Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grief Season Opens Early by Cara Tyrell

“They stocked the stream yesterday” I hear annually. Within hours the fishing poles, tackle and canoe have been unearthed, readied for the next days use.

“Got your license yet?” is the popular question months later as clever deer take cover and less intuitive ones end up in our freezer.

Vermont is known for its seasons and not just the classic four: Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. No, here we trudge through Mud Season. We sweat through Hay Season. We swat through Black Fly Season. And, this year, the Rainy Season seems to have come to stay.

What is less attended to is Grief Season. This season is a sneaky one. It does not arrive preceded by rain, or mud or sun. There are no marking flowers or distinct temperatures associated with it. No, that isn’t entirely true. If I stop and focus; if I look, listen, and feel the signs are everywhere: a slight chill in the air, the promise of Fall within weeks, leaves starting to look more crisp than the week before, and a slightly red tint on the leaves of Emma’s burning bush.

This is my grief season. Much like J.K. Rowling’s love potion, the signs are different for each of us. Ordinary parts of perfectly good seasons become omens of rough days to come. She was due on the 6th. . I realized she was gone, then labored through a deluded haze on the 7th. She was born on the 8th.

Annually, I have come to recognize these signals, taking emotional cover. Every August, the roughest segment of road appears marked by a bright yellow road sign: CAUTION - SEPTEMBER APPROACHING – 14 DAYS – SHARP TURNS AHEAD.

And yet, is seems my grief season has begun early. Even if the signs are different, I fear it has arrived early. Without warning my body hurts, aches, head to toe. I am plagued by constant fatigue. My migraines have returned with vengeance. Armed with prescription meds I can keep them at bay, but they are always there ready to attack with the slightest provocation. My mood, so recently light and flexible to match our summer schedule, has become darker, more subdued with the regrettable side effect that I find myself barking at people more and more. Wait! It isn’t time yet. I’m not ready yet. Oh, just breath – I’ll test this theory.

I smell the air. It’s still hot and sticky. I search the trees. Their leaves still look supple and lively. I inspect her burning bush. It is pregnant with growth this year, just as green as its neighbor – not a hint of red.

Don’t ask…no, don’t. But I can’t help myself.

Why? Why the shift in schedule? Does this mean it will pass and dissipate earlier than usual too? Doubtful. So, why the assigned extension?

I could attempt to answer this rhetorical query.

Because I am going back to work.
Because this magical year of writing is coming to a tapered end.
Because babies are still dying.
Because my commitments will cause me to be ‘less Emma’s mother’ again
Because I’m sharing pregnancy after loss anxiety with the members of our support group who are trying again.
Because on September 8th she turns nine years old.


They are only guesses. Some might me more accurate than others, but it comes to the same end. I passed the road sign. My Grief Season has come early this year.

What are your grief season signals? How do you meet it head on?


Tennille said...

I know exactly what this feels like. My daughter's due date was the Fourth of July so imagine my grief season starting the day department stores put out all the red, white and blue and people talk about all their wonderful weekend plans while I know I'll be sitting in a cloud of depression...

Cara said...

Tennille - I am so very sorry for your loss. Losing your child on any day is a life marker, but on such a public holiday has got to be torture. The rest of the world holds such expectation for our moods, especially when all the color is bursting around us. It is ok that your color will be gray...we understand.

Virginia said...

My grief season begins roughly in November, around Thanksgiving, as families gather, laugh, eat, and pretend all is well, pretend that all of us are together. When the Christmas lights come out, the carols begin to play, when people wish me happy holidays. Then New Year's Eve, the day he was born, already dead. As the world prepares for the birth of the son of god, I remember the death, and birth, of my son.

Nearly six years on, it isn't as hard as it has been, and I keep going, keep missing, keep loving the children here on earth and the one who is not.

Kelley said...

Thank You for this post. Your view of a grief season fits me perfectly. My son, Samuel was born eight years ago in May. We spent the summer rushing back and forth to the neo natal unit, doing anything we could to savor each day. Then Labor Day, four months later, he passed away. The end of summer marks the end of my precious son's life. As people are planning get togethers, BBQs and fun, I am feeling low, achy, much more subdued. I think every year, I am better this year, it isn't as hard.. it is still hard, I still grieve the loss. The loss of broken dreams of what might have been. Trucks, fishing, bikes, all the things I wanted to do.. So I too try to do something fun to celebrate the ones I have here, and just privately remember my little guy.

Anonymous said...

My grief season gets earlier and earlier every year but unlike you, I know what triggers it and how. I lost three babies, each three years apart...one in Novemeber, one in December and one in January. I also work in the retail industry and before this I thought it was just my imagination that Christmas seemed to come earlier and earlier but now that I have seen it in action for three years in a row, I know I'm not crazy. The Christmas items in our store, believe it or not, started going up in mid to late August, before the back to school products no less. I was crushed. A wave of panic hit..."their birthdays are coming already." every year the retail giants make my grief process longer and longer so they can make that extra buck. Soon, its seems, my grief season will never end because the Christmas items will always be available.

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