fight, flight, or freeze

I am an anxious person. I always have been. Add to this a devastating loss, and watch me crumble, watch me retreat. My shaky house of glass shattered to pieces the day that Owen died. I am slowly trying to rebuild.

I nervously anticipate how conversations might go. I write and rewrite the narratives. I then edit and revise.

Our counsellor told us that when faced with uncomfortable situations, potentially anxiety-ridden moments, we have three choices: fight, flight or freeze.

If you freeze, you may get eaten alive. People may say the wrong things (the classic you’re young, you can have more children sentiment has been a notable ‘favourite’ in our household). You do not agree, yet you let the barrage continue because, well, you are frozen – you do not have the ability, nor the energy, to stand up for yourself. It isn’t yet clear, but you are being destroyed, crushed, from the inside out. It hurts. There is no malice, only care; however, even well-intentioned words can hurt. The situation is awkward. It is not helping. Get out, get out now. You need to flee before the damage surfaces. Sometimes it is too late.

The decision to take flight is the easy choice, perhaps viewed as cowardly to outsiders of this world. In the early days of loss, it is the safest approach, your saviour. You flee because you do not have the tools or ability to stay. You simply do not have the courage.  You are fragile. Even after you slowly build up your toolbox, it is sometimes necessary to protect, to run – to handle your heart with care.

Or you face it – you fight. You allow the discomfort in. You are brave. You can do this. You are ready. You refuse to be intimidated by the shortcomings of the misinformed (no, having another child is not the solution, there is no solution).

Yesterday, I came close to fighting through an uncomfortable interaction and I did not feel the need to run, to flee. In fact, I secretly wanted, wished, that they would notice me and that I would have the opportunity to talk about Owen. I wanted to be seen, I was waiting for it. I wanted to be asked about how my baby was doing. I wanted to talk about our son, to proudly shout his name from the rooftops as I am able to do so confidently through the keyboard.

It was a moment of bravery. I was ready to fight, instead I remained partially frozen as the opportunity passed and I went unnoticed.

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