I knew before getting into bed last night that I wasn’t going to sleep well. The last words that drifted from Eli’s lips as he wrapped his arms around me were “you’re so comfortable.” As I sunk into his warmth, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking just how uncomfortable I am these days.
Grief is uncomfortable. The emotions make people uncomfortable. Grief is messy. I have never been good with messy. I have never been comfortable asking for help. Grief is everywhere. I am isolated by it and consumed by it. Even if I wanted to numb it, I can’t.
Through my openness about Poppy’s death, I am willing to be seen and to connect. I know I’m not alone. Like so many before me, I want to creatively transform this grief into something beautiful and meaningful.
I had a panic attack yesterday afternoon. I made it about 2 weeks since my last one. These symptoms are new to me, nothing I ever experienced before Poppy was born. As I sat on my couch, recovering, allowing my body to rest from the intense wave of anxiety and adrenaline that enveloped me, I thought, “what can I do in this moment to take care of myself?” I’m reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown right now, but I didn’t have the mental strength to read. I decided instead to watch a few of her TED talks.
That was a wise decision, a moment where I really showed up for myself. Listening to her speak about vulnerability, shame, and wholehearted living reminded me that I am courageous. Brene defined vulnerability as “our most accurate measure of courage.” It’s terrifying sometimes, but with this writing I am surviving. I have no idea where this is going to take me, but the future isn’t my concern right now. Being present to this process is my heart’s desire.
Brene declared vulnerability as “the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” I want Poppy’s death to change me. I want to create and find beauty in her sacrifice, her sweet life. I am scared that I will fail. Exposure is risky, but I’m still breathing.
This morning I read about the myth of the rising Phoenix. The Phoenix has been coming up over and over for me since Poppy was born, in my therapy, with my doctor, in my yoga classes. In fact, the first night we were home from the hospital I had a vision of the mythical bird in a dream.
When I woke up the next morning I had a palpable sense that the vision was a message from my future self. Later that day Eli and I went for a walk at a beautiful lake near our house. It was late October. A Wednesday. I’d given birth to Poppy on Monday.
The leaves were changing colors and the sky was grey. As we walked along, my arm looped through Eli’s, I stared down at the path in a state of disbelief. I wanted to walk and walk and walk. I didn’t want to go home. Eli had to remind me that I’d given birth only days before and that I needed to take it slow. But there was no baby. There was no prize to bring home from the hospital. I had nothing to show for all my hard work, for my misshapen body, for the pain between my legs.
Something caught my attention and I stopped walking. Floating at my eye level was a leaf. It was hanging by an invisible thread. Suspended in midair, the leaf had decayed on both sides and looked unmistakably like a rising Phoenix. I gasped. Eli didn’t understand why I was so shaken. It was then that I told him about the vision I’d had in my dream.
I asked him to take a picture. I never wanted to forget this magical message from the Universe. I took the leaf with me and placed it inside a linen memory box we were given at the hospital. It rests there with the hat Poppy wore while she was with us.
According to one site I read this morning, “the Phoenix is a mythical bird that consciously consumes itself in flames to be reborn new from its ashes. The myth refers to our creative spirit and the free will and choice we each possess to recreate ourselves. The phoenix myth is in many ways the door way to our freedom as beings of unlimited creativity to create the reality we choose. It provides a key understanding of the creative process. Something old must be destroyed and transformed to make room for the new. So there always will be a sacrifice of something. The question is whether or not we hold onto what needs to be sacrificed.” http://ryuc.info/common/recreating_oneself/phoenix.htm
My spirit went up in flames when Poppy died. The ashes and embers are still smoking. I am letting go of my old life, the sacrifice, what I thought to be certain. I am creating something new. I may not have made a conscious decision to burn, but I am consciously connecting with the energy of rebirth. And from these ashes I will rise. I need light and air and space and time. I need lots and lots of time.