“Unresolved Grief”


July 1, 2014 by theresiugoes

I went into hospital on a Tuesday for the induction. I was beginning to worry that my baby would be born on Friday, and I didn’t want that at at all. As Wednesday rolled by and Thursday too, I realised that the choice had been taken from me. The doctors were too busy, the ward too full, and my baby was too comfortable.
Even when they told me, at 11pm on Thursday night that they were about break my waters, I thought “maybe it’ll be quick!”
But I have bad veins, and I had a bad registrar, and after 4 attempts she still couldn’t get the cannula in.

So at midnight, when they rolled me into the delivery ward, I looked out the window into the dark starry night and I whispered “happy birthday, Mum.”

I mentioned in an earlier post that pregnancy brought up a lot of grief, but I wasn’t expecting it to hit me while I was in labour.

I had been anxious about labouring in Canterbury hospital, delivering a new precious life in the same place another precious life was taken. I was relieved when we moved, thinking that Gosford hospital wouldn’t trigger those memories.
But there I was, in excruciating back pain (she was posterior), trying to concentrate on my breathing but all I could think about was my Mum. Hyperventilating, because I couldn’t distinguish between the pain of grief and the pain of labour. Weeping and sobbing, much to the bewilderment of the midwives, while I tried to explain, “It’s my Mum’s birthday.”

I think I was 20 the first time I was told I had “delayed grief”, and a few years later another psychologist called it “unresolved grief”. I realise these are terms of psychology, but I think they’re unhelpful. They can create, at least for me, the false hope that “one day, my loss will hurt less.” That grief can be restricted by time. They create the false sense of security that grief can ever be resolved.

I don’t think it can. When I was younger, I had hoped that I could pack up my sad feelings about Mum in a pretty box, tie a nice ribbon on it and put it on a shelf, only to take down once a year.
I had hoped one day, the pain would be contained, if not disappear.

I was not expecting to be dreaming of her, almost once a week, for more than a decade.
I was not expecting to long for her cracked, gentle hands in mine, 13 years later.
I was not expecting to follow a complete stranger, aimlessly through the shops, because she wore my mum’s dress.
I was not expecting to fall in a heap in the shower, because my new bottle of shampoo smelt like her.

I thought my grief would resolve.

But it doesn’t. It won’t.
It hits me like an invisible freight train, when I least expect it. It cripples me, it overcomes me, it destroys me.

And I’m frustrated by my desire to resolve it. I just wrote this statement below, to end the post:

Of course, it passes. Whole days are no longer consumed by grief, like they used to be. The wound is no longer raw, but I still feel like I’m missing a limb, missing a cherished part of me. Sure, I can get on with life, a little off balance, but it goes on.

It’s ironic that even as I discuss how grief doesn’t resolve, I try to resolve it. Part of me wants it end with a verse from 1 Thessalonians, about grieving with hope and knowing there will be resurrection.

But this time, I’m not going to pass over the tension.

Sometimes, the wound is still raw, and grief isn’t a tidy blog, with a beginning, a middle and an end.


7 thoughts on ““Unresolved Grief”

  1. greif or sorrow never bring dears back but completion their way & message ‘ll take it away , brings more joyful memories & better achievements ,,,,, reject negative thoughts, evil arrows

  2. Barbara Wilson says:

    When I commented on the previous post, I thought about the grief that I experienced when our children were born (especially the first), that my mum did not get to meet any of them. Some of her friends at church would quietly whisper to me words like “She would have loved to meet this child” and sometimes “This daughter really reminds me of your mum.” (The oldest one!!) I thought it was something I wanted to talk to you about, but decided to do it face to face. Twenty four hours later, you talk about it!!! Never did I question the Lord’s will in taking her at an age I have passed (and yes, I did work out the date on which I passed her age at death!!) . But as I saw other women complaining about their mums, I wanted to say to them: “Be thankful you’ve still got one!!” but didn’t as they wouldn’t understand. I think that this added grief has possibly been an issue for you too and am praying that the Lord will bring you comfort and the ability to comfort others as you have been comforted!!!

  3. Michelle says:

    Gosh, I could fill a page or two here as well …

    Unresolved grief? I went to a holistic healing centre in my mid 20s for some health problems I hadn’t been able to deal with mainstream. Iridology first, where I was told I had a lot of bottled up grief. Fair enough. I don’t know what the next diagnoses method is called but it was interesting. He said – something traumatic happened when you were 17? 18? – Nope. Can’t think of anything. – Something that involved a female member of your family? – Not ringing any bells …

    It wasn’t until I was at the bus stop outside that I suddenly realised – my 15 yo sister died in a car crash 1 week after my 18th birthday. I didn’t know what to do. Run in and tell him?? When I saw him next, he just smiled sympathetically and told me it wasn’t unusual behaviour.

    ?? So weird. It wasn’t like I had actually forgotten … I must have just bound that wound up so tight.

    Losing a sister is nothing like losing your Mum when you’re young. I can’t imagine that trauma. Grief is exactly like a physical wound. The simile of losing a limb is totally accurate. I think you do learn to carry the burden but no, it doesn’t go away. You just master your prosthesis, or not.

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a time of such heightened emotion anyway it’s hard to get through it without being throttled by your existing emotional baggage.

    I think it’s a beautiful blessing that Talitha shares her grandmother’s birthday and I think that’ll become very special for her as she grows up. But it will always scratch a little at your scars. Again, you’ve just got to be kind to yourself and allow for those moments.

    It’s lovely that your memories of your Mum are so vivid and that you’ll be able to share that with your daughter but I can totally understand the pain of those involuntary memories. Having my own child has really brought home my parent’s loss (I also lost 2 cousins and so have 2 sets of Aunt/Uncles who have also lost their children). It’s a losing of innocence and a hard life lesson to swallow. 😦 xx

    • wifesylv says:

      Michelle, I’m so sorry for your loss.
      I was going to say “losing a sister is much worse than losing a mother”. I think we all expect to lose our parents eventually. But to loose a sibling,NAND so young? It reversed the order of life as we have come to expect it.
      But then, who are we to measure which grief is worse? Isn’t death going to be bad and ugly no matter who and when it takes?
      Thanks for sharing so honestly and openly 🙂

  4. I was going to send an actual snail mail card but it seems by the time I get it into the box the moment will have passed.

    I have missed your posts, Sylvia. Your posts are often funny – I can picture you telling me the story – or they are heartrendingly raw. Your willingness to share with such honesty is appreciated and I feel privileged to be included in the circle of people who get to read them.

    I was just talking the other day to someone about the fact that I more often find myself missing my Mum in more tangible ways than I did when she first died. It often seems ridiculous to miss her in certain situations when at other more ‘acceptable’ times I don’t seem to notice she’s not there at all. Grief, as you say, cannot be explained away. It is what it is and affects us each differently at different times but, affects us always. How could it not? Someone significant is gone and they will be gone forever this side of eternity.

    Thanks again for sharing. As I said, it’s a privilege.

    Love and prayers,

    • wifesylv says:

      Thanks for commenting, Trish. We look forward to heaven but until we get there, let’s walk our grief together. It’s so comforting to know I am not alone in my grief.
      Much love to you as you miss your Mum. It is what it is, and I look forward to when our memories warm our hearts and make us smile.

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