Today, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend announced that they had lost their pregnancy. It was a boy and they have named him Jack. I don’t know these people, but it is interesting how social media and interviews can make me feel like I do. I was heartbroken. I always wonder when I comment on someone with so many followers if they even read it, but still, I needed to put out into the universe that I was so sorry for their loss.
It was there in the thousands and thousands of replies where I saw, not one, but MANY self-righteous and condescending comments shaming Chrissy for tweeting about her loss. It broke my heart even further.
“But you’re still tweeting….” “This should be private” “Do you have to post EVERYTHING?!”
Each one claiming that by publicly announcing the death of their baby, they must not be grieving hard enough.
This isn’t the first time I have been witness to such judgmental bullying, and somehow, I feel good that it still bothers me so much. That these invisible, relentless people haven’t numbed me to their hatred. I can still feel.
I am wondering who wrote the rule book on grief. Who decided that the proper way to grieve is to do so quietly and to wear all black and never smile? As if marinating in the sadness all alone is the only way to truly show the world that you really loved what you’ve lost? The only way to really prove that you didn’t deserve this.
And furthermore, why is announcing your loss inappropriate? When I was pregnant, I was advised (per everyone ever) to wait until my second trimester to announce. As if announcing it before I was less likely to miscarry would make a miscarriage easier. It was almost as if announcing a pregnancy early and then miscarrying would have been embarrassing or shameful. Or would it just make people uncomfortable?
I did wait until I was 12 weeks to announce. Not because I was concerned I would miscarry but because that is the status quo. What if I had miscarried though? What if the first time anyone learned of my baby was when I had to tell them the baby was no longer here? No. I would rather them celebrate with me and then mourn with me. That is where I would find my support.
Since my grandfather died earlier this year, I’ve had the strangest waves of grief. I expected his death when it came. I knew it was what he wanted. He made his own decisions about his body until his last breath. It was easier than other deaths, not because he wasn’t important to me, but because I knew that I was honoring him by letting him go.
I see shadows of him sometimes. Twice now. Once was in my kitchen, behind the island. Just a quick shadow. I spoke to him aloud. “I love you. I know you’re proud of me. I will take care of Grandmom.” Another was in the hallway of the new house. He’s followed me here. He loves to watch Juliet.
I am fine most of the time, and then something totally random will kick me into deep, breathless sobs. My husband blowing a straw wrapper, like grandpa used to do. Figuring out how to double the chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe by adding fractions. Looking right then left then right before turning left at a stop sign. In these moments, I am so, so grateful to have shared my life with him. Sometimes, I smile and tear up and sometimes I cry so hard and loud I have to severely ugly cry and let it go.
I don’t think anyone around me has any idea that I am grieving. On the outside, I am completely normal. On the inside, I am talking to my grandfather like he is my new imaginary friend, except now I’m old enough to know that I probably shouldn’t speak out loud to him in front of others.
Grief doesn’t always look how we want it to look. Smiling doesn’t mean you aren’t grieving. Neither does laughing or posting funny memes on social media. You can grieve and experience joy simultaneously. For some, grief looks like watching tv for 12 hours straight. For others, it’s re-arranging furniture or planning an elaborate vacation. Sometimes, it is keeping so busy that you don’t have time to grieve, but guess what? You’re still doing it. Your body will tell you so.
I would say that most people on earth are grieving right now. Not just for their loved ones, but for life as we knew it. Before Covid, as they say. It was a life without masks, but with handshakes and hugs. We could send our kids to school and feel fulfilled when they came home sweaty and exhausted. We could have funerals and go to weddings and meet our best friends newborn babies. We could make plans and not worry they would fall through. It will get better, but for now, I am grieving that old life. I think most of us are.
We don’t know what we have until we don’t have it anymore. We grieve when we have realized what we have lost. And as the circle of life goes, grief sometimes gives us meaning. Grief is how I know that being able to do something as simple as taking my babies to Walmart to buy an overpriced mystery toy is one of the most precious gifts in the world. That visiting loved ones really can’t wait even if you have to drive a bit. It made me realize how much I miss a simple smile given to and returned from a stranger as we pass by each other.
Grief is with us, always. It is what should bond us with humanity. We all grieve, but what we must not do is tell one another the right way to do it.