When the Bride to Be is Also the Baby You Had to Give Away: Grief, Joy and All the In Betweens

The pain right under my shoulder blade began a few weeks ago. My trainer, Linda, and I have reconnected again (picture a vivacious woman with 80s bleach blonde hair pulled back with a scrunchy and a New Jersey accent. SHE.IS. EVERYTHING).

Kettle bell exercises, god-awful dumbbell plank lifts and heavy overhead medicine ball swings had to be the culprit and instigator to my burning and throbbing scapula.

Or maybe it’s all the classes I have added to my schedule at the studio after our lead teacher broke her arm.

These two together may be the perfect cocktail for my newfound chronic pain. Whatever it is, I am desperate to be rid of it.

My inner guru knew I needed to ask the pain what it was trying to tell me, so I did.

“You’re pushing yourself too hard,” it said, logically. But I knew that wasn’t the whole truth.

So I laid off demonstrating the right arm exercises in class when I could. Linda taught me some painfully relieving (is that a thing?) movements whereby I sandwich a lacrosse ball between my scapula and the wall, then slow dance the ball up and down my back. The temporary relief was just that – temporary.

I rolled on a medicine ball, a yoga wheel, took Epson salt baths, made intentions before mediations to release the pain, asked anyone and everyone to massage my back, and I stopped sleeping on my right side, and nothing. The annoyance with my body escalated to frustration.

My intellectual self was telling me my body is my best friend and to listen to it, but my frustration at the inconvenience of all this didn’t make me want to listen.

I know from past experiences that my body is a way my soul gives me messages. This is the gift of being in our body – the one made especially for us. It’s able to pick up all the little nuances of our inner growth, trials and tribulations. Our soul growth will make itself known through many ways, including aches and pains. Our bodies are the switchboards to our souls. They’re pretty amazing that way.

But knowing this doesn’t always mean I want to listen. Life is busy, after all.

My scapula is screaming at me and now the pain is moving into my right shoulder. I can’t hold my arm up without discomfort, which is very inconvenient when it comes to getting all I need to get done in my day-to-day life.

In the background of my mind scenes from Grace’s wedding play on repeat.

If you haven’t heard of Grace before, she’s my first born who I had to give up for adoption when I was sixteen. Some girls get cars, I got a new baby, only I didn’t get to keep her.

This weekend my husband, the kids and I will get to see Grace and meet all of her family, extended family, fiancé, and Grace’s biological father – my high school boyfriend – will be there with his daughter, and possibly his parents.

I’m sure you can imagine the scenes that have been playing out in my mind.

The more I play the scenario in my head the more I wonder if I am emotionally strong enough to handle this incubator of feelings. The girls – my three daughters, Grace’s sisters - are actually in the wedding, which means we are also a part of the wedding party. Which means we are going to be with everyone all weekend.

What if I completely melt down? What if I melt into a pool of tears, my body no longer visible, only a pile of blue biological-mother-of-the-bride dress lay in the aisle – evidence that I once existed but no longer was able to go on, my grief, joy, sorrow and elation swallowing me whole. One simply cannot feel all of those feelings at once without imploding.

As a person well versed on the emotional scale this seems to be more than a mere mortal could handle.

“Make this about her, this is her day” I tell myself. And while I am able to feel the joy for her on this most wonderful day in her life, the emotional pendulum swings directly left to…


If you’ve ever experienced a loss of someone you love dearly then you know this grief.

Grief is a longtime friend. She pays a visit when your heart has fallen out of your body and she catches it. She puts it back into place only now it’s a bit different. Now it doesn’t beat like it used to, it’s rhythm has changed to compensate for the pain that wanted to stop it from beating. Grief keeps our heart from stopping, but changes the pattern in which it beats forever.

To grieve is to love, but to lose your love is perhaps the most painful experience. I have been grieving for 25 years. You never stop grieving once you’ve lost your love, instead you continue the ride of life and find grief in the valleys, in unexpected conversations and in the memories. The love comes rolling in too. That feels better.

Grief has met me in the present. It seems like she wants to go to this wedding with me.

When I heard grief softly knocking on my door I decided to let her in. It’s just better to face her when she arrives and not keep her waiting. So I invited her in and the tears began to flow. Release.

I found a picture of me right before I found out I was pregnant and a picture of me after I had placed Grace into her new parents’ arms. I wanted to see the girl that hurt so bad and who she was before grief got close and invited herself in. The light in the girl’s eyes before grief and after is different. This is what grief does. She changes your vision. Somehow she is able to amplify the size of your heart, ushering more love in and she amplifies how much pain you are able to hold. Suddenly you’re able to witness life without any buffers keeping you from being raw.

Grief exposes you.

If crying is a love language, then put that one on the top of my list. I once heard crying is an organic baptism. I’ve been baptized many times over. And yet here I am again, being baptized once more, my church in the middle of my heart where God whispers to me and tells me to feel all I can because this is what love is. This is what love feels like. This is grief letting go and making way for more love.

I place both of my pictures on my desk and candle in between them. I want to honor both of the girls I see before me now - their strength, all they’ve overcome, all they’ve felt at such a young age. I want to honor Grace too. I light the candle and set my intention. Grief begins to say her goodbye. The younger pictures of myself feel as if they are folding into me. I accept them. I become their mother and offer the same embrace I would offer my children. These girls are mine to hold now. I let them know it’s okay and that I’m here, and that life turned out to be really, really beautiful and soon we will see Grace walk down the aisle and marry the man of her dreams. It has all worked out. This plan was bigger than us and this is the happy ending and happy beginning. We all weep together.

Grief notices that it’s time to go now and she leaves me with a heart that has expanded and more love and understanding pours right in. The tears fade and the sunlight through the window seems brighter.

And the burning in my scapula? The pain in my shoulder? Grief seems to have taken that with her too, as I notice the pain in my body is gone. At first I thought I was too overwhelmed for it to be true, but it’s been a few days now and still, no pain.

Maybe the pain was grief trying to get my attention. Maybe she was asking for a visit, a conversation, an acknowledgement, and I finally gave her the time she needed. I satisfied her yearning and she left me whole.

The rehearsal and rehearsal dinner is tonight. We will all be there. I will try to hold myself together, but what I know for sure is that when tomorrow comes I will have tissues in my pockets (every birth-mother-of-the-bride dress should have pockets) and joy in my heart. And if joy acts like she always does, she’s going to want to dance. After tomorrow night I may be able to tell you what it’s like to embarrass your 5 children at the same time with your amazing dance moves. J

Until next time, lots of love sweet readers,