My husband, an extrovert, and I, an introvert, get along very well, with our personalities and energies complementing each other beautifully. The yin and yang of our dancing energies became muddled, however, after the death of our second daughter.
I carried Quinn Amelia to 40 weeks. Everything was perfect and normal at my last OB appointment; she had a strong heartbeat, there were no concerns. But three days after this appointment—just when she had grown the most healthy and strong–she died during birth. The umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck and the labor contractions deprived her of oxygen. Our sweet Quinn was born beautiful, still, and quiet.
When our world completely shattered and we plummeted into a crater of darkness, what was left? We were stripped of all the “extra” and were left with our pure state of being. For me, my introversion shone very brightly while I gained energy by being alone and introspective. For my husband, his extroversion shone the brightest during this state—the need to be with others, to connect.
At first, distance crept in between us. We were in a raw and painful survival mode and managing it differently. But then we learned that introverts and extroverts grieve differently; we learned from each other how to best support and nurture the other. He needed a physical touch, a hug, and talking to feel connected, while I needed alone time with my thoughts to dig into my soul and retreat inwardly to lick my wounds.
We built in time every day when I could be alone and write. I made a silly pledge to let down my guard and give him a committed hug several times a day. I made a conscious effort to hold his hand. It all felt like work at first, but it really helped. We began to see how respecting each other’s extrovert-introvert needs positively affected our relationship, and we became more connected in our grieving journey.
My advice for an extrovert-introvert pair who grieves: be aware that your once harmonious energies might break. Recognize that each of you needs different things to heal, and agree upon one or two realistic actions to support each other. It will feel forced at first, but it will become more natural until your harmonious ebb and flow returns.
Our family is on the journey toward healing, thanks to the incredible love and support of our family, friends, and community. Our living daughter, Riley, has been a shining light as we try to regain balance and establish our new normal.
As an introvert, I have heavily relied on both writing and running to heal. Writing is a time for me to travel inward to explore my pain, love, and strength. I post to my blog, which has also allowed me to connect with other grieving parents. Every person’s grief is unique, but sharing my story has made me feel less isolated on this lonely road.
Running has been incredibly healing and I don’t know where I would be without it. Running has been a way to physically express my inner pain and time for my brain to process my grief. Furthermore, running has taken me through beautiful backcountry where I can contemplate life and death on a bigger scale. I’m running a marathon mid-September, and I’m dedicating it to Quinn and other babies I have come to know who have died during birth.
I also dedicate runs to babies who have died, to keep their memory alive and to share the family’s story. My run dedications are a small way I can hold another bereaved family in my heart and hopefully offer a little bit of healing to them.