Student/Parent: Celebration

cw: loss, miscarriage

This weekend, I’m going out for dinner to celebrate finishing my degree. It feels slightly anticlimactic, given that we won’t have an actual graduation ceremony, and I haven’t attended an in-person class since February last year. I feel distanced from the university; despite living in the same city, I haven’t been on campus in over a year and I can’t help but feel isolated from university and from other students.

Glasgow remains in the seemingly relentless ‘Tier 3’ restrictions and almost all of my plans to celebrate have been put on hold or cancelled entirely. I know – celebrations aren’t a priority right now, and maybe it seems trivial in comparison to the bigger issues at play. But continually having the things you were looking forward to moved just out of your grasp is endlessly frustrating and emotionally draining.

Celebrations are important events in all cultures and all stages of life. In the past year we’ve missed out celebrating birthdays, weddings, births, funerals, and graduations. I’ve postponed trips away for our wedding anniversary (twice), accepted that my graduation will be a non-event, and half of my son’s family haven’t even met him yet. The happiest times of 2020 – and now 2021 – have largely been spent at home without celebration and without loved ones to share them with. Along with this, the darkest times of the past year were also spent at home. So much grief has been felt inside these four walls and it’s impossible to escape it when you’re not meant to leave your house.

As if to echo the overall theme of the past year, the day after I sat my final exam and got ready to celebrate, I had a miscarriage. I had known I was pregnant for about ten days, and I knew what was happening immediately. Again, the grief that unfolded was contained within my home. Physically, it was a long process and was much more similar to giving birth than I had anticipated. But at the end of it, there was no celebration of having a new baby. I miscarried alone at home, in the middle of the night, while my partner sat with our baby in another room. For the next week, I felt too unwell to celebrate sitting my final exam. I cancelled an appointment to get my nails done, and I cancelled dinner out with my partner. 

Not getting my nails done seems insignificant, I’ll admit, but having to alter plans because of a loss is hard. You have to mentally adapt to incorporate grief into your life, and whilst doing that you have to carry out the admin work of changing appointments or trips away or cancelling events. I had to cancel an order I placed for an umbilical cord tie, cancel a pregnancy massage, and re-draft the resignation letter I was handing into my work and delete the text that said I was expecting another baby.

Maybe it’s not quite the same, but feeling a sense of grief at not having a graduation is valid, too. I had expectations of celebrating with family and friends, and I had been making plans around my graduation ceremony for months. I was so excited to take my son with me and get photos taken with him. Instead of a sunny day on campus, getting photos taken by the cloisters, I’ll probably be at home doing the same things we do every day. The same goes for the anniversaries, birthdays, and all the other celebrations we’ve missed out on – and continue to miss out on.

For a while, the joy I felt after having my son and mixed with the sleep deprivation was enough to act as a buffer to the emotional effect of lockdown. Going for a walk to the park and video calling my family and friends seemed like enough. I had been handling it pretty well, I thought. But almost a year later and it seems that somehow the losses have just been silently incorporated into my life; part of my everyday routine is making space for grief.

Support for people who have experienced miscarriage: https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/

[Jasmine Yancey – she/her]

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