Thursday, September 10, 2020

Emotional Labor: The Cognitive Load of Grief

Ember, my daughter, is in an urn on my desk. 

I spent the hours following her death pleading for appropriate medical care in an emergency department, as I nearly bled to death from a postpartum hemorrhage. 

Many people in my life will not say her name, or even acknowledge that she existed. She died when I was 6 months pregnant. I used to think that the ambiguous nature of this loss--the death of a child whom no one got to meet or hold--explained this. I now know that this likely would have been the reaction no matter how old she had been. 

Our culture is not comfortable with grief. Instead, we expect grieving people to bear the full burden of their grief alone, without reminding anyone else that grief exists, colors everything, and is the fate that eventually awaits us all. This collective ignoring builds an unbearable mental load for those of us trapped under an avalanche of grief.