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Jody, this is so gorgeously written and insightful and achingly true. Grief is one of those experiences that there is no way out but through and even then you’re not out. Thank you for eloquently enlightening us…will be passing this on to some friends that need this and keeping it in my pocket for reference ❤️

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Thank you Eileen... I'm reminded of Faulkner's phrase that “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” xxx

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Mar 10Liked by Jody Day

Today, a friend (who is aware of my involuntary childlessness) started her text with ‘Happy Mother’s Day’.

I stared at it and wondered for the umpteenth time in my two decades of going through this s**t how people can think we just get over it.

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Oh sweetheart I’m so sorry… xxx

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I love your statement that “grief is the work of love. And just as we are forever changed by love, so it is with its shadow twin, grief.” I took on the responsibility of caregiving for my 100-year-old grandmother in 2020 (since we had to temporarily lay off her caregiver til there was a COVID vaccine. She was married to my grandfather for 64 years, and yet he passed away in 2005. She still grieves, which is not too surprising. But what is, is how she has kept going all these years without him. She’s now 102, and reading your essay further helps me understand what she’s been going through, which is helpful as I’m wrapping up a memoir about my bond with my grandparents.

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Thank you for your comment Kevin and I'm so touched that it has given you insights into your grandmother's experience. We are caring for my 93 year old mother in law who is dying, and shielded her from 2020 onwards... I have learned so much living with her and loving her and being with her in this final weeks as death approaches... xx

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I, too, had to care for my father, who was dying of a lung disease in his 80s during the pandemic. He was far from an open book. Therefore, I had to use my journalistic skills to get him to reveal what was often troubling him. Never easy to calm his anxieties. He was regularly cancelling doctors appointments the day of, which would drive me nuts. After a while, I realized he had a fear of leaving the safety of his home’s surroundings - even for medical care. I hope your mother-in-law is more cooperative. 😀

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This is such a beautiful piece on so many levels Jody, I see myself there in many parts, the ones that are healed and the new emotions that have surfaced recently. Thank you for seeing and sharing what is in our hearts. 🙏💫

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Thank you Louise for taking the time to reflect and comment... for me, my grief is often a guide to areas that need attention and self-compassion. It slows me down and asks me to pay attention to something that I might just want to ignore... And it's usually pretty inconvenient! Sending love for all the parts xx

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Childlessness in older age (I’m 68) is still difficult for me. Especially now as I hear in social media and other of women looking forward to becoming grandmothers. It just feels as if the blows keep coming. Somehow us childless women have to work that much harder to find our purpose in life and it’s hard. Though having taken on a puppy a couple of years ago has helped. She is the centre of my life and my furry baby. Thank you Jody from the bottom of my heart for setting up the online community for us women.

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Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing your experience of being grandchildless as well as childless. For me, purpose and meaning are something that keep evolving over time rather than something fixed, and I can see that if being a grandmother (or looking forward to being one) feels purposeful for someone, that does seem to be a pretty straightforward route (to us). And then, as I came to appreciate my childless life, and to see how much pain/heartache/grief is often part of parenting, I've begun to see that not all grandparenting experiences are joyful and meaningful either, and that for some women who might have been looking forward to the time to explore what might feel meaningful for them outside their reproductive identity, becoming a grandmother can also come with a big dose of resentment... This is something I'm definitely going to be writing more about in the future!

Sending love to you and your puppy! If you are a member of our online community, do come and say hello in our Childless Elderwomen group that I host! Hugs, Jody x

https://gateway-women.com/community

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I always say, "Grief doesn't get 'better'; it just gets 'different."

Also, "Grief is grief is grief is grief." It's not a mental illness. There are no right or wrong ways to go through it, and the ONLY way out is through (although you never really get "out" of grief).

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Hi Kathy - the only way out is through is a piece of Robert Frost's wisdom that has got me through many hard transitional times in my life. And I agree, we don't ever get 'out' of grief; it's a part of life. Hugs, Jody x

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Beautiful and wise reflection.

Reminded me of this poem by Linda Pastan

The night I lost you

someone pointed me towards

the Five Stages of Grief

Go that way, they said,

it’s easy, like learning to climb

stairs after the amputation.

And so I climbed.

Denial was first.

I sat down at breakfast

carefully setting the table

for two. I passed you the toast—

you sat there. I passed

you the paper—you hid

behind it.

Anger seemed more familiar.

I burned the toast, snatched

the paper and read the headlines myself.

But they mentioned your departure,

and so I moved on to

Bargaining. What could I exchange

for you? The silence

after storms? My typing fingers?

Before I could decide, Depression

came puffing up, a poor relation

its suitcase tied together

with string. In the suitcase

were bandages for the eyes

and bottles of sleep. I slid

all the way down the stairs

feeling nothing.

And all the time Hope

flashed on and off

in defective neon.

Hope was a signpost pointing

straight in the air.

Hope was my uncle’s middle name,

he died of it.

After a year I am still climbing, though my feet slip

on your stone face.

The treeline

has long since disappeared;

green is a color

I have forgotten.

But now I see what I am climbing

towards: Acceptance

written in capital letters,

a special headline:

Acceptance

its name is in lights.

I struggle on,

waving and shouting.

Below, my whole life spreads its surf,

all the landscapes I’ve ever known

or dreamed of. Below

a fish jumps: the pulse

in your neck.

Acceptance. I finally

reach it.

But something is wrong.

Grief is a circular staircase.

I have lost you.

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"Grief is a circular staircase" is the line that hit me hard... and yet it has also been my experience of living with grief, that it is a spiral, and that we often revisit the same stair from different angles at different times. It's not a snakes and ladders linear journey, but a messy, human spiral! Thanks again, Jody x

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Yes, your post made me think of exactly that line.

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Thank you for putting the words to that which I can not express. Blessed Be

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I'm so glad my words were some comfort. Sending you hugs for the huge hole in your life and your heart where your husband once was. Jody xx

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Thanks for sharing this Jody. I had two stillborn babies many years ago, either side of my now teen girl (I am so grateful to have her). The grief and memories from loosing each of my other two daughters is part of my every day, even though it was a long time ago. Most people do not realise that the grief is ongoing, although less terrifying now, it shapes everything in my life. It is disenfranchised. I carved a different life for myself than I’d hoped for that I shared in a recent post which like yours seems to resonate with so many. ✨💛

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Thank you for commenting Kate, and I'm sending you big hugs for those babies that live only in your heart, and travel on with you through life. The idea that the grief is ongoing is something that perhaps others don't want to consider might be because perhaps it just sounds too "terrifying" (to use your word)... But indeed, it is that very grief that often enables us to create that 'different life' for ourselves. Grief is love, and the love you have for those babies lives on. Love, Jody x

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When I was working on my MA about grief in fiction, I came across an idea which crystallized for me how it feels: grief is constructing a new relationship with the person who has died. The relationship still exists, but not as it has been.

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Hi Lynne - what a fascinating topic for an MA! I would love to know more about that, especially if you came across any fiction that featured childless grief (that wasn't resolved by some kind of miracle baby...) And indeed, I wrote an essay here on Substack called "It's easier to love my mother now she's dead" which was about how my relationship with her continues, and in many ways, is somewhat easier now...

https://jodyday.substack.com/p/it-is-easier-to-love-my-mother-now

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Thanks for responding to me! The MA was about the link between autobiographical stories of catastrophic loss, compared with clinical observations about complicated grief, then looking at how it compares w my novel. I found it very interesting to think about the stories we tell about our loss, the things we decide to share, the things we choose to not share, and the things we aren’t aware we are sharing. My own loss was not of a child, but i cannot imagine anything in this world more devastating.

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This is beautifully written and really echoes my own experiences with grief. I always thought of grief as an emotion, something to be felt. But it wasn't until experiencing my Dad's death that I realised it's much more than that, it's something that you live with rather than 'work through'

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Hi Louise - isn't it strange that so much is written about love, so many books, poetry, advice, films... and yet we remain in such ignorance about grief?! It is so much more than an 'emotion', absolutely... and it has become an essential part of my ability to understand change and develop resilience in so many areas of my life that you wouldn't think had anything to do with 'grief'.... Sending hugs to you and your Dad xx

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Absolutely. It's such an immutable part of life and yet we barely talk about it. And if we do it's in a glib "time is a great healer" kind of way

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So insightful. ''now it’s more likely to be a mother out shopping with her adult daughter that might prick me with a pang of homesickness for a place I’ve never been''. This is my experience too and I love the paradox.

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Thank you for noticing that line. Sometimes it's a kind of sliding doors moment, a sensation of watching the life unlived that yet lives in me... x

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Yes, I get the sense of looking through the window at another world that could have been me had things been different. I do love your phrase 'the life unlived that yet lives in me'. It's a paradox therefore its true!

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Feb 12Liked by Jody Day

Once again, Jody, your writing resonates with me and rings true of my life experience with grief for the past couple of years. Few and far between are the ones who allow us to grieve openly for as long as we might need or want .. not to mention societies. The conversation stops. The imagery in your words is exsquisite:

"....your grief might not be something you want to fully get over because, at its core, it contains the essence of what’s been lost, compacted under unbearable pressure into a jewel buried deep in your heart"

and will touch many. It has me. With all of our individual versions of grief.

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Hi Maurni - thank you for understanding, appreciating and commenting... Grief is such a crucial part of the human experience, and I sense that our inability to appreciate and support it in ourselves, and in wider society, is part of our culture's sickness too. Grief is about endings, about limits, about loss of agency and control. About irrevocable unfixableness. An awareness of it helps to humble us before the mystery of life, rather than thinking that we are masters of the universe who will never have to pay the check... xxx

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Feb 13Liked by Jody Day

The lack of agency is a hard one. Thanks for reflecting that back to me. No control.

I have wondered, is it our (our cultures) fear around death and loss, and avoidance of talking about it, that makes grieving such a lonely experience. How have we made it such an uncomfortable conversation, for most? I am pleased for the awareness of this in my own life. Somehow, it makes the days richer. But constant reminders are needed still. Sitting with the sadnesses, the questions, the longings can be suffocating. Though on the other side of those moments of sitting with, I feel more alive than before.

Thanks for this space 🙏🏼

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Thank you once again, Jody. Your truthfulness, emotional intelligence, vulnerability and courage are such a beacon in this often emotionally blinkered world. Love to you xx

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Thank you dear Dannie - from one truth teller to another, a great compliment. Hugs, Jody x

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All the hugs back to you xx

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Feb 12Liked by Jody Day

I feel like this could have been a conversation we just had, Jodi. Thank you for writing it. I hope many, many, people read it and take heart, or open their hearts to others.

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I'm so glad it resonated with you Karen; I was thinking of you, and others, when I wrote it. Hugs, Jody x

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Profound. Thank you.

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Thank you Sharon x

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