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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Off the Grid: On loss, grief and love

By Ammi Midstokke

Loss came to me on a Monday morning in a bloody smear that could not be misunderstood. I gathered my heart from the floor as the trembling began and prepared myself for the unavoidable freight train of grief I could hear chugging toward me. It sounded like my heartbeat.

The gentle recommendation, upon seeing the barren landscape of my vacating womb on a black and white screen, was to go home and rest. My determined, ripe body would soon realize what was happening and give up. I left with a Ziploc bag of feminine hygiene products large enough to absorb a city park water feature and a prescription that would leave me wallowing like one of Lucretia Borgia’s lovers. First though, I needed to run.

“No running for two weeks,” they said.

“Right,” I thought.

Grief, they say, is not linear. Mine is a 4-mile loop that passes a prepper’s yurt, a decaying moose carcass, and endless fields of wildflowers.

Tears hit the wooden porch floor in wet stains as I crumpled over my running shoes, desperately clinging to dreams that were no longer mine to own. I climbed the hill behind my house, doubling over time and time again, overcome by the kind of sadness that makes the body retch and heave.

A neighbor drove by and paused to congratulate me on my pregnancy. I cried into the passenger window of his Lexus while he tried to divert his eyes. Miscarriage is not for the faint of heart.

It is also a silent and lonely loss for many, a catastrophe of internal shames and external justifications. We tell women they are part of a normal statistic, they ought to keep trying, stop trying, eat better, adopt, rest more, and take responsibility for the incompetence of their bodies or shriveled up ovaries. Partners rarely get honorable mention in condolences, helpless as they are anyway.

I took the poison and lay in bereavement of the intangible, the not-yet-become, the imagined. When my body was done writhing, my heart finally broke. There was not enough space in the walls of my home for my sadness, and so after a week, I turned to the only panacea I know: the mountains.

“I need to see the world from the top of something,” I told my husband, whose shirts are all soaked with my snot now, and who knows Mother Nature’s medicine.

With a flaccid, empty belly awkwardly loping over the top of my shorts in a humiliating display of my failure, I sniffled my way up a trail. The dark tunnel of trees opened up with each mile until we were walking in full sun with the world spread before us. With every step, something knit together the frayed edges of my heart.

So many families have navigated this path, but so few speak of it. I have been gifted with a community of celebrators from the very beginning of our journey, and those who shared our joy are now sharing our sorrow. At every turn of our process, we have been met with kindness, generosity and understanding.

In our grief, we have never felt more loved.

Sitting on the weathered stones of a timeless peak, this truth permeated my lungs like the fresh autumnal air. I remembered all the prayer flags in Nepal, strung across the ridges, waiting for the wind to carry wishes to those who manifest them.

I sighed gratitude into the breeze. Thankfulness for these months and weeks of expectancy and every delight that came with it. Gratitude for a momentary reprieve from crippling nausea. And a deep, humbling appreciation for every kind word, blossom and hug that has reminded me of the beauty of shared human experience.

And as I drew in a filling breath, chest expanding like the horizon before me, I let a little hope fill the empty spaces once more.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at