Unexpected Arrival of ‘Grief Missile’
Now, I’m not claiming a monopoly on grief at Christmas. Childlessness, pregnancy and child loss are just some of the myriad sources of grief that prove to be more pronounced at the festive season. Nor do I expect special treatment or to have childfree media or spaces. In fact, I personally feel that I want to be a part of a world that includes children. But something happened on Christmas morning that made me think about those times when you’re going about your business, feeling good and then –bam! – you’ve been floored by a grief missile that comes in from left field.
All in my world was calm and happy and I was getting into the Christmas mood when BBC’s Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour launched its ‘grief missile’ in the form of a segment in a programme about listeners’ stories of challenging Christmas experiences. The first ‘…and my waters broke on Christmas Eve…’ story was quite sweet. I smiled. By the second ‘Our Little Christmas Miracle’ story I thought that maybe the producer just hadn’t shuffled the stories enough. By the third and fourth mention of surprise baby arrivals and amniotic fluid I’d had enough, found myself shouting at an icon of British broadcasting and switched the radio off.
After sixteen years of living with childlessness I have come to a peaceful place with my sense of loss but listening to this programme, I suddenly found myself so aggrieved, not just for me but also for everyone struggling with childlessness at Christmas. Unusually for me, I actually vented my spleen on Twitter. I discovered I wasn’t the only person to have the same reaction to the Woman’s Hour feature.
I guess it was a perfect storm of elements on that particular Woman’s Hour transmission – it being Christmas day, my expectation of a mix of stories, my unpreparedness for so many stories about births and the fact all those stories were bunched together. It felt like the programme had perpetuated that common media mind-set that if something is aimed at woman it has to include children, childcare and childbirth. Fair enough – women bear children – fact of life! But surely they could have at least staggered the story topics? To be fair, perhaps after I switched off, the stories became more of a mixed bag but if the relentlessness of those first few moments of the programme proved to be too intense for me I wondered what it must have been like for those people in the first stages of their grief.
This Christmas missile moment highlighted for me the ongoing struggle of the loss brought by childlessness and how there are times of re-ignited grief we cannot prepare ourselves for. But I find that these are the times I can learn about what is helpful and what I can do to regain a little control and hope.
Stuff that Helped
Sense of Community – the comfort of strangers
The Woman’s Hour Christmas ‘missile’ hit its target! But as always, I emerged from the debris with some valuable thoughts and new learning. I found that having a social media ‘community’ of people who would understand my anger very comforting and for that I am very grateful. It was really good to know that I was not alone in my struggle or that I was ‘overreacting’. Thank you @IVFcounsellor, @ChildlessHour, @conceivinghists and others in the TwitterSphere for the likes and the virtual hugs on Christmas Day.
Always, always, for me – even if I don’t feel like it – a walk (in any weather) helps. Being outside and treating myself to a new, different, further-off horizon is incredibly therapeutic. In this post’s photo the sun was sinking, the moon was rising and the last of the dog walkers were becoming shadows entering the woods. I was alone in one of my favourite places – an Iron Age hillside fort in Sussex. There was nothing between me and the wind turbines on the sea-sky horizon. There was nothing but me and my breath rising skywards.