• Alisha Emerald

The loss liturgy

Last night I crawled into bed, every muscle in my body aching for reasons I could not explain. I live a complicated life, it's not uncommon to experience aches and pains, and even though the bad days are fewer and far between, I still experience them.

Why, I asked myself, was I feeling this way? Was it a sign of infection rearing its ugly head? Another arterial issue? Had I ingested something I shouldn't? I went through the list of signs and symptoms my transplant coordinator had given me to watch for, ticking off boxes in my head.

And then I stopped. I closed my eyes, let my hands rest on my body.

Hello body. Can you tell me what's wrong?

I inhaled deeply. It took a moment for my body to whisper: it's heavy.

And instantly I let out all my air, because of course it was. Of course it's heavy. Of course this is why I'd been feeling this way. The body has a profound sense of memory. Everything that happens to us, while our minds can bypass and forget, is remembered by the body. Every emotion we experience, everything we just push through and sweep under the rug, it all lives in our cells.

I've been pushing through the last few weeks (months). I've been working my butt off on brand partnerships, writing and speaking and sharing my story with people all around the world, raising awareness for organ donation and spending time creating more supports for current transplant recipients, creating resources and programs for other pregnancy loss parents, writing a book, taking college courses and dealing with my ever changing health status. This isn't a glorification of busy. This isn't to say look at me and how much I'm doing such a short time after my surgery. This is me saying I was doing all of these things, and I neglected to sit still and listen to my body.

Despite prioritising my quiet time in the morning where I would read and journal and pray and meditate, my grief wasn't content to be shoved into this tiny corner of my day.

This is heavy, body said.

Ruthie Lindsey writes in her memoir There I am about a retreat she went on where the participants were asked to introduce themselves, but couldn't share what they did for a living. Without saying she's a writer and speaker, Ruthie wondered, was all she had left pain? And I feel this way about my own self too. If I'm not creating, producing, pouring back into the community, sharing my story... is all there is pain? grief? The idea of just being pain and grief is enough to keep me hustling, even if sometimes I just feel like a hamster on a wheel running around in circles.

I feel deeply heavy, and sad, and afraid and ashamed and all of those other things you're not supposed to write about on the internet because people like to read bright, happy, inspirational stories. I look at my body, this living miracle, with so much frustration and annoyance some days. I'm ashamed I'm not better yet, as if better is a destination I can arrive at, another stamp I can get on my passport. And I'm afraid of my future. At the same time as I want to embrace it and be a good steward of all these opportunities being passed my way, I have spent so long contained by pain and sickness that having the cage door open (even just thinking about it. I'm not making any big life changes yet) is enough to bring on serious bouts of anxiety. It may sound laughable but I've been hit with this sudden reality of I'm a person, and I have to figure out how to exist in this world as a human being.

And then, and then, with as much work as I've done advocating for other pregnancy loss parents and sharing Paris' story and building this legacy for him, and as proud as I am of that, sometimes it still knocks the wind out of me that he's gone. He was here, and now he's not. 3 years ago right now I was pregnant, and we should have a toddler running around our house. But we don't, and my arms ache for Paris, and for living children to hold and nurture.

I thought of all these things as I was laying in bed, allowing the feelings of grief to wash over me. I'm paying attention now, body. I see you, body. I envisioned an older, wiser, best version of me sitting beside my current self. I imagined her holding my tired, grieving body in the same way a mother would hold a child. I let the wild untamed grief wash over me, with my wiser self gently reminding my current self that this too is what bravery looks like, that there are no heroics in just pushing through, that we must bend and feel so we don't break.

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