I woke up a couple of nights ago to an intensely vivid dream or memory of the first miscarriage. The darkened ultrasound room. The still screen. The ultrasound tech: “I don’t see a heartbeat either.”
It’s not a memory I generally choose to examine closely, except in specific circumstances. It was also not the only one that had crept up on me unbidden recently. I don’t mind, most of the time, living with my ghosts. My ghosts are sad, wistful longings of what could have, should have been, but they’re not scary. They occasionally startle me, but I typically accept their presence and don’t find it overly obtrusive.
Lately, though, my difficult memories have tied themselves into one nightmarish knot of terrors that visit me with no warning at all. They’re impossible to separate and one slides into another and another. I finally went to a doctor, a mental health professional to start the process of untangling.
When I related to him my most recent loss, after a full minute of pausing before I could get it out, his first question to me was “why?”
It’s a horrible question, those three letters: why? Such a seemingly natural thing to ask in the face of the incomprehensible, it rolls off the tongue in its variants when people suffer. To the woman who cannot conceive a child: why? To the woman miscarrying: do they know why? To the woman getting her blood drawn: why would you have an ectopic, you had IVF. To the woman bleeding through a pregnancy: why? What caused this? To the woman who gave birth prematurely: why was she so early? To the woman who has lost her only sibling to suicide: why did he do this?
It is the question that pulls all of the memories together, a deep and open wound.
Sometimes, I know it’s people just trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. Sometimes it is an effort to help, to find a solution. Sometimes it is fear. Sometimes it is genuine curiosity, other times prurient curiosity. Sometimes it is an attempt to assign blame.
I stumbled through trying to explain the entirely inexplicable. No, he wasn’t depressed as far as we could tell. No, none of us can identify any specific warning signs, even in hindsight. I wish I had told this doctor, this mental health professional, that “why” my brother took his own life was irrelevant to the situation at hand and none of his business. I cannot recall one time during the interview that I was asked how I was feeling about the situation.
Better, perhaps, to simply sit down with one who suffers. Even when there are answers, there are all too often no real answers. And in the end, even if I could adequately answer “why”, I would still be left with all the loss.
Thank you so much to all who have offered their support and condolences. It means the world to me.