1. Staying up till 2 am (or later).
2. Engrossing myself in the melodious strains of Meredith Andrews and Laura Story.
3. Wiping out a half a roll of toilet paper to take care of my teary eyes and snotty nose.
Oh yeah . . . and then I write.
Tonight, however, involves staying up till 1 (slightly better), the sound of my keyboard filling the empty silence, and there is no snot to be found. (Aren't you glad to know that?!) In fact, I actually find myself quite at peace, and . . . dare I say it? . . . happy.
Lately, I have been (quite successfully) distracting myself with my business. I just don't have the emotional energy or desire to visit my grief -- so I just keep plowing ahead, keping my mind occupied by what I have to look forward to.
Every once in a while, when I'm reminded of pregnancy in some capacity, I get this feeling of regret. It's like some part of me remembers . . . remembers that I "should" be 30 weeks pregnant. That I "should" be complaining about aches and pains. That I "should" be making room for baby, setting up Maddy's big girl room, and getting ready for all things baby.
Most of the time, I can visit that regret for a few minutes, and then just move on. But I have found my grief -- or whatever you want to call the melancholy feeling I get -- creeping up whenever I actually do take a break, and have time to think. And in those times, that feeling is not so easy to dismiss.
For instance, last weekend we went to the lake with Ryan's family. It was relaxation at its finest. No agenda. No chores. No work. (OK, maybe I worked a tad while everyone else took a nap.) We went to the pool. Played games. Ate fresh-cut fries and coconut cream waffles -- in the same meal. And then on top of that, good company. Good food. Good fun.
So, why at the end of the second day, did it come creeping back. That feeling. The feeling of being angry, discontent, and just plain irritable? I know what the feeling means. But it comes when I'm not even thinking about Olivia. It catches me off guard and I don't have the wherewithal to warn everybody, "Hey. I'm unexpectedly grieving my baby right now. Just a heads up in case I get crabby for no reason. (And chances are, I will.)"
Same thing happened on Mother's Day. I sang in church that morning for the first time after our loss, which felt great. And I made it through (mostly) tear-free. Then we had a feast at my parents' house, and had pretty much the perfect day: Drinking iced tea on the porch, blowing bubbles with Maddy, playing badminton in the sun, and finishing it off with homemade blackberry pie and vanilla ice cream.
But as soon as we left, it began creeping up again. Almost imperceptible at first. But by the end of the night, I took myself straight to bed, didn't say goodnight to anyone and cried myself to sleep -- unapologetically leaving nightime parenting duty to dad. (I didn't even take my makeup off -- and that's saying something.)
Poor Ryan, no doubt, believed he ruined my Mother's Day. I even gave him some sort of reason for why I was acting the way I was. But that was only a small sliver of my feelings. The truth was that I was just plain missing my baby.
Then the other day at a party, there was a woman who was due within days of me, had her big round belly, and talked of baby showers and pregnancy complaints. There's nothing wrong with her coming, or being due when I was, or of having a girl, or of talking about all the things people talk about when they are pregnant. (Especially when she has no idea that I lost a baby and would be due at the same time.)
But there it was again. THAT FEELING! I tried to be as professional as I could be, and I HOPE that I pulled that off. But deep inside I was ready to flee. Ryan was asleep by the time I finally got home, so I called a friend over, and we drank a glass of wine and reminisced about our babies. I didn't let myself cry -- but talking about it definitely helped.
I know my counselor has suggested that I set aside time for my grief. To pull it out of the box for a time . . . let myself feel my regret . . . and then put it away for another set time.
It sounds like great advice . . . but I don't know how to do that. How do you even measure how well you're doing at setting "office hours" for your grief? I wish picking up grief and putting it down could be so literal and tangible. That seems so so much easier to manage than these waves of melancholy that sweep over me (and crash into those around me) at the worst possible times.
I have a feeling that if I could set up office hours -- they just might look like this:
Whether it's just the time of day -- or whether it's during my off time -- for whatever reason, grief always seems to happen in the after hours.
At least, for the moment, it doesn't feel quite as consuming as it used to. And at least those after hours are just a wee bit earlier than they used to be.