Dress Rehearsing Tragedy

*Just a wee warning that I will be speaking about baby loss in this post and that may be difficult for many. I understand if this is not something you are able to read about just now. *


Brene Brown talks a lot about how we ‘dress rehearse tragedy’. How we practice tragedy in our minds to prepare ourselves for the real deal. How often we do this in times of joy almost as a way to counter balance the good and avoid the bad. She also speaks about how all this does is steal our own joy. We squander our joy trying to appease tragedy.

I do this. All the damn time. I have hardwired the habit of imagining the worse of the worse when lovely things are happening or coming up. This ramps up my anxiety to the highest level. I can feel it right now. We have a lovely summer of visits and travels this year and I am so excited…but also so anxious. My imagination is playing tricks on me and whispering god awful thoughts in my ear. What if… What if… What if…

And what if? Will my worry actually stop bad things from happening? Nope. Is there anything I can imagine that would actually prepare me for horrible things to happen? Probably not. I have survived horrible things and I couldn’t have prepared for them no matter what I imagined or envisioned.

Three summers ago I lost our second baby while on holiday in Canada. I was 22 weeks along. I was with my then 1 year old son and my mom, Husband due to join us two days later. It is by far the most horrible thing I have ever experienced. I survived. Am I changed? Yes. Forever. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to be changed from that experience. I’m touched by grief in a way I never was before. I can now sit with grief in a way I couldn’t before. Grief and I are linked now.

Shit things are going to happen to every one of us. It’s part of the great circle of life. Why then am I stealing from my own moments of joy in some strange attempt to avoid it? How skewed is that thinking? Seriously! Why am I comparing my joy with other people’s hardship? Why am I bargaining my happiness in the hopes of minimising pain? It didn’t stop the worse thing from happening to me three years ago. And you know what? We still found bits and pieces of joy that summer. TD learned to walk. I connected with Husband in a different way. I was open and honest with my dearest people about my pain and my experience and it was very healing. It was a healing summer and it strengthened relationships. I wouldn’t have chosen it to happen that way but we were able to take our joy where we could. The worse thing happened and we survived. I survived.

We live in a world filled with terror, tragedy, horror, apathy, fear and hate. It runs on 24 hour news cycles. We have evidence that the world is a terrible place on constant repeat. We also live in a world that is graced with beauty, love, fairness, connection, humanity and joy. It can seem harder to find or see but it is always there. I’m not going to hide my head in the sand about the negative things going on in the world, but I refuse to live in that space of fear. I have to make my space safe for me. I have to surround myself with the positive aspects. I choose that for me because I know I can drown in the sea of fear. I will acknowledge it. I will do what I can where I can but I refuse to live there.

So, how can I change my habit of fear mongering? Brene Brown goes on to share the fastest way to move forward with this. Practising gratitude. Being grateful. I am so thankful for my life and experiences but I haven’t ever used gratitude as a antidote to that habit of ‘worse case scenario’ thinking.

A lot of my fear comes from things that could happen to my son, to the fabulous TD. You know the feeling. You watch them with such love and your greatest fears for their safety and lives starts doing the ‘best of’ reel in your head. I’m practising the use of gratitude to bat that bitch away. ‘I am so grateful I get to be this boy’s mama. I get to watch him learn and grow. I get to cultivate that!’. Gratitude takes the edge off of my fear and anxiety. It takes the wind out of the sails of worry.

Shit is going to go down. It’s inevitable. There’s no point trying to fend it off by stealing or sabotaging your own joy along the way. I don’t believe that the point of life is to suffer if you don’t have to. People who suffer wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Taking your moments of joy and twisting them with guilt, shame or fear now seems beyond pointless. Forming my habit of gratitude is going to take time. I’ve been doing the worry cha-cha for a long ass time. It will require patience, deep breaths and, at times, a strong word to myself but I’m going to work on it because I am no longer willing to take any joy away from our lives in the pursuit of avoiding pain and suffering.

Nope. No more. I will not dress rehearse tragedy any longer. This girl is done pretending that she can outsmart the shit parts of life. TD needs to see that life is everything all at once and where we put our energy and focus in where we live. We will celebrate joy in our house with abandon and without guilt. We will embrace pain and sadness too. We can live it all and learn to live through it all. We got this.

2 thoughts on “Dress Rehearsing Tragedy

  1. Oh, mama, you and I are one and the same. Since losing our son at age three, I have ‘worst case scenario’ brain. But, yes, being grateful, as frequently as possible, truly helps. Thank you for your story and your courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry you had to experience this. Big hugs lovely. And thank you for your very kind words. I’m glad you could see something in it that spoke to you. 💖


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