This post is a response to a recent post at Glow in the Woods regarding grief.

Grief is a personal burden; we all carry it differently. Even when we mourn the same person, we wear our grief as tailored to our needs and desires. If we aren’t careful, the grief smothers us, drowns us under its weight. Or perhaps we wear it too lightly, leaving ourselves open to unabated anger and depression. Once adorned, grief will be ever-present, a warm blanket to wrap around ourselves to keep us safe and warm from a world suddenly dark with loss and despair. If we are lucky, we will need its comfort less and less over time, and it becomes lighter. Perhaps it fades to nothingness; even if it remains, it becomes bearable. We learn that we can live with it.

Because of the uniqueness of grief, one cannot tell another how to experience it. How to express it. Or even how to feel it. We can agree that grief can manifest in terrible ways: observe the self-destructive alcoholic, the clinically depressed, the stone-faced suppresor. But can we agree on the “right” way to feel grief? Can there be such a thing? We expect tears, but can’t there be grief without tears? We expect withdrawal, but can’t the grieving seek solace in companionship? How do we judge grief?

I have found that I have two types of grief: the public and the private. This blog is my public grief. It is the grief I share with everyone, inviting others to share theirs with me. It’s a social grief, that which I feel I need to express. I write here to share Lauren with those who loved, with those who never knew her but understand what her death means, with those who can only sympathize. I write, also, simply to have a place to talk about her. It eases the pain to give voice to my grief, the grief that has been tempered with private tears and forged into something manageable and comforting.

It doesn’t start out that way. With each post about Lauren that I write, I lay bare the grief that lies deep within me, the grief that pricks and stabs at me at odd hours of the day and night. It is the grief that keeps me lying awake when I lay down to sleep. It is the grief that causes my breath to catch when I see a pregnant woman or a babe in arms. It is the grief that whispers cruel truths to me when I am at my weakest. It feeds the guilt, plants the seeds of fear, nurtures the despair that can be so hard to shake away. This grief, I can never tame completely. Briefly, I can subdue it, until it rears its head again and strikes me when I believe I’m at my strongest. It’s humbling, this grief. It reminds me that every moment of strength I have had was born of weakness. I can only face the worst of it after it has laid open my wounds and taken me to the deepest, darkest parts of me.

With each post I have written about Lauren, I have shed tears. I go back to the grief and expose myself to it as I delve into the darkness within me. Over time, I have been able to take my most cherished, most painful memories and love them despite the pain: the feeling of Lauren moving inside me, Geordie saying her name and singing to her, the image of her beating heart on the ultrasound screen, the daydream of rocking her to sleep in her nursery as I hum lullabies. A month ago, I could not think of these things without feeling physical pain, without shedding tears. They hurt me still, but the pain has lessened, and they have become more comforting than harming. I can remember being happy without that desperate desire to reclaim it. I miss those happy days and the innocence I knew then; I know I can’t have them back. I mourn them as I mourn Lauren, but it is a grief I can live with now.

But not without tears. Not without moments of fear and despair and doubt. When they come, I do not stop them. I have shed tears in public, just not often. When I am caught by surprise. But even then, I try to keep them hidden. Tears for Lauren are not for strangers who do not expect them; they won’t appreciate what they represent. My tears are not to be shared – except for with Geordie. I give my tears to him, and in return, he gives me patience and a chance to regain control of myself. He accepts my grief as it is, and for that, I love him. There are so many in our family who grieve with us, but he is the only one who was there with me, who saw firsthand what happened and experienced as I was experiencing it. He shared with me the joy of being one of Lauren’s parents, and he is the only other person who understands what it is to have lost Lauren as a daughter. Because he is Lauren’s father, I can grieve freely with him and show him the weakest I can be.

Some tears, I keep all to myself. They are mine alone, the most private grief there can be. I cherish those tears. I can conquer them, these tears that are just between Lauren and me. They are usually not tears of utter despair but rather tears of regret and guilt for the things I cannot change.

These are my griefs. They are as strong now as they were the day we learned that Lauren had died. But as I come to understand and accept the life I must live now, I know that I need these griefs. They are my reminders that Lauren lived and that she was loved and that I continue to love. I miss her so much, every day, but no amount of tears or grieving will bring her back. Knowing that, I will weep for her forever – not to bring her back but to soothe myself, to dampen the fires of grief that will also burn forever.

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