Tag Archives: grief

Across the Checkout Line

Lake Manyara

The other day I was standing at the checkout lane of Whole Foods. Instead of paying attention to my groceries being scanned I was rapt in the discussion going on in checkout line across from me. There was a gregarious woman chatting along happily. I caught a sliver of the exchange and grasped she was discussing motorcycles unfavorably. The woman standing in line behind her briefly chimed into the conversation. This was followed by a question. All I heard was “sister” and then the first woman respond with, “I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry.” To which this woman mumbled something and looked down.

The woman in front of her shortly returned to her banter.

I kept looking across, hoping to give some sort of magical look to convey that she was not alone. But she was. And she never looked up again. Some invisible chasm of grief had swallowed her whole. Occasionally she’d glance over and down to her children, or back towards her groceries but her face didn’t change.

My groceries piled neat in their bags, I paid and walked out to the parking lot. I loaded my car and started to drive home. And then I started to cry. The face of the woman standing across from me in the checkout line haunted me. I understood keenly, especially that morning, how easy it is for a anger to accidently bump against these undetectable bruises left by raw grief. How our words hold these tiny shards that sometimes scrape against someone.

Seeing her sadness unleashed the tears we both held back.

(Still) Not Pregnant

Still Not Pregnant

Every month I find my toilet paper stained pink. I have no need to wait for it, let alone hope it will finally not come. It arrives with timing so precise I wonder that the same body seems incapable of so much else. For the past year we have received emails and phone calls and texts from our rotating cast of caseworkers telling us there is this situation and then nothing until the possibilities have dwindled into nonexistence. The birth families do not want to look at an adoptive family with a biological child.

Most days I forget we are waiting. I have Ben and Leila and Wrigley and the store and yoga and all of the other things that fill in the cracks of my time. How could I even fit the sweet, long days of newborn life into these days? I sometimes wonder this to myself, more as a consolation than a question. I keep my parameters to help me continue to forget. You cannot want what you do not see. Like longing for a unicorn. It’s just foolish. My imagination is dulled by these habituated unconscious protections.

Then one Sunday I have a conversation with a friend and we discuss our only children and her definitiveness of their family situation is intoxicating after years of unknown. And after class a friend and student marvels at my daughter and declares how much she loves only children. She shares about her status as one and her unwavering decision to continue the pattern.

I start to wonder if this is a whisper I should listen to, to wonder if it could possibly be an accident. When I think about it, my heart cannot grasp at accepting our family’s completeness. At what point do I acknowledge that and quietly shutter up these windows we have kept open for over three years?

But I have wondered if that is what the birth families are seeing in us. Something already finished.

Leila’s heart is still open. When I share news of her classmate’s adopted brother or gather her baby things for the upcoming birth of her cousin’s little sister or as I prepare a meal to take to friends that just welcomed a son through adoption, her face lights up and she asks, “When will we get our baby?” And my heart breaks. Because she is saying the words I’m not brave enough to ask. And I tell her that we just don’t know. And maybe we will get a baby and maybe we won’t.

And then a friend with tenderness and empathy gently shares about being an only child. And how nice it is. And I tell her about these whispers. And I wonder again at what we are doing.

I question how long is too long to wait, because I am still not pregnant, and our crib is still littered with all the discarded things from our home. And I wonder if the universe is whispering. Because they tell us to wait, that it will happen in God’s timing. I don’t quite grasp how a human can dilute and diminish God into timing and certainty of things to come.

And so I sit with the discomfort and grief and emptiness in a house that is full.

PS I’ve written before about my reactions to our secondary infertility here and here and our adoption experience here.

Driving with Toto

Driving with Toto

I typed this up last winter, and then I left it to gather dust in the corners of my computer. Then on my morning walk, a moment of reminiscence caught my breath and I thought of these moments last year.


As I was driving Leila to her Wednesday morning swim class Toto’s Africa streamed through my car speakers, and I began to quietly cry behind my sunglasses. I am not even sure why I was crying, though I know if I had left the radio tuned to the discussion on the Diane Reame show the tears would have stayed tucked away. Instead I found myself silently weeping to a cheesy 80’s ballad.

I think I was crying because of longing and nostalgia and grief, for everything and nothing. I usually try to unpack and parse out, but that morning I let it be tangled and complicated.

This morning, during our morning meditation, something in the sage burning and the window being open reminded me of Rwanda, and I began to cry again. I thought of a hundred details of our life there. I missed them. I felt homesick for our temporary stay on that enormous continent.

In the afternoon a fellow trainee referred the emotions our morning chants and meditations conjure up in him – he said he is not even sure if he could name them, he is not even sure they need to be named – it is just exercising his feeling muscles.

I suppose I needed the exercise.