I’m on a quest this year to read as many books as I can. I’m juggling my reading time somewhere in between my incredibly busy schedule at school and my almost daily caretaking of my aging parents.
I am currently finishing up a book by Cheryl Strayed entitled, “Tiny Beautiful Things.” You may have heard of her as she is also the author of a book that both Doug and I enjoyed, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” which was what the movie, “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon, was based on.
Prior to writing “Wild,” Cheryl wrote an anonymous advice column for an online community called, The Rumpus using the screen name of ‘Sugar.’ Thousands of people turned to ‘Sugar’ for advice during her time writing the column. “Tiny Beautiful Things” is basically a ‘best of’ collection of those columns.
She pretty much answered questions from people from all walks of life and about every situation imaginable. One letter particularly struck me as potentially having some relevance for people who are struggling to heal after an affair.
The letter to Sugar that I’m referring to actually has nothing to do with infidelity or relationships. It is from a young woman who had a miscarriage. Since the miscarriage (a baby girl), the woman was struggling just to get out of bed. Not a day had gone by that she wasn’t thinking about her daughter and who she would have been.
The woman stated that she had to force herself to act happy. She felt empty inside and didn’t feel much of anything, “yet everything hurt.”
Her friends and family were telling her to just get over it – after all, it had been eighteen months since it happened. But one thing that was really holding her back, was the notion that the baby’s death was her fault. You see, a doctor told her that it may have happened because it was a high-risk pregnancy due to her being overweight. So, she was carrying all that guilt around with her as well.
Friends and family thought she was doing fine but nothing was further from the truth. She was stuck.
If you are a betrayed spouse, I think that maybe you can relate to some of what this woman was going through even though it’s a different type of scenario.
I felt compelled to share a few excerpts from Sugar’s advice, as I feel that what she has to say can be appropriate for those of you who are dealing with grief and yearning to heal.
Here is Sugar’s advice…
“I’m so sorry that your baby girl died. So terribly sorry. I can feel your suffering vibrating right through my computer screen. This is to be expected. It is as it should be. Though we live in a time and place and culture that tries to tell us otherwise, suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us.
Don’t listen to those people who suggest you should be “over” your daughter’s death by now. The people who squawk the loudest about such things have almost never had to get over anything. Or at least not anything that was genuinely, mind-fuckingly, soul-crushingly life altering. Some of those people believe they’re being helpful by minimizing your pain. Others are scared of the intensity of your loss and so they use their words to push your grief away. Many of those people love you and are worthy of your love, but they are not the people who will be helpful to you when it comes to healing the pain of your daughter’s death.
They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died.
It seems to me that you feel like you’re all alone there. You aren’t. There are women and men reading this right now who have tears in their eyes. There are women and men who have spent their days chanting daughter, daughter or son, son silently to themselves. People who have been privately tormented about the things they did or didn’t do that they fear caused the deaths of their babies. You need to find these people. They are your tribe.
I know because I’ve lived on a few planets that aren’t Planet Earth myself.
The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she/he experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated…”
She goes on to say…
“I think you should see a therapist – both alone and with your boyfriend – and I strongly encourage you to call and make an appointment today. A therapist will help you air and examine the complex grief you’re holding so tightly inside of you, and he or she will also help you manage your (probably situational) depression.
This is how you get unstuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from your daughter you loved, but so you can live the life that is yours – the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her. That place of pure healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. You’re a person who can travel that far. I know it.”
She wraps up by saying the following words, which to me, were quite powerful…
“You will never stop loving your daughter. You will never forget her. You will always know her name. But she will always be dead. Nobody can intervene and make that right and nobody will. Nobody can take it back with silence or push it away with words. Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. Therapists and friends and other people who live on Planet My Baby Died can help you along the way, but the healing – the genuine healing, the actual real deal down-on-your-knees-in-the-mud change – is entirely and absolutely up to you.”
I hope you found Sugar’s words to be as inspirational as I did.