I am about to take another step out into this big world, and out of my comfort zone. Tomorrow I will return to work. I will be in the classroom from 9:30 -12:30. I will not be taking on any of my other responsibilities yet. My supervisor has been very supportive, and she assures me that I can transition back at my own pace. For now, I will only work 3 hours a day, 2 days a week (Mondays and Wednesdays).
Although I feel a little nervous, I also feel hopeful. I am sure that being with the babies in my class will feel good. Being around children is still one of the most joyful things I can imagine doing. My grief counselor has told me that many parents who have lost a child find it very painful to be around other children. I can definitely understand that. There was a point, when I was still in the hospital and I saw my friend, Sara's baby, that I realized I could go that route. I could have so easily shut down to the children in my life and given into the pain of my loss. But if I had, I would have lost so much more - my ability to do this work that I am passionate about, my bond with my nieces and nephew, my friendships with other mothers. And losing all of that would be devastating in itself. So, I allow myself to give into the delight of being around kids, knowing that to honor Sage means to honor all children. And in that light, my work feels even more meaningful to me.
As I think about returning to work, I imagine the conflicting feelings my coworkers might have about seeing me. There is obviously a strong desire to support me, to nurture me. There might also be some anxiety about how to do that, and concerns about what to say or how to respond to me. I am writing now because I want to offer reassurance and guidance to my dear friends at the Relief Nursery.
First, let me say that I, too, have been in the position of wanting to support someone and not knowing how. In fact, this experience has reminded me of times when people I knew were suffering and I said nothing, did nothing, not because I didn't care, but because I felt so unsure of how to offer my care. The kindness that all of you have offered us has been a deep learning experience for me. I realize now that it is not so much about doing or saying the "right" thing, but rather it is about being sincere and available. Even if sincerity means saying, "I feel so nervous talking to you because I don't know what to say," that in itself is a beautiful offering of honesty.
The fact is, it is not possible to say something that would make this more painful for me. And, similarly, it is not possible to say something that takes away my pain. The pain is there. Last Thanksgiving, my dad gave me some advice that I find helpful in many situations: "You are not God. You can't fix everything." Once we realize that it isn't our job to fix everything, it is easier to relax.
Some people have asked me if there is anything I need in order to feel more comfortable going back to work. What would feel best to me is to be able to engage my coworkers one at a time or in small groups. A large group of people tends to feel overwhelming to me. I enjoy receiving hugs. I really appreciate it when people are able to share thoughts or memories of Sage. It feels good to me to say his name, to hear his name. I do not mind questions about how I am healing. Sharing my experience is something I find helpful and meaningful.
I guess what I am trying to say is this: Please trust yourselves. Who you are is enough. You do not need to figure out what to say or do because that wisdom is already inside of you. And, for what it is worth, you have my compassion, because I know it is not easy to face another person's grief. I am filled daily with gratitude for my life, and for you - the people who touch my life with friendship and generosity.