Hopeful Healing

It has been a long time since I posted here, and in that time so much has changed..! The remaining two frozen embryos that we transferred in May not only implanted, but one also split into identical twins, and somehow, amazingly all three have turned into my beautiful children! Everyday this still surprises me. Everyday this still amazes me. It is still surreal and strange and wonderful that we have triplets and that I was pregnant and stayed pregnant after three long years of infertility and loss.

These changes have been wonderful and overwhelming and confusing at times! There are lots of things I don’t know… I’m not sure how or why our transfer in May was successful. I’m not sure why our transfer last February was not successful. I do not understand why we had success and others have not. I cannot explain why we ended up with more babies than we had embryos. I do not know why all of this has happened. I don’t think I ever will.

But one thing I know is that Matt and I are very lucky to have our triplets. There are no guarantees with infertility treatment or pregnancy, and I am so thankful that we had success and that my babies arrived safely after my hard, high risk pregnancy. And despite how overwhelming and exhausting caring for newborn triplets is, at the end of the day I know I have an opportunity that I thought at one time might never happen — I get to be the mom to living children! So I’m trying to enjoy the moments that I can, sleep when I am able, and do my best to take care of my little ones and raise them into kind hearted, loving people.

I also know that my pregnancy in some ways allowed me to connect with others who are experiencing infertility. Some people have opened up about their struggles with infertility after hearing our news, and I have been able to hear their stories, share with them our story, and remind them that they are not alone. I suspect a lifetime of questions regarding the conception of our triplets, so I’m prepared for discussions about this in the future too… I think part of my healing process will continue to be connecting with others to share the heavy load of infertility.

As for this blog, I intend to leave it here, untouched. It’s an honest record of my infertility experience, and until this post is untouched by our outcome. I hope my words will continue to be a source of comfort and connection to those who need it.

Even though I now have living children, I suspect that healing from my infertility and pregnancy loss will still continue for a long time — I would not say that I am “fixed” now. I do find that my babies are helping to heal my wounds from infertility, but I cannot count on them to do all the work for me. As I wrote in my post on rainbows, I believe healing from infertility needs to come from more than just a baby (or three!). So I continue to care for myself, process my feelings, and appreciate the multiple rainbows in my life.

I don’t know where this new adventure with triplets will take us, but I know we are headed there together, surrounded in love — Matt and me and our children, with our family and friends. We head into our new adventure with half agony, knowing that the world is a confusing and unfair place with loss and heartache, but we also head there with half hope that our sacred lives will still be beautiful and filled with love and rainbows if we look in the right places.

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Coping This Christmas

christmas2016Well. It’s officially that time of year — the “most wonderful” time of year. Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I’ve always loved it. It is such a special time for families — being together, sharing meals and gifts. Baking cookies. Watching Christmas movies. Making snowmen. Driving around looking at lights. Going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service and singing carols. Drinking hot chocolate and playing games. It’s such a happy time of year.

At least for most people.

Not for me this year. Or last year. Or the year before. Christmas has become a sad time for us because it emphasizes family and traditions, and it marks another year gone without having children. Matt and I want so badly to have our own family to share traditions with, to make new memories with, and instead of being a joyous time, Christmas reminds us of what we are missing. Our hearts have been ready for children for years now, but instead of growing our family, our heartbreak grows. With each passing year of involuntary childlessness, the holiday season becomes more difficult.

The past two years I tried hard to stay joyful at Christmas, despite heartache. In 2014 and 2015 my family suffered some significant losses, and those in combination with our infertility made my holidays hard. But I pulled myself together and did my best to celebrate. I decorated my house, sent cards, and made cookies. We hosted parties, and visited with friends and family. I did my best to be happy, even though I was feeling more and more broken as the days passed.

Now for a third year I am still struggling with infertility. I have no baby to introduce to my family and no happy announcement to share. Instead, I have a pregnancy loss added to my list of losses, and I have the hard job of accepting that again my life is not where I’d hoped it would be a year ago.

I think back to a conversation I had in early June with my mom about how I’d be close enough to my due date by Christmas that I shouldn’t be traveling… But as it turns out I’m not lucky enough to still be pregnant, and we’re not staying here for the holidays. Instead of welcoming a baby into our home soon, we’re preparing for IVF. This month we’re having procedures done, having blood drawn and genetics tested, and waiting for financial estimates. And in the meantime, I’ve been searching for the right ornament to add to my collection to memorialize our lost baby. No surprise, there’s no good ornament for “lost baby 2016”.

So I’m having a hard time with Christmas this year, and I’ve decided that to make it more bearable, I’m going to make some changes. To start, I’m not going to pretend this year. Because things aren’t great right now for me. I’m not happy and there’s no point pretending otherwise. I’m distraught at what 2016 brought us and I’m so disappointed to be facing yet another holiday season feeling broken and lost. So instead of going through the motions of things we usually do and pretending that things are ok, I’m going to focus on what brings us joy. I’m trying to leave myself open to whatever strikes me as fun or meaningful. I’m not interested in doing things that we feel like we should do just because we’ve always done them or because someone expects it. I want to do what I can to find some happiness for us. For example, Matt and I have planned dates for the month to make sure that at least twice a week we’re doing something fun together. In addition to those planned dates, I’m going to make sure we watch the best of our favorite Christmas movies. And I’m only going to send out Christmas cards if I think it would make me happy. I’m only going to put out Christmas decorations that really bring me joy in that moment. I’m only going to put up a tree if I feel it would bring me more joy than pain…

image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/148689225171132468/
image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/148689225171132468/

In addition to focusing on activities that bring me joy, as I said in my fall post, I’m going to make sure I continue to practice self care. I have been doing that as best I can and I will keep it up. I’ve been outside walking and hiking, and going to the gym. I’ve treated myself to massages and manicures. I’ve been reading and writing. I’ve been saying “no” to social events when I need to,  and saying “yes” when I want to. I practice gratitude to find something good in everyday. I’m doing what I can to take care of myself — mind, body, and spirit.

And I’m going to make sure I give myself space to feel sad. Because not all things are going to bring me joy, and some Christmas traditions now make me really sad. I’m not going to pretend that I’m ok, because I’m not — I’m hurting. I will need to take time to check in with myself and give myself breaks and quiet time. I ask in advance that my family accept that I’m in a sad place. Holidays during infertility and after loss are painful, and I’m carrying a lot of pain right now. You don’t have to feel sad too, but please respect where I am with my grief.

Another thing we’re doing this year is rewarding ourselves — after visiting our families we’re going to take a trip with some friends to a city we’ve never visited and ring in the new year with them. We will see the sights, eat good food, and we will toast to our survival of this miserable year and hope together that 2017 will be better.

After writing all of these things down it seems like maybe I’m being a little bit selfish this Christmas season, but I really don’t think I am…. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. And besides, if we can’t care for ourselves or show love to ourselves, then how can we possibly care for or love others? If our vessel is empty, how do we expect to pour from it? I believe that by focusing on myself and Matt, we will better be able to survive this tough time; that we will be able to create some joy together, share some happiness with others, and find more things for which to be grateful.

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The Arrival of Fall

the_arrival_of_fall2My favorite time of the year, fall, is officially here. I love fall weather and the clothing it accommodates — sweaters, scarves, cute boots. I love the colors in the leaves and the way the leaves take flight and dance in the wind. Fall brings the harvest and asks for warm, comforting foods — soup, apples, apple cider, and all things pumpkin. Fall means my birthday is coming and all the best holidays of the year. But some of these things I that love about fall have become difficult for us during infertility. Instead of celebrating the season change and looking forward to upcoming events, fall is now the beginning of a rough time of year for us: it signals that more time has passed, it brings my birthday, and it starts the big holiday season. Infertility has made all these things painful and it’s threatening to ruin fall for me.

Strike One: Fall is a Marker of Time

It was hard for me to acknowledge the arrival of fall this year… I love to decorate for the seasons, changing out my decor with every season. But this fall I struggled — I sat on my sofa and stared around the room for days before deciding that I would decorate. It seemed like a lot of work, and my heart wasn’t in it… but I ultimately decided that if I didn’t change my decor for the season, the lack of pumpkins and leaves and yummy scented candles would probably make me more depressed than I already was. So I asked Matt to go fetch my totes in the basement and I put out a few things.

I know that acknowledging the arrival of fall doesn’t seem like such a big deal… but it is: the turn of every calendar page marks another month of our heartbreak. Every season change marks more time in which we have tried, and failed, to grow our family. Time keeps moving on while Matt and I feel stuck, going nowhere, waiting for our miracle. We are doing everything we can to grow our family, but so much is out of our hands and it feels like every month we’re right back where we were before.

Strike Two: Fall Means My Birthday is Coming

My birthday is less than a month away. Birthdays used to give me great joy — a day for me! But my birthday has been hard the past couple of years, and this year I expect it to be worse. It’s not necessarily that I’m getting older; it’s that birthdays mark time. My birthday puts me another year older in my quest to become a mother. And if I’m not dreading my birthday enough, I’m reminded of it all the time — my age and birth date are all over my medical paperwork, prescriptions, and instructions. My nurses mention my age when they discuss treatment or try to encourage me. I confirm my birth date at the lab before having blood drawn and at the pharmacy when I pick up meds. And having my birthday celebrated… well, it’s a day I’m not looking forward to this year. I’m certainly not where I thought I’d be by now and turning another year older without a child here with me makes me so, so very sad.

Strike Three: Fall Means Holidays are Coming

The arrival of fall means that holidays are just around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I’m dreading the holidays already and they haven’t even begun. Holidays are hard because they naturally emphasize the very thing we are lacking: our own family. Please don’t get me wrong — we LOVE our families. And we have, for many years, travelled back across the country for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to celebrate with our families. But sometimes just being with our families, even just our parents and our siblings, reminds us that we have yet to create that magic of our own. We want so badly to have children to share these special moments with and to create new traditions with, and holidays brutally remind us of how much joy and love we are missing due to our infertility. Holidays make our hearts ache for our losses.

The upcoming holidays again mark time that has passed. This will be our third holiday season since we’ve been trying to conceive. This will be the third Halloween where we hand out candy to other people’s children while feeling sad for ourselves. And I so hope I’m wrong, but at this point, we are potentially looking at a third Thanksgiving and Christmas without a pregnancy announcement to share with our loved ones. This could be our third New Year where we have tried, and failed to meet our goal from the previous year: grow our family. For the third autumn, already I’m anxiously wondering if next year’s holidays will be different. I hope so.

Three Strikes: You’re Out? Fall Officially Sucks?

Good thing I have at least a small say in how infertility affects me — I hate the idea of letting infertility ruin my favorite season. Infertility has already taken so much away from us, and caused us so much pain. Is it really fair for it to take my favorite season too? Absolutely not. But there’s only so much I can do — the painful reminders of the time passing, the disappointment of my birthday, and the heartbreak over the holidays are all probably still going to happen. I can’t stop them and I’m not going to try — I’ve learned it’s not good for me to fight my feelings.

But I can do little things to reclaim fall and the upcoming holidays for myself. I did decorate a bit for the season. I like my pumpkins and leaves and spiced autumn candles. We will make soups and drink apple cider. And I certainly will wear cute scarves and boots. However, I will need to do more than dress myself and my home for the part; I will need to take care of myself in order to survive what’s coming. I will need to give myself plenty of time to sit with my grief during this hard time of the year. I will need to be ok with feeling sad on my birthday. I will need to be gentle with myself over the holidays. I will need to give myself space during family events or large social gatherings. Resolve has a list of recommendations for surviving the holidays that I have found helpful. I will need to make sure Matt and I have enough time for each other. I will need to remember that we are not alone… there are many others having a hard time too: here and here just to name a few. In short, I will need to practice a lot of self care in the months to come. And I hope that with enough love and care for Matt and myself, we will be able to get through this hard time of year and maybe even enjoy some parts of it.

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Support Group

About a year ago a friend suggested I find an infertility support group. She thought it might be helpful… I hadn’t thought of a support group until then, and I was glad she had suggested it. That said, at that time I wasn’t ready for one, but I did keep it in mind. Shortly after that conversation with my friend, we scheduled my laparoscopy. With the treatment of my endometriosis and the thoughts from the doctor that he was optimistic my fertility would improve, we carried on for a few more months alone. However, when that train ran out of track and Dr. 1 sent me away to Dr. 2, we were ready for a support group. Being told that he was out of options for me and that I needed to go see someone else was hard to swallow. Plus, time was ticking away. We had been trying for over a year and half by that time and infertility was taking its toll on us.

I had found the website for Resolve months earlier and remembered that they had a section of their website for support groups. I went back there and quickly found what I was looking for: a support group right here in town. After some phone calls and a face-to-face meeting with the group facilitator who is a therapist, Matt and I were invited to join in at next meeting.

The meetings are probably a little bit like you’d imagine. I had never been to a support group before, so I only had movies and TV to guide my expectations… but they weren’t too far off. I’d say the big differences are that we meet in the living room of an old house that’s used for therapists’ offices, not a church basement or community center; we sit on couches and comfy chairs, not folding chairs; we don’t have a podium, we speak from our seats; and we don’t respond with monotone voices… But we do go around the circle giving updates about how we’re doing, developments in our journey since our last meeting, and what we’d like to talk about that night. We share tips on how to handle an upcoming procedure or what can be done to help our sore injection sites on our tummies and hips. We talk about tough situations with family and friends. We talk about how hard it can be to see other people’s babies and pregnant bellies. We share our fears, our frustrations, our disappointments. We share our anger. We share our grief. We share silence. Sometimes there is no perfect thing to say and just listening, being present, and accepting each other is the comfort we need. Many times we cry together. We hope for each other. We understand each other and support each other.

surround_yourselfUntil I went to support group I felt very alone. None of my close friends or family have been through this, so no one seemed to get it. At my support group though… they get it. They understand. All of our stories are different — no one’s journey is exactly the same, but the underlying love, hopes, and dreams are similar. The fear, frustration, and grief are similar. Because we are all familiar with the roller coaster of infertility, we can support one another and validate each other’s experiences on a deeper level. And the power of validation is enormous. Feeling understood, feeling accepted, and feeling that my emotions and reactions are normal has been so meaningful. Meeting others face-to-face, hearing their stories, and sharing with them has been so healing for me. I know for sure now that I am not alone — at group I feel surrounded with love and support from people who *get it*.

Reading about infertility has been helpful for me, yes, and I know it will continue to be helpful, but joining our support group and being in the presence of people who understand has been one of the very best things Matt and I have done for ourselves during our infertility journey. It connected us with people who understand what this journey is like, and for that I am so grateful. I am so thankful for our facilitator who guides us with understanding, wisdom, kindness, and love. And I am full of gratitude and love for the brave souls in our support group who open their hearts and share with us their stories. Thank you.

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Date Nights

date_nightsEarly this year during a hard time, I decided we were going to plan date nights to keep us busy and have activities to look forward to. At first Matt thought they were a bit silly, but he’s a good sport so he went along with it. Now they are something we take pride in — we sit down together, plan our dates, and then follow through. And, like I originally intended, they give us something to do and something to look forward to… but they also have made us try new activities, go new places, and try new recipes. Our dates also give us something to talk about, to each other and to our friends and family. During infertility the question “what’s new?” is very painful. I feel like NOTHING is new because for us it’s the same old disappointing story every month… and I’m definitely not saying that the date nights take that away (they don’t!), but sometimes they do give us something else to think about. They give us a break. Our dates nights have been a nice way for us to shift the focus back to us. They have been a small way that we can kind of reclaim our relationship during a time when it feels like everything is out of our control.

During our dates we don’t play that game where we don’t talk about kids or pregnancy or our treatment or anything like that. I see things online about making time where you don’t talk about it — I wish that would work for us, but it doesn’t. So we don’t force it. Sometimes during a date we talk a lot about it, and sometimes we don’t. We just go with it. It’s time for us and we go with whatever feels right with the activity we’ve chosen for that date.

So. You must be thinking, “gee how much money are you spending on all of these dates?” Answer: not much. We are saving all spare pennies these days for our infertility treatments, so we’ve put ourselves on a budget and while we’re not perfect, we try to stick to it… Therefore, many of our dates are not very extravagant. If we do go out, we try to stick to one of drinks, dinner, dessert, or activity to cut down on cost. In addition to the dates listed below, we also have “Fancy Friday”. Every Friday we dress up for dinner, whether we’re going out or staying in. I usually wear a dress and Matt usually wears a shirt and bow-tie. If we’re staying in we usually eat off of our fine China… even if we’re just having leftovers or frozen pizza. It’s fun.

Here’s a list of some of the things we’ve done:

  • Arcade — this date was so much more fun than we expected! Lots of cheap thrills — we limited ourselves to only spending $10 each. We played fun games, then combined our “tickets” (the arcade we went to had virtual tickets that were stored on the card filled with virtual tokens…) and traded them in for ridiculous prizes!
  • Art fair (or similar open air market)
  • Art gallery walk
  • Bowling
  • Breakfast for dinner & crossword puzzle — we tried a new recipe for this date and it’s become a favorite: cinnamon applesauce pancakes
  • Bubble bath & champagne — one of our favorites. I highly recommend the bath bombs from Lush. They’re amazing and so bubbly. The first bubble bath date inspired our monthly toasts to our survival.
  • Chocolate — we have a chocolate cafe in town. It’s the best.
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Game night at home
  • Go ice skating
  • Go out for brunch
  • Go out for coffee/tea
  • Go out for dessert
  • Go out for drinks — we went to a speakeasy style bar here in town!
  • Have a picnic — this was one of my favorites. Pack up a simple lunch and take a walk to your backyard or local park, spread out your blanket and enjoy your lunch. Simple, but very relaxing. Our favorite picnic menu: french baguette, sliced ham, some kind of French cheese, and sparkling juice — it reminds us of a picnic we had in France.
  • Have fondue — we went to The Melting Pot for our first fondue date. On our second fondue date we made chocolate fondue at home. It was pretty easy! Here’s the recipe we used.
  • Have pizza and do a puzzle — this puzzle turned into many nights of side by side puzzle working!
  • Jazz club — we discovered a local jazz club! We’ve been back since because we enjoyed it so much.
  • Live music
  • Live theater — we’ve treated ourselves to season tickets to a local theater group and to occasional traveling Broadway shows
  • Make a fort — we did this in our living room and then watched online videos on our laptop inside the tent. It was fun and worked well until kitties tried jumping on top of the sheet covering the fort…
  • Milkshakes at Sonic
  • Mini golf
  • Movie night — we’ve done lots of movie nights. Sometimes we stay home, sometimes we go out. We’ve been to the new “fancy theater” in town (one with recliners!) all the way to the second run or “cheap theater”, as we call it. We’re currently waiting for something we’re interested in to hit the drive-in so we can go there too.
  • Stay at a B&B — ok, on the extravagant side, but sometimes it’s nice to splurge a bit!
  • Tandem biking — this was a super fun activity that we tried on vacation this summer. I suggest it only if you and your partner are good at working together in coordination – the gears/pedals on the bike go together; there’s no pedaling independently!
  • Watch the sunrise

Some date nights on our idea list for the future:

  • Swing dancing (we used to do this in college all the time!)
  • Rollerskating
  • Geocaching
  • Comedy club
  • Local museum

A note about some of our dates: not all of the activities listed above are recommended while one is trying to conceive. I’m not a doctor, so don’t take this as medical advice, but I do know that things like baths, biking, and drinking are not great for sperm and/or baby making. I recommend these activities on months “off”. For example, we had to take time off trying after I was treated with methotrexate because it can cause birth defects… it was the perfect time to take a hot bath and go on a bike ride.

At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing on a date night as long as it’s something at least tolerable to both of us that gets us out of our typical pattern. Our dates break up the monotony of disappointment and treatment. They give us bright spots of joy during this dark time, and to be honest, I’ll take the good times where I can get them. Life is short and we’ve already spent over two years traveling this crazy road of infertility. It’s good to take little breaks to have fun and remember why we’re even on this journey — we love each other and enjoy spending time together. I believe that regardless of where our road is headed, our date nights will continue to bring us closer together in love.


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Sitting With Grief

sitting_with_griefSometimes I have really bad days. Days where I need to cry and feel very sad. Days where I need to sit on the couch and snuggle my kitties. Days where I intentionally wear a sweatshirt because I’ve found them to be the best for bad days — they are handy for wiping away tears and they are also extremely comfortable. On my rollercoaster of infertility, bad days typically strike after my period arrives, but I’ve found that bad days can really occur at any time. There are a variety of things that might trigger me to have a bad day, and let’s face it, the things I’m putting my body through certainly aren’t helping to moderate my emotions… the medications do quite the opposite. I won’t even get into how much I cried while watching the Olympics this summer. It was madness. Anyway, back to the bad days. After my ectopic pregnancy I was having lots of bad days. At the time I told my therapist that I was spending a lot of time sitting around feeling really sorry for myself. My therapist listened and then kindly corrected me — I wasn’t “sitting around feeling sorry for myself”; I was “sitting with my grief.”


Her correction made me realize that I was feeling negative about my grief. I had been thinking of my grief in terms of feeling sorry for myself for a long time. And telling myself I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself made me feel guilty. Like I shouldn’t be doing that. Like I was selfish. Like I was weak for having bad days, for crying, or ungrateful for the things in my life that are great. But this grief is more than a self-indulgent pity party of feeling sorry for myself because things just aren’t going my way. Infertility and pregnancy losses are real — they may not always be tangible, but that doesn’t make them any less real. This grief is overwhelming and powerful, and experiencing and working through my grief isn’t something I should feel guilty for doing; it’s not something that makes me weak or selfish. Experiencing grief doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful. Her word change was simple, but it made a difference for me.

Don’t get me wrong — from my past experiences with grief and loss, I know how important it is for me to take the time to grieve. To be sad. To remember who and what has been lost. To honor them. But infertility is different. When I’m sad about my inability (thus far…) to bring a child into this world, I’m not able to remember a person. There isn’t a funeral. There are no memories or mementos for me to hold on to. Instead, the loss is one of a future. It’s a loss of hopes and dreams. In the case of my ectopic pregnancy it was the loss of a much wanted and loved baby who I’ll never hold in my arms or rock to sleep or watch graduate from high school… it’s the loss of a whole lifetime. And in our society there is no tradition for recognizing these losses… no comforting ceremonies to hold for saying goodbye and gaining some closure. Some societies do have traditions; for example, in Japan there are temples to visit to say goodbye to and honor their babies. But we don’t have anything. Matt and I had to come up with our own ways to recognize and honor our lost pregnancy and our infertility journey in general. I’m pleased with what we have done, but it would have been nice if there had been some kind of widespread tradition in our society to guide us.

Additionally, society doesn’t understand infertility or pregnancy loss very well, so the support can be minimal at times. These are taboo subjects and they tend to make people very uncomfortable if they are brought up. They are also experiences that not everyone has endured themselves, unlike other kinds of losses that are very common. In our case, not many of our loved ones know what infertility or pregnancy loss is like. This lack of understanding and personal experience makes it hard for people to relate to me. Due to this gap, sometimes I find the words spoken out of love to be far less comforting than they were intended by my loved one, and I end up feeling misunderstood and alone. In an attempt to bridge this gap, here are two links with tips on supporting someone who is experiencing infertility and/or pregnancy loss or stillbirth that may be helpful for anyone who is supporting someone experiencing this type of heartbreak.

For me, infertility is also a different kind of grief than others I’ve experienced because it’s so repetitive — month after month I experience the loss over and over. The wound I’m desperately trying to heal gets torn open again. Just when I’ve built up some hope again for this month’s treatment it seems that my period arrives and I’m drowning again in the waves of grief. And while I’m drowning, reminders of what I’m missing are everywhere I go and everywhere I look. So I have to be patient with myself while I survive my bad days. I cannot seem to escape them, and the only way out seems to be through. I have to let myself feel and accept the losses, the disappointment, the overwhelming heartbreak. I need to sit with my grief.

The simple rephrasing of what I was doing allowed me to to completely reframe how I felt about my grief. It allowed me to let go of any guilt about my grief so that I can better work through it, to experience it, and to carry on. Nothing in my behavior had really changed, yet I felt more free to experience my grief after I started to think about it differently. My grief may not be well understood by society or my loved ones, but that doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate. I have every right to take all the time I need to sit with my grief and heal from it in my own way.

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