Off-grid: on loss, grief and love

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The loss came to me on a Monday morning in a bloody smear that could not be misunderstood. I gathered my heart on the floor as the shaking began and braced myself for the inevitable freight train of grief that I could hear blowing towards me. It sounded like my heartbeat.

The sweet recommendation, seeing the barren landscape of my stomach draining out onto a black and white screen, was to go home and rest. My determined and mature body would soon realize what was going on and give up. I left with a Ziploc bag of feminine hygiene supplies large enough to soak up a body of water from a city park and a prescription that would leave me wallowing like one of Lucretia Borgia’s lovers. But first, I needed to run.

“No racing for two weeks,” they said.

“Alright,” I thought.

Grief, they say, is not linear. Mine is a 4 mile loop that takes you past a preparer yurt, rotting moose carcass, and endless fields of wildflowers.

Tears fell to the wet stains on the wooden porch floor as I collapsed on my running shoes, desperately clinging to dreams that were no longer mine. I climbed the hill behind my house, overtaking again and again, overwhelmed by the kind of sadness that makes the body vomit and lift.

A neighbor came by and stopped to congratulate me on my pregnancy. I cried in the passenger window of his Lexus as he tried to look away. Miscarriage is not for the faint of heart.

It is also a silent and lonely loss for many, a catastrophe of internal shame and external justifications. We tell women that they are part of a normal statistic, that they should keep trying, stop trying, eat better, adopt, get more rest, and take responsibility for their bodies’ incompetence or their shriveled ovaries. Partners rarely receive an honorable mention in condolences, helpless as they are anyway.

I took the poison and I lay down in mourning for the intangible, the not-yet-become, the imaginary. When my body finished twisting, my heart finally broke. There was not enough space in the walls of my house for my sadness, and so after a week, I turned to the only panacea I know of: the mountains.

“I need to see the world from above something,” I said to my husband, whose shirts are now all soaked in my snot and who knows Mother Nature’s medicine.

With a limp, empty stomach slipping awkwardly over my shorts in a humiliating display of my failure, I sniffed my way to a trail. The dark tunnel of trees opened with every mile until we walked in bright sunlight with the world in front of us. With every step something weaved the frayed edges of my heart.

So many families have taken this path, but so few are talking about it. I was endowed with a community of celebrants from the start of our journey, and those who shared our joy now share our grief. At every step of our process, we were greeted with kindness, generosity and understanding.

In our grief, we have never felt more loved.

Sitting on the weathered stones of a timeless summit, this truth permeated my lungs like the cool autumn air. I remembered all the prayer flags in Nepal, stretched over the ridges, waiting for the wind to bring greetings to those who manifest them.

I sighed in gratitude on the breeze. Gratitude for those months and weeks of waiting and all the delicacies that come with it. Gratitude for a momentary reprieve from crippling nausea. And a deep and humbling appreciation for every kind, fulfilling and hugging word that reminded me of the beauty of the shared human experience.

And as I took in a full breath, my chest expanding like the horizon in front of me, I let some hope fill the empty spaces again.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at [email protected]


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