Marriage and Parenthood: The Grieving Allowance

A lot of people live their lives waiting for the two events written in stories, catalogued in songs and weaved into the fabric of our communities to happen to them.  The day they get married, and when they have children.  These specific, life altering choices are painted in water color and rosy visions of flowing, white dresses and well-behaved children teetering on sandy beaches.  We chat about bridesmaids dresses, seating arrangements, the color palette for the nursery and which baby carrier has better support for our backs.  We titter nonchalantly about the nuances of learning that our spouse drinks out of the carton, that our pre-pregnancy pants still don’t fit four months later and how we may never get enough sleep again.  However, you’d be hard pressed to find a group of newly weds at a coffee shop discussing an undercurrent of sadness that they can’t quite place, though seemingly, they are getting along swimmingly.  Or a new mother at a mom’s group expressing a feeling of loss, for fear that someone may instantly refer her to a specialist for post-partum.  It’s amazing how much we can talk without really saying anything at all.

When you commit yourself to someone else for the rest of your life, you cease to live life as you have known it before.  In a sense, it is a death to your old life.   I don’t mean to use the analogy lightly as people jokingly do.  I happen to think the most wonderful thing I ever did was die to my single self and marry my best friend.  But, it’s a death nonetheless. And with death, no matter how prepared we think we are, there is always grief.

With children, it is the same.  Having my daughter was the most spiritual, magical, indescribable thing I’ve ever experienced.  But, again, with her arrival came another death. The death of our old life, as just a couple.

People feel badly if they suddenly are sad after their wedding that they can’t run off at 3 a.m. to get slurpies anymore.  ( You can, by the way, Rich and I used to do it all the time:)  That every decision they will now make, they must do it with someone else.  The same someone else.  It doesn’t insinuate that slurpies mean more to you than getting married.  You’re just grieving a death.

After Ellie was born, the responsibility hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was exhausted after being in the hospital for a week, sore, and unsteady and this little thing was screaming and turning red and I realized that only I could care for her.  Because I was her mother.  For the rest of her life.  And I cried.  And I grieved the death of our old  life.

And you know what? After I allowed myself to grieve, things were so much clearer.  I was able to see the small things I was grieving next to the big, wonderful things I was given.  So, we can’t pick up and take off to Europe as easily as before.  So what?  There’s a little girl in the room next to me who only has to smile to validate my entire day- no trip has ever done that.  So I may never be able to finish a whole book in one sitting again- I read too much anyway.

In these situations, grief often comes when we try to hold on to how our lives were before- so be brave and admit what you are really grieving, and allow yourself to grieve it.  Because sometimes, only in death can new life spring up.

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