Loss and Letting Go

Illustration by Mari Andrew (www.bymariandrew.com)

This week is full of milestones for me. Last Sunday would have been my first Mother’s Day. This weekend would have been my due date. Both dates are significant reminders of a life that could’ve been. It’s also been six months since we received the phone call that would change our lives. But now, I can finally understand the-then hollow promise of “everything happens for a reason.”

These past few months have been a profound time of growth for me. I started this year broken, and was somehow able to put myself back together. Having time off allowed me to really take some time to grieve and process, but it also allowed me the time to accomplish a lot. I connected and re-connected with friends by discovering who my true friends are, and which friendships and relationships are worth taking a step back from. I re-wrote three pilots and started researching ideas for a new one. I made huge progress with my novel. I’ve been open and honest about my struggles in this blog and have had friends and strangers alike tell me how meaningful my words are. I wrote a fucking play about pregnancy loss and grief. I said goodbye to a grandparent. I left my agent. There’s been clean slates and lots of creativity. And throughout all of this, or perhaps because of all of this, I healed my own broken heart by finally learning to take the pressure off myself.

Being confronted with the news that your baby is extremely sick is the ultimate feeling of helplessness. There’s not a lot you can control in that situation, and even the parts you can control feel like little consolation. From the time I was a young child, I’ve put this incredible amount of pressure on myself to be “perfect” as a way to pretend I have some semblance of control. My therapist will say it’s because of a traumatic event, but perhaps this perfectionism has always been ingrained in me. Either way, my whole life I felt I was never good enough. I had an idea that if I could show how perfect I was to the outside world, maybe that would allow me to believe it myself. But here’s the problem with perfection: it doesn’t exist. Hard work doesn’t always pay off. The grass is not greener on the other side. Joy and pain have to exist together. And sometimes there’s just not a fucking thing you can do. From the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda (or “Aaron Burr”, depending on who you ask): “Love (and Death) don’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints.”

When we got the news about the baby, my first instinct was it happened because I did something wrong. It was my fault our baby was sick. What a bunch of bullshit that belief was. Over time, I began to see how I was holding myself to that standard in all aspects of my life. Taking on the burden of responsibility for things that weren’t mine to take responsibility for. Making myself feel bad for the things I couldn’t control. Letting others make me feel bad for things they felt bad about. Holding myself to a standard that I didn’t hold for anyone else. Trying to be perfect.

Our scars and imperfections are beautiful because that’s what connects us and makes us human. That’s a profound lesson, and one I don’t think I would’ve learned had I not gone through this tragedy. And when you’re given this gift of profound clarity, it makes the loss itself more bearable. It no longer becomes just about the grief, but you can ascribe meaning from it. I guess that’s what people mean when they say “everything happens for a reason.” Without the loss, I wouldn’t understand how to let go. That’s a big fucking deal.

Maybe that’s why, in this week filled with milestones, I don’t feel sad or emotional like I imagined I would. Sure, I have my moments… we all do, but I’m in the best headspace I’ve ever been in. I can finally be just me.