Quite often, we get pretty goofy on this blog. That's no surprise, with our focus on games and the occasional dive into nerdly music, movies and other media storytelling pursuits. This week, though, and in particular on the day this will be posted, I’d like to talk about something a bit more serious. (Though I promise we will touch on gaming somewhere in here. I can’t seem to not do that.) Perhaps the topic has become more visible in recent years, or maybe I’m seeing that because I’ve grown closer to it, but I still don’t feel like it's talked about openly enough. Especially in today’s political climate with an openly biased Supreme court, and the push to take away the rights of women and other minorities, I think it's important to discuss. Unfortunately, even beating around the bush, this is still pretty vague as to what I’m talking about, and could be any number of important topics. To be clear, I’m writing about miscarriage. (If any of you wish to skip this one, or just jump to the end where I talk about games, I’ll understand. I’ll try to be brief.)
To start with, I suppose I should relate my own involvement with the topic. My wife and I, while we have two kids now, have been through two miscarriages in between those pregnancies. It is difficult enough to talk about, much less write about the experience. It becomes a jumble of memories and emotions, mixed with the experiences of other friends and family members. Somehow though, the experiences are still fresh in my mind, even though they happened six to eight years ago. I wasn’t at my wife’s appointment for the first one, which I regret. I’d been at the first few appointments, and felt it might be okay to skip one. I was focusing on my job search at the time, as there had been a government shut-down, and I figured I had a good chance of being laid off from my job at a small gov-contractor. It was a Friday. I actually got the call that same afternoon to come back into the office on the following Monday. (Incidentally, when I called back to relate the news and tell them I couldn’t make it, they gave me an extra week of pay before laying me off.) Horror and sadness emanated from my wife, so much that I couldn’t understand if she’d had a car accident or what might be going on. A nurse had to tell me over her phone. The self-blame, guilt, depression, any number of other emotions. Weeks, to months, to years of filtering through emails, book summaries, movie and TV plots, other media, so I could prevent or warn my wife before she had to deal with the subject. All of that was only round one. More fear, self-blame, doubt, confusion. At least I was there for that appointment though. Maybe the nurse was reading the machine wrong? No. No, not by the look of pity in her eyes.
We were the first of our close friend group at the time to have those things happen, but not the last. Not everyone got it, having not heard the situation spoken of or gone through it, and I don’t really blame them. You don’t want to think about something like that. That is why people don’t talk about it. We need to, though. Not just to deal with the grief and sorrow, but to keep these issues from seeming like dirty secrets where you have to hide, both your shame and from others' blame. Unless this is some extremely rare case of purposeful horror, it isn’t your fault. It isn’t. That's probably hard to hear, you don’t want to believe it, because blaming yourself is easier, but it isn’t. While you are pondering that, know that you may never really know why it happened. All you can really do is find support, find therapy, and talk to people who have been there. You can always reach out to Never Say Dice. Don’t just talk about it for yourself, though, talk about it for everyone else. Talk about it because women’s health is somehow a major political issue here in America. Talk about it so that people may begin to understand without having to go through it themselves. Maybe if we can all do that, we can make some positive change in the United States, and even the rest of the world.
Of Grief and Gaming
Again, if you jumped here from the top, I don’t blame you. What did any of the preceding paragraphs have to do with gaming? For one, gaming provided a major assist in helping me get through all of it. As we’ve mentioned in this blog before, gaming can be a form of escapism. When I was a pre-teen facing a broken home, I buried myself in books - fantasy and sci-fi novels mostly, but anything I could read. Going through the tragedies of the preceding paragraphs (and they weren't the only difficult things from that period of my life) I tended to dive into games. Video, board, card, tabletop - it didn’t matter. It shouldn’t have surprised me when years later, I heard about using tabletop games as a tool to help with grief. My wife was studying process drama as part of her Masters in Arts Integration, and dictating her paper to me. This tied her passion for stage drama and my love of tabletop games together in a whole new way: roleplaying as a form of process drama to explore aspects of your own life. While I’m sure I could pull a list of a few systems into here, I haven’t played any written expressly for that purpose. I’ll leave that adventure up to any of you readers that need it. In a pinch though, I’m sure you could use a major system like D&D (or even an indie like Risus) with the right guidance to help make that burden a bit lighter.
If you did read everything, thank you for going through it all with me. Miscarriage is a difficult topic, even when taking as light a hand as I tried to. Whatever you may be going through in life, I wish you luck, and hope you find the support you need. Please, if you can find the courage, talk about hard topics for yourself, and for those you may not even know that are going through the same things. Remember that you can use games not only to escape whatever you are going through for a time, but potentially also as a tool to help you deal with the emotions of it all. Next week, we’ll get back to the typical things you see here at Never Say Dice. Until then, I hope you get out to your gaming tables and break some dice!