Blog posts by mommy Shana and mommy Jess

Three children, two moms, one C.P. diagnosis....and a partridge in a pear tree.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Good Grief by mommy Jess

What is “good” grief? Is it progressing quickly through Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in a timely manner culminating in the development of a neat inspirational saying meant to carry you through the rest of your life? “She’ll make her way”, “god doesn’t give you more that you can handle!”, “what doesn't kill you makes you stronger”...... well, you get the idea. Is it coming through something painful with deeper insight into the meaning of life as many books devoted to the subject suggest? I really can’t be sure but I know there is a strongly held belief out there that grief can be good.

I thought the “good” grief was the kind you felt fleetingly. The sad song that made you think of a time in your childhood, the tossing of your son’s too-small shoes he wore as a baby into the giveaway pile, reminiscing with an old friend about your crazy teenage years. All those times we realize we can never go back, that sometimes things are gone forever. To me the “good” was the mourning for time past while knowing you were okay with moving forward into the future.

Greta, I do not have “good” grief. I am not flying through Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief nor adopting some motivational saying to assuage my broken heart. I am reading the disability statement on my class syllabus over and over thinking of you. I am fighting the urge to turn over my table Real Housewives style when I hear a fellow student assert with all the stupid confidence of an unmarred life that “you make your own luck”. I’m sneaking up on our memory box and creaking open the lid to shove your first pair of leg braces in the crack lest I catch a glimpse of the hat you wore when you came home from the nursery. I am eating handfuls of Tums to make the pain in my chest stop. I’m developing a theory about how best to deal with errant fallen tears (don’t wipe just dab). I’m throwing away my lunch because accidentally stumbling upon your birth announcement in my sent box made me wonder if I could ever be that happy again and realizing I couldn’t made my food taste like sawdust. I’m putting on a fake smile everyday from behind my desk, from our kitchen table, and from our living room floor.

But Greta you are not the biggest tragedy of my life. I do not grieve for your existence or wish you away. I would not enter my fictional time machine with the purpose of erasing you. I would change so many things but never would I change you. Between you and me, those “good” grief peddlers are liars, and I expect you too to have days when everything feels impossible. But I also expect us both to have those days when it feels like anything is possible too. I can’t offer you a cure to the bad days but I can offer you honesty.

So here’s to all you grievers out there. You will find no inspirational quotes here or promises that time will heal your wounds, just the hope that you get to feel the “good” grief instead of this.


  1. Hello, your blog is so honest. I'm sitting on the subway reading it on my way home from work. My 6 month old son had 2 strokes in the left MCA. I can't get over my depression and despair. People tell me "but you have a healthy daughter at home". Ok am I greedy for asking for 2 healthy normal kids?! I am jealous of other families. I even stare at their kids looking for something wrong or off about them. I am kid of turning into a pretty miserable person. Sorry to vent. Reading your blog is bizarre to me because everything you say is what I think. your kids are
    very cute by the way. Ok that's all!

  2. Kathy, thank you so much for your comment, so sorry to take so long to get back to you. It is funny, the world is okay casting us (parents of children w/ disabilities) as angels but if we have the audacity to be angry, bitter, etc. it is seen as pathological. Kathy, I can only imagine...TWO strokes? You are not a miserable person, you are brave enough to be honest, and frankly that is really scary for people. Grief is complicated, you have a right to feel all that you are feeling without having to quantify your happiness vs. your sadness. Best to you and your family, Jess