“Healed”

Healing. It’s a word we use frequently when talking about grief and I don’t particularly like it. My therapist pointed it out when she used the word and I stiffened. My issue with the word is that it connotes an end. We use it in medicine to talk about how someone gets better, and in a way this is applicable. As we move through our grief, we function better in society, we come to terms with the unchangeable fact that our babies are dead and we begin to find enjoyment and fulfillment in the world around us. But… and it’s a big but…in my medical world we declared someone healed- their uterus is back down to normal size, their stitches have dissolved and their milk has dried up- they are healed. In grief, there is no end. There aren’t even any concrete steps. Going back to work, holding babies, getting to the one year mark- these are things we do, but it’s not clean cut. When I went back to work, I shook, I cried, I took Ativan just to get through the door. Now I move fluidly through my day, rarely crying for my own situation. But there was no discrete time point when I went from being barely able to function to now. It was gradual and I still wouldn’t say I am in a great place. I recently came across this post and loved how he used the word adjusting to loss. A more apt term.

As Mabel’s one-year mark approaches, I think people have certain expectations. One year, I should be healed. I worry that expectations at work will change, that people will think somehow getting through the anniversary of my daughter’s birth and death somehow means something huge. That somehow the difference between February 15 and 16 will be significant, when really it’s just another day in the process. I remember reading early in my grieving this post (I can’t seem to link it directly.  click on http://glowinthewoods.com/  –> at the kitchen table –> scroll down to the post entitled “Tick Tock”) and taking away the message that it can take up to two years to integrate babyloss into your life. (I like how they used the word integrate and not “healed”). Two years! I thought. How am I going to survive two years!?! I thought I wanted to be healed right away, but now I can see I really just simply wanted to stop feeling the pain so acutely. Those early days were rough, weren’t they?

I still stiffen at the word “heal.” I think when those within the babyloss community use it, there is subtext. We know we are never healed from our children’s deaths, but it signifies we are functioning in the new world, the one without our babies. When those outside of our community use it, I can’t help but feel a little resentment, believing they think there is a true endpoint in our grief.

Where are you in your loss timeline? What do you think- are you healed? How do you feel about that word?

Sick days

Sometimes I just wish I could take a sick day.

On a day when I’m feeling sad- or want to feel sad- when the idea of facing pregnant woman after pregnant woman just feels like too much, overwhelming, I wish I could call in and take a mental health day. Spend the day between the couch and the bed, looking at photos, distracting with bad tv.

In medicine, providers rarely take sick days. I’ve had colleagues work with IVs hidden under their sleeves rather than call in sick, co-workers who see one last patient before they themselves go to the emergency room. I was feeling really bad one day, a few years back (I rarely get sick). I didn’t eat anything but crackers for lunch, which was highly unusual for me. By the end of the afternoon I was severely nauseous and struggling through each patient. With two more to go, I quietly vomited in my office trashcan before heading into the next room. My sonographer caught me afterwards saying she had a patient freaking out over her ultrasound and could I talk to her. I could not say no. I stood patiently in the room as she cried over a minor finding on the sonogram (which in the end turned out to be insignificant). After consoling her best I could I left the room to finish vomiting.

If I can’t even call in sick for that, how can I justify taking a mental health day?

Of course, I could simply make the call. But the twenty-five patients on my schedule that day would have to be moved- those who need to be seen would be smooshed into my coworkers already busy days and others would be overbooked with me when I returned. So calling in sick not only burdens my colleagues, but also makes my following days in the office that much worse. I often felt like this in high school, rarely staying home because I wouldn’t want to miss the classes and have my return be a mess. It was just easier to suffer through.

So that’s what I do now when I’m having a bad day. Suffer though. I also have Wednesdays off which helps- knowing I can always use that day for my grief. I just have to postpone all my feelings. It’s hard, though, scheduling my sorrow. Sometimes I wish I could simply take a sick day.

Do you take mental health days? How do you spend them?