Well actually, I'm technically about 34 and a half weeks now: it's taken me this long to get my act together and post!
I was thinking yesterday about the way we all process things, depending on our genetic and environmental coagulation throughout the years, and my thoughts drifted onto child loss - most specifically, how child loss is processed differently by different people.
It is curious, as I look around, at my immediate family how differently I see them going through grief - or not going through grief. I have seen religion play a major role here, in my immediate surroundings, where religious beliefs have been used as reasons for things happening, or not happening. Or, where religious beliefs have been used as a means to get the person through the grieving process and life in the aftermath of child loss.
I myself am a total Earth worshiper. I believe this Earth is magical in itself, and gives to us everything we need. I look around me in every season and see what beautiful things are produced - from snowflakes in the winter, to bright summer evenings, to the fruits we love to harvest in the autumn and make things out of (I love elderberries and apples, around here). I see the magic of love between people on so many different levels; the communication between us and the animal companions we have and for me, that is evidence enough for wonderful things going on in the world. I've never really in the whole of my life felt the need to belong to a mainstream organized religion - but, that's just me. Conversely I don't see anything wrong with wanting to belong to any larger religion: it's just not me.
So for me, life and death are interwoven: they're intrinsically joined to one another, faded into one another in a gradient and to me, neither can be separated from the other. Trees die, and their wooden bodies add mulch to the surrounding forest floor. Plants die, adding minerals to the soil. Animals die, also adding nutrient. We are animals, in the end. Then, plants spring up from the earth; we eat the plants; we grow. We live, we die, the whole mechanism goes on and on.
Emotions also come into play, naturally. I suppose if the mechanical aspect of the continuity of life is the black and white outline, emotional components would provide the color within. We feel love, sadness, joy, despair...all of this. So, tied up in the natural process of birth, death and rebirth we have the colorful washings of emotion.
For me though, it's important not to let go of either the outline or the colors within. As important as the emotions within, the outline of life is the factual, tangible truth. Life and death happen. We conceive new life; and there is death.
So, in my mind, qualifying the death of Josie was not impossible. I never found her death impossible to believe, beyond the normal scope of grief and the associated mental injury of the grieving process. Her death was what it was: my brother had died of the same cause. She had died. She was now in the earth along with all the other things, animal and plant, that had died in the past.
Along the same vein, I never had trouble with blaming anything other than the literal source of blame - ever - again, beyond the initial grief. By that, I mean I did not ever sit about and wonder why "God" had "done this" to me. Since I don't believe the Devil is real, I never had trouble with the belief that something "evil" had happened, either. I didn't have a deity to be angry with. The only deity I believe in being our mother Earth, who is naturally black and white and gray and everything in between: I couldn't be "angry" with her because life and death is in her nature.
So for me, acceptance was not something I had trouble with. Not at all. I felt at peace fairly quickly with the death of my daugher - but of course, that does not mean to say I felt at peace with her being gone. Do you see what I mean? There is a difference, I think. I miss her terribly and especially now at the end of this pregnancy, with all the hormonal influences, I cry over her sometimes because of a combination of sadness that I can't hold her, and remembrance of this time in my pregnancy with her. The love never, ever leaves you. It's the same as holding a living child: that child is forever with you, but empty as air - there's nothing to pour your love into, so you have to find something else to hold the love.
I choose art, and writing, and talking, and just a little extra love for other people as my outlet for the love that would have gone to Josie. Perhaps that is why they say "losing a child will turn you into a more compassionate person" - you have this leftover abundance of love that keeps flowing throughout life. But, that is, only if you reach a level of acceptance. Without acceptance, you're pretty stuck really.
And that's what I see around me: varying levels of acceptance. Some are like me - not necessarily the same religious or spiritual beliefs, but they're come to a level of understanding. However, many haven't. Including some people who are really close to me.
I see this frustration with "God" all over the place. This "why did He do this to me?" and "I'm really pissed off with God" and "I don't understand why this had to happen to me." These are all questions that I never really thought of. I've never really had the mind to have to find a reason for everything. I suppose it gets very hard if you do believe that "everything happens for a reason" - because then you have to justify something awful happening. Can you ever really be sure your justification is correct, though, or are there perpetual, lingering doubts?
I've had pressure from some extended family members and acquaintances to get married before the new baby arrives, as though we, as a couple "owe" something to a God. Or, as though, curiously, a God took our last child because we were not married. Naturally that makes no spiritual or logical sense to me at all. How can it? At the same time, they profess that my daughter is an "angel" in "heaven" or that "God wanted her back because she was too perfect/wasn't meant to live..." Again, these explanations make no sense at all to me - they're foreign to me. They might be nice for someone else but as far as I am concerned, my daughter isn't sporting wings, watching over me or protecting me. She's at peace forever, that I am sure of - and I'm happy with that. What's so bad with being at peace forever?
Anyhow, so, around me, people are stuck in various stages of the grieving process because they have been hampered by their own spiritual beliefs. Unwilling to let go or change their minds about their beliefs - because they are afraid that these beliefs are the only things getting them through - they find themselves trapped in terrible wranglings between themselves and the God they were always sure was out to protect. I feel very bad for these people. I can only imagine the mental pain that must inflict.
Alternatively I do also have people who believe that a God is there to be with them through the pain. I find, looking at these people, that their realities are much more relaxed; much more peaceful.
So I suppose it can go either way. Perhaps it's just best to be flexible in one's spiritual outlook...
Anyhow enough ruminating: I am 34 weeks and 3 days pregnant today. In my pregnancy with Josie, I'd be the equivalent of just over a week away from the day I realized that my body was not tolerating the stress well at all - 35 weeks, 4 days, losing my plug and having some indications of early labor - which led to my being released from my crazy ex-job two weeks earlier than previously planned.
We're reaching the end of this journey here - it's not long. I can remember everything I was doing at this stage of my pregnancy with Josie - almost day by day. The last week of work would be spent getting up at 3.30am every day (driving two hours to a location just outside the cities), and going to bed sometimes as late as 11.30pm. Finally, my request for help had been granted and help had been sent - but by this time, it was almost too late. The problems in my district had been ignored for far too long - upper management had been making serious mistakes... I was going to pay for it in a lot more than a corporate-slap-on-the-wrist sense. After all, shoving blame and too much responsibility on to colleagues further on down the line only works until someone dies...
So here I am at 34 weeks exactly... It won't be long now...