The tonic of a broken heart: personal grief as collective medicine

A mother and daughters in grief

 

I didn’t think it would hurt so much. 

 

I’d birthed two full term babies, so a ten week old fetus should be nothing in comparison, right?

 

My renegade private midwife suggested I knock back a couple of whiskeys to relax. I hate whisky, but I felt compelled to move through this process in my own private space without intervention.

 

That’s how I found myself at 10pm in bed with my husband, sipping potent Scottish liquor with Sia’s album “Some people have real problems” playing softly; sad and confused, in the throes of miscarriage.



After the shock of falling pregnant before the return of my cycle and while still breastfeeding my then one year old, I’d only just softened to accept I was having another child.

 

The initial mixture of despair at being pregnant again (my second pregnancy was brutal), guilt around conceiving so easily (my sister was desperate for a child while battling cancer) and the overwhelming prospect of a third after just establishing my business, had made for an emotionally volatile and psychologically unstable first trimester.

 

Yet somehow, this baby felt like a messenger.

 

I had an inkling there was something in this experience I needed to learn.

 

While pregnant with my second daughter, I’d pushed hard against my body’s desire to rest, in order to complete a Master’s degree. Now, I was throwing everything I had into my career while raising both girls.

 

Over-functioning wasn’t new to me.

 

Since adolescence, I felt like I had so much to prove. I was convinced that reaching some illusive pinnacle of success would award me respect and freedom. 

 

When my business began, I invested a ridiculous amount of money into slick courses promising the world, and shiny websites painting me as the consummate professional balancing motherhood with ease. 

 

I spent every grain of energy I had in keeping up appearances. 

 

Over time, my shadow began to catch up. It became obvious to me that I was scrambling on a hamster wheel of not-enough-ness and I didn’t know how to get off.

 

A surprise pregnancy unravelled it all.

 

Despite a strong heartbeat just two weeks earlier, one morning I began to bleed. A mixture of rage and disbelief flooded my system. 

 

“What’s this about, baby?!” I yelled at my belly. “Are you coming or going?!”

 

But deep down, I knew.

 

A scan the next day confirmed this little soul had left us.

 

What followed for me was a raw, messy immersion into a cavern of loss, laced with bitter relief, and enveloped with shame.

 

Culminating on that Friday night, texting my midwife and swigging whisky, tears of “what ifs” rolling down my cheeks as my body opened, setting my baby free.

 

Through this loss, I met textures of truth alive in my body I could no longer ignore. 

 

Grief revealed that my decade-long obsession with striving, proving and pushing against the needs and longings of my body, had severed my relationship to the wisdom below my neck.

 

I felt empty.

 

In the months that followed, I held space for myself in ways I never had before. The pregnancy was over, but a seed of knowing had been planted deep in my womb. 

 

An invitation to self-intimacy I was ready to accept.

 

I finally gave my body permission to lead. I trusted her to reveal my next steps. I returned to dancing and writing. 

 

For the first time since childhood, I left the cultural script alone and began to meet myself as I truly was.

 

Losing this baby was a holy initiation. The catalyst to choosing the medicine of self-mothering over self-abandonment.

 

That was 2017. Four years on, I now get to say I have three exceptional daughters.

 

Three little mirrors who remind me daily, how to mother my own heart.

I couldn’t understand exactly how much I’d need these reminders, over the course of the next few years. The depths of grief I would plummet, the heartbreak I would meet, that would have me resting into the vows of gentle self-honouring I made back then.

Grief is the shadowy companion of love.

 

When we’re ready to meet our grief, when we can bravely sip the tonic it serves up, we learn who we truly are and we can CREATE from that meaningful place.

Quite simply, if we deny our grief, we deny our wholeness.

 

Yet, if we allow our grief to be the medicine the world craves, we might just make it through.

 

We might even thrive.

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