The Power of Mourning

POMCropWhen I play superheroes with my nephew he declares me Wonder Woman; my name is Dianna after all. I wear two bracelets that protect me and give me power, and I spin around and let my hair twirl. He is Superman and together we can fight evil and save our planet from destruction. I remember watching the TV show, Wonder Woman, as a child. How could my sister and I not love the amazon princess with her invisible plane and lasso of truth? She is beautiful with her long dark hair and she doesn’t need a man to save her.

This July my husband and I took two nights to go away without our son. We became pregnant soon after we met, and our life together has been about being parents. I booked the Rose Room at Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast in Southold, New York, only a few feet from Bayberry Lane where my grandparents built a house in the 80s. My childhood summer memories are there on the North Fork of Long Island where my sister and I would walk to Town Beach along a busy two-lane highway while my yiayia, or grandmother, muttered, “Mesa, mesa, trehounai ta kara.” “Inside, inside, the cars are going so fast,” in her Greenglish dialect, as she pushed us away from the cars with her arms. And the cars were going fast, as my sister and I walked along the road, our beach towels in hand. We often went with our aunt, Matina, who passed away in 2013, and sometimes with our cousins and mother. The house was sold before my grandfather died in 2000.

Last winter my husband took me to Outer Banks, North Carolina. He thought that I would love it so much that I would want to return again and again. I found myself disappointed in the chain restaurants and in the lack of small town charm in the town where we stayed in Kitty Hawk. As we walked along the small town of Greenport this July, adjacent to Southold, he understood what I had missed. No Starbucks. No Home Depot. These old North Fork towns are still quaint, in part because there is no space to build up a Route 1 or Post Road. We visited our dear friend, Vivian, walked to an old lighthouse built in the 1800s, had coffee in a family-owned café and walked along the rocky beach, gathering stones and shells to bring back to our son.

The sun was setting as we walked holding hands and I thought about last summer. I didn’t think that I would still be married in a year last August. My husband and I had very different responses to Mary Rose’s “diagnosis,” to my pregnancy, to the grief of our daughter’s death. I was in the middle of it, finding my footing in the thick molasses of grief. Everything I did took enormous effort. Anchored in the belief that Mary Rose is a blessing, that the experience is beneficial for my soul, that my daughter is with me still, I started to do things slowly, such as attending a MOPS meeting in early September not a month after Mary Rose was born and died. In October I had the courage to attend a birthday party with a Halloween theme. My eyes are sad in the pictures, but I was there and my son played with his friends. The holidays and winter were unbearable, my son’s third birthday, a low point and then I made it through the anniversary of the ultrasound in March. My heart still hurts, still stings, especially seeing photos of all the beautiful, healthy babies born since Mary Rose. Five of my cousins have new babies, the couple who introduced me to Tim have a newborn daughter, and their son, who is the same age as my son holds his living sister. I can’t help but think of the pictures that we have of our small son holding his still sister as we were about to prepare her body for burial. I bless all of these beautiful babies while I miss my daughter. My husband has a good and open heart, but he is able to compartmentalize and stay busy. He didn’t have her milk leaking out of his body after her funeral. Our bodies are different and so are our responses to grief.

So the weekend that we had away felt particularly important. I lived through what I hope was the hardest year of my life. I made it through my birthday and my marriage is intact. Perhaps it is stronger for the wear and tear of such emotional challenges. The innkeeper, Marilyn, prepared a gluten-free breakfast for me. We sat around an antique table in a house built in the 1800s with two other couples speaking of art. I was relaxed and the conversation flowed easily. When we left I was surprised that Mary Rose had not come up in conversation. No one asked me, “How many children do you have?”

We headed back to my parents’ house where our son was enjoying his grandparents and the day before we left for our home in Virginia, I took my husband for a ride to Cold Spring. I love the artistic town and the views of the Hudson River and West Point. We walked into an art gallery and met Maureen Winzig, whose painting “Manifest,” pictured above, caught my attention. In the caption next to the painting Ms. Winzig writes

Power is so subjective. There is power in being illusive, in mourning, in dreaming as much as there is power in fighting for justice. Women and men have their own unique kinds of power. In this series I have chosen to express my thoughts on ‘Finding Power: Women of Courage, Passion, and Character’ in ways that may be overlooked…Women take on the grief of mourning and cleansing the soul and then find the strength to pray for the world and manifest an energy that bursts out from within that most powerful feminine core…

In the painting the woman stands in her light, which is radiated in all directions. Her light is overtaking the darkness, but the darkness is still there in the background. Her posture is one of openness and expansion. Her chin is lifted up as if she is in a power pose. Her chest and shoulders are open. This is a determined woman who knows darkness and light. When I read Ms. Winzig’s words, I thought about the power of mourning. Are we that woman? Could our words and light be illuminating for others going through dark times?

This last year has not been about lessons for me. It has been about walking through inexplicable grief, experiencing the uncomfortable feelings and emotions that came up, many of them from other times in my life. Mary Rose brought up every fear and source of discomfort in my life. Therapy has been vital as we talked and analyzed and blessed so many challenges, the traumas of childhood and a bad first marriage, poverty and abuse in its many forms, and of course grief which has been a theme in my life. Am I more powerful for facing my mourning and allowing my vulnerability to show, creating a space to paint and draw and write about my path?

After Mary Rose died life continued on. A friend was diagnosed with cancer. The young godson of a Facebook friend died of leukemia. Many healthy babies were born, and still more friends are pregnant. My sister moved to another state with her family. Her friend who suffered many miscarriages birthed a healthy girl in her 40s. I wouldn’t know as much as I know if I closed my Facebook account, but I want to stay in touch with my friends and family. I want to bless the beautiful babies and their parents. And I’m glad that not one of their mothers or fathers has experienced a tragic pregnancy as I have.

It is almost August 8th, the one-year anniversary of my beloved daughter’s birth and death. I am writing a book to honor her life and to comfort others. I am whole even as I am aware of my brokenness. This coming Sunday we will offer a memorial service for my baby girl who was buried in her baptismal gown. I will bake a loaf of bread in the Syrian tradition and Father James will read the prayers that my people have read for their ancestors’ souls since the early days of Christianity, and actually before that in the Judaic tradition. My son is almost three and a half and he asks for his sister. But in this time of remembrance my friend is coming to visit, we plan a vacation to be with my sister and her family. The planet continues to turn and our feet are planted on our Earth, roots deepening with each experience.

I am broken and whole.

There is power in words, superheroes and in mourning. Who knew? The power comes from lassoing the intense grief and mourning, which comes from deep, deep love, to fuel our internal Light, even when it is just a spark in our heart center flickering and sputtering to reclaim its shimmering, brilliant light that unites us to Creator and each other. Soon I will travel to visit my nephew and I am packing some cool bracelets. We will walk in our power and make this planet a safer place for all, superhero style. Maybe he will lend me a cape this time.


Photograph of “Manifest” is used with permission. Maureen Winzig can be reached through her Facebook page:

Author: Dianna

DIANNA VAGIANOS ARMENTROUT is a published writer, teacher, workshop facilitator and poetry therapist. She graduated from Adelphi University’s Honors Program and earned her MAW from Manhattanville College. Dianna’s pregnancy with her daughter, Mary Rose, who died an hour after birth of trisomy 18, changed her life completely. Her blog, Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart, was launched in April 2015 as a way of offering support to others going through pregnancies with life-limiting and fatal diagnoses.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Mourning”

    1. Thank you, Vicki. I am honored that you read my work. You take care of your mothers with so much love, and I know that there are many of us carrying our grief as we walk on. Much Love…

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