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My Climb Up Grief Mountain

Written by Elise Cedrone
Published on July 26, 2023

I am standing at the top of a mountain. I have branches and sticks in my hair. My arms and legs are covered in bruises and bloody scrapes from clamoring my way and at some points just crawling along the path. I am sweating. My lungs are tight and fighting for air from the exertion. My leg muscles are on fire from making the impossible journey to the top. I am beat up. But I made it. I can see the view from up here. I can look back down the path and see the treacherous trail I took to get here. “Holy shi…” I whisper to myself through short breaths. I cannot curse through exacerbated breaths. I cannot believe I survived. The view is so beautiful, and I feel so lucky to have made it through the journey that I start to forget how exhausted and beat up my body feels. “I can’t believe I did it” I say to myself. I conquered an insurmountable mountain. My arms raise up in triumph as I scream like a lion into the abyss of the canyon I am overlooking. *Fade to black* *dramatic music*

Pretty good, right? That is how I imagine the opening scene in the movie of my life story would go. I wonder if Julia Roberts is accepting new roles. I plan to circle back to the cinematic depiction someday.

That is a representation of course, of how my grief has been and how somehow, I have made it through- (not unscathed and without some scars) the challenges of my early motherhood years.

I have heard sad news since my embarkment into becoming a mother- but it has been bookended by good news. So, I fall into this pattern of thinking, “why me” versus “lucky me” over and over. My brain competes in its own ping-pong volley. I try to keep my mind in the “lucky me” and only visit the “why me” for short durations. It is not healthy to stay in the doldrums for long. No loitering. 

How My Journey Began

Let me take you to the beginning of the path up that mountain. I was thirty, pregnant with my first son Harrison. I was being monitored closely by a high-risk pregnancy team at a top Boston hospital because I have a history of brain aneurysm. I have a stent in my brain that helps bridge the blood flow where my aneurysm was. The stent could be compromised by the stress on the body during pregnancy and delivery. Fortunately, no issues occurred, and I delivered and have a chunky baby boy. “Lucky me.”

I was pregnant again just shy of my son’s first birthday. Another boy. I felt off and went in for a sonogram when I was 6 months pregnant. The ultrasound technician and I were having a lovely conversation and she was laughing and smiling until suddenly she just stopped. Her hand was moving the wand on my already giant belly, but she was not talking. She left the room briskly and silently and immediately returned with a gurney and with help. (At this point in the movie I sprained my ankle and have a broken arm. Just rolling down to the bottom, failing at my climb to the top of the mountain.) “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re in labor”. My son came into this world far too early, and he did not live. make it. We named him Gabriel, after the angel. 

When it was time for me to be discharged, the hospital attendant began to wheel me to the exit and abruptly stopped and changed direction. “Oh, sorry. I am used to wheeling the others out the main door. They told me not to take you out that way.” I remember thinking to myself how cringe worthy this whole scenario was and how darkly humorous her careless comment was. She did not understand the weight I was feeling. She was the first a-ha moment I had- realizing other people would never fully understand. And how could they? Understanding was an impossible ask.

 My husband had pulled the car around and I hobbled in. Sore from labor with a hoarse voice from pure visceral sobbing. My eyes looked like dime slots from the swelling. As long as I live, I will never forget looking in the backseat as Harrison lay there asleep with the longest eyelashes on earth and wisps of dark hair brushed across his forehead. I was so lucky. I remember thinking my beautiful boy does not know what a loss just happened to us. To him. His brother. He would place his hands on my stomach and feel the kicks every day. How was I ever going to explain this someday? How is this my life? Why did this happen? I swirled and swirled like a whirlpool as I stared out the window driving home from the hospital. Here is my first “why me.”

Battling Loss and Seeking Answers

A year or so later I got pregnant again. Twin boys.  My heart leapt. Lucky me. I could not help but think this was a total heavenly gift from the loss of Gabriel and that the universe was making up for the heartache that I could not shake. LUCKY ME! I was beaming. I was elated until my 3-month sonogram…”I’m sorry to tell you this”… the ultrasound technician began to say. I knew. I blacked out. The room began to spin. If you have ever seen in the movies, during a thematic moment, when a character has a line with terrible news, and they have a distorted voice, and a face that looks like it is in a funhouse mirror? That is what was happening. “There are no longer heartbeats.” I immediately became melancholy before I was even off that crunchy exam table paper. “why me?”

I marinated in the “why me” for longer than I would like to admit. It is a terrible place for your mind to go for an extended vacation. It is dark. Everything hurts. Do not get me started on the sad music. 

I turn the sadness into what I can only describe as stubborn determination fueled by pure anger. I must try again. I will not let this be the ending of my motherhood chapter. I seek out the best doctors in Boston to check me over head to toe. WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY BODY? I demand answers. I undergo countless procedures, exams, and testing. Nothing is wrong with me physically. I am healthy. The doctors declared it was all bad luck. Not just having but being told you have bad luck is ironic when you are trying to climb out of the depths of depression by literally saying “lucky me.” So comedically ironic. 

“[Un]lucky me.”

“Why Me?”

My fourth pregnancy. This is it; I think to myself. Finish strong. This was a race against time. I had to stay pregnant long enough to give the baby a better chance to survive if I went into early labor again. This was a war I was waging. War against the cruelty of circumstance, and in some sense, a war against myself. I found myself in the familiar doctor’s office. I was a patient, again. I hated being a patient. I took care of patients. 

The “why me” was creeping up on me. My bloodwork was run and analyzed. That was it for the appointment. Afterward, I felt a sense of accomplishment driving home. I can do this. Hell, after what I had been through, I could do anything. I get the call “I’m sorry to tell you this” the voice says on the phone. I remember feeling that feeling again. The voice distorted on the end of the phone “I know you’ve been through this before, but your hormone levels are so low. It is indicating miscarriage. Come back in a week to confirm or go to the ER if you start bleeding. Have a good day.” A good day? Do people even realize what they say? I scoffed as I hung up the phone. 

…Now at this point in my life movie I am falling down a mountain side, I have a broken leg- covered in mud and being chased by a mountain lion. There is no way I am completing this journey up an insurmountable mountain.


Overcoming Fear and Embracing Joy

I went back to the doctor. My levels miraculously increase. The possibility of miscarriage was over, but the threat of another premature delivery loomed over me my entire pregnancy. I cannot help but think I willed that baby to stay put. Or begged the heavens or universe or everything mystical magical and religious and in between. I talked to Gabriel every night. “Please send me your brother. Please.” I was bargaining. I completed and exhausted every medical procedure available as well as hormone therapy shots and weekly acupuncture to prevent another preterm labor. Whatever doctors offered to me that may help my chances, I did it. 

I was mentally prepared that this pregnancy would result in me leaving the hospital with empty arms. I barely told anyone I was pregnant again. I would run into people whilst I had a large belly, and they would be so surprised. I hated the attention. I wished I could hide my body so no one would know. Just in case. How could anyone enjoy being pregnant? Don’t they know that the unthinkable can happen? I recoiled with every “congratulations” I heard. I was again, angry. My self-talk was ‘we can celebrate if we make it out with a live baby.’ The joy was only in the destination, not the journey. I thought I was playing it cool and fooled myself into thinking that this was how I could control the situation. I also was fearful to grow attached to this baby, just in case. I now realize this was a complete trauma response. I held my breath through every single ultrasound. But I never heard another “sorry to tell you,” again. 

I had my son Theo. Early, but only early he required only a brief stint in the NICU . He made it. I made it. I said to him when I saw him, “We’ve been waiting for you.” I finally exhaled. “ Lucky me”. 

I have accepted that this is my new reality. I have three sons, and two here with me. Acceptance  for me is acknowledging the reality of my losses and allowing sorrow and joy to live alongside one another. With the support of professionals, and my friends and family, I have been able to live through the unthinkable. 

Finding Support in Life’s Journey

Life is so crazy. And difficult. And painful. And so beautiful. We can overcome the unthinkable. Some people make it to the top of their own mountain easily, for sure. But I wonder how much they really appreciate the view. It is the people that crawl to their own destination by the strength of their perseverance and determination. By the skin of their teeth, bodies and hearts broken or scarred. The people that share their painful tales, to encourage others not to give up, and to demonstrate that anything is possible- to be the hero of their own story.

Grief can be a rollercoaster of emotions and you may find yourself swinging between despair and hope.
I know now that it is normal and healthy to feel both. Oftentimes, simultaneously.

Sometimes, in my mind, I double back down the mountain and make a quick stop to the “why me” part of the trail. There are other people on this path too, and sharing our stories is like throwing a rope to help one another with the impossible climb up grief mountain. I always try my best to come back up to see the forest for the trees, and say to myself, “LUCKY ME.”

If you’re dealing with grief or trauma after a loss, it can feel like you’re all alone in the world. But you don’t have to go through it by yourself. There are resources available to help you through this difficult time. 

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact our team of compassionate individuals today. We are here to guide and assist you every step of the way. 

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