Giving Grief Enough Time

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This post won’t have any advice or inspirational thoughts, just feelings — raw feelings of utter disappointment. It’s time for me to let them go. I’ve been holding on to them for the past six months and they are taking up room in my head and heart. I could surely use that space for happier moments. I guess this is part of the grieving process and I’m at the last step. The time to turn the page on this chapter has come.

It was a moment in my life that I will never forget. I never thought it could happen to me, but it did. These unexpected, crushing feelings of worthlessness, loss and abandonment happened on Friday the 13th. Out of all the days on the calendar, it had to happen on a day of bad luck and morbid superstition.

I was 35 weeks pregnant, just weeks away from probably the most exciting and life-changing day I was ever going to experience. Right about now, you might be thinking that something happened to my unborn child. Let me ease your mind and say that my child was perfectly healthy and safe. I, however, had just received the news that I had been laid off.

I was minutes into a meeting notifying a group of employees that we would no longer have a job come the end of the year. I don’t think I listened to the rest of what was being said. I just began bawling. Fortunately, I worked remotely, so no one had to see me with my huge pregnant belly, head in hands, just weeping uncontrollably, except my husband. He moved my laptop and pulled me, all of me (that had to be no easy feat) into his arms, which made me cry harder. There’s something about being consoled in a moment of sadness that almost allows you to let go completely and release the emotions that you are trying to contain so you don’t look pathetic, somber, messy, you name it, to the rest of the world. In that moment, I let myself dampen the shoulder of his shirt with my tears without regret.

I was shocked. How was I chosen to be on this list? I had never been talked to about poor performance. In fact, I was thanked and praised for how hard I had been working. I didn’t understand and the only way I could make sense of it all was to tell myself that I didn’t work hard enough, I didn’t speak up enough in meetings, I didn’t help with developing better processes. The list could go on and on about the reasons that could justify me losing my job. None of it was the truth, but I needed my brain to make sense of it all and self-deprecation was the only way.

The next wave of realization hit me. I was about to have a child. Babies eat, they need diapers (LOTS OF DIAPERS) and that costs money. No job. No money. No job. No money. The thought just kept repeating like a song on a scratched CD skipping over and over again. And with that, I cried. I cried more than I had cried in who knows how long. My face hurt, I was disillusioned and I couldn’t focus. Who would want to hire someone nine months pregnant?! Should I even begin to look for a new job? What about maternity leave? I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.

I think anyone with a heart would try to share comforting words with someone hurting. Sometimes those words aren’t quite right and sometimes those words are repulsive during such a vulnerable moment. My husband said just enough in just the right way. He calmly stated, “If it was anyone else, I’d be worried, but I’m not worried about you. You’ll find another job.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. It wasn’t the generic “Everything will be okay”. It was perfect. He wasn’t scared for our future and he believed in me. All of my emotions didn’t stop with those words, but they helped me to feel a little ease.

I had always associated losing a job with bad performance. It was much more complicated than that, but the realization was something that I wouldn’t understand until I had time to reflect with a clear head and that moment was not now. Business is multifaceted. Business can be cut-throat. Business is . . . well, business. And sometimes, hard decisions have to be made. They are far-reaching and often impactful decisions that affect people. That’s just how it goes. But it hurt. It hurt for a long time. It still stings a little when I think about it.

All the extra hours I dedicated to getting the job done, taking my laptop with me to medical appointments so my work didn’t fall on someone else’s shoulders, signing in on the weekend so that I wasn’t swamped on Monday, seemed like a waste. I gave a lot to my job, a job I thought was a career; with a company I wanted to stay with until retirement. I lost great colleagues, a few of whom I considered to be friends. I lost a lot of self-confidence that I didn’t realize was so connected to being gainfully employed and feeling productive.

The grief of losing a job hit me pretty hard.  I don’t know if it hit with such force because I was pregnant and hormonal or because the job meant so much to me, but I do know that it forced me to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew and cycle through a barrage of emotions. The Five Stages of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler states, “We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve . . . but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.” I’ve had time to reflect and compartmentalize the tornado of feelings that hit me that day. I’ve written down my thoughts, I’ve shared them with you, and now I’m ready to move on and rid myself of the negativity they carry. I’ve given grief enough time.

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Raised outside of Orlando, Florida, redheaded Melissa is an avid sunscreen and shade enthusiast. She left Florida in 2007 to serve in the United States Air Force as a radio and television broadcaster. After basic and technical training she was stationed in Illinois, South Korea, Italy, and Alabama with two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan sprinkled in between. In 2013, she met her husband Gregg and in 2015, they were married. This gave Melissa the new title of Bonus Mom to Gregg's daughter, Isabella. That year also welcomed Melissa back into the civilian world as her eight years of service came to a close due to medical retirement. She has called Birmingham home for the past 3.5 years. Shortly after they were married, Melissa and Gregg found themselves wading through the confusing and emotional world of miscarriage and unexplained infertility. They excitedly welcomed a son in November of 2017 after two years of trying for a little miracle. Melissa dedicates her extra time to spoiling their three rescue dogs Ginger, Typsy, and Bruno. She also fosters dogs before they find their furever homes.