myself.

At the same time, I am grateful for everything I have. Quite possibly, in light of what I don't have, it makes me treasure what I do have all the more.

I have an indescribably-awesome husband, supportive friends, caring family, shelter, food, great country to live in, a job that is meaningful, an income, shoes, bags, clothes, etc. God's made me to be someone unique, with my own particular quirks (lots), strengths and weaknesses. I've been slowly molded as I've been following Christ. I'm learning a lot from the decisions I've made, etc... I am thankful for many things and I can list a hundred more things I'm grateful for if you ask me to.

So how does this work?

I guess they are not mutually exclusive. Having the bacon doesn't mean you will automatically resist the chocolate cake. (Probably not a fool-proof illustration, but I thought I'd use it anyway, as food's always a good one haha...)

I am discovering I can be grieving and grateful at the same time. And I'm learning to not be afraid of engaging in the seemingly 'sad' or difficult things in life. (Of course there is a point to which we should dwell on this stuff... as being too introspective has its hazards too!)

I think this reflects the reality of being human. We know things can be better and we seek it out. Whether we believe in God or not, we all seem to have this sense of looking forward to something better- desiring things to be fixed, made good, improved etc.

I believe this is because we all have an understanding of perfection, and as we are imperfect beings in a broken world, we desire it. What I'm trying to say is that longing for things to be made good is a natural part of us and it will not go away, probably not until heaven.

Additionally, we are only able to truly understand the beautiful and lovely things in life, only when we can also grasp the difficult and the ugly, as they exist in relation to each other.

What do you think?

Hmmm... I'm trying very hard to keep my posts short-ish haha... so I will end here for now... I hope this made sense and connected with you too (and that you are keeping warm wherever you are)!


Rachel said...

This is how I feel too...

...At times I think I'm too hard on myself for being sad...

Even though I'm sad it does not mean that I am not grateful...

Jen said...

Sounds like some pretty serious thinking. I often wonder where I'd be if it wasn't for IF. Would I really explore and think about things like this? Would I really have come to a much deeper understanding of my faith without IF? I kinda doubt it sometimes. And I really think that even if all my baby dreams came true, even if we had child after child on our own, I'd still be infertile. Its not a matter of what I have or don't have or might have some day, its just who I am now. Its shaped so much of the person I've become the past few years that it will be with me forever. That's probably not a bad thing either, its really made me a better person. Maybe infertility is not about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but rather the journey over the rainbow that's important.

Teri said...

I know in my grapplings with grief,I don't like it because it makes me feel weak. There is such a push in today's society to be strong and self sufficient that I have bought into unknowingly. I have had to remind myself that God's ok with my weakness,he's not scared of my questions or even my anger. Just look at Job. He works in and through me when I am weak. And perhaps at a deeper level then when all is well. As far as grief goes I was told once to engage grief. Allow yourself to feel it, at whatever level it hits you. Grief is relentless, and you will have to face it eventually. Today I can look at it and realize it has molded me. It's added depth to my life that I know wouldn't have been there otherwise. Having walked through the grief process, in different situations, I've relaized that though I'd never want to go through it again, but I'm not sorry for it. Does that sense? Anyway, great post. God is using you in the midst of your struggles and difficulties. Praying for you often.