Strength in Grief

Strength in GriefI’ve gone through the grief process associated with miscarriage several times now.  Each time is a bit different and as my maturity and life changes, the process changes a bit too.  It’s never easy and for someone like myself who feels things deeply, it can be overwhelming and feel devastating.

The loss of a child who had just started to grow within your womb is a hard one to understand for those who have not been through it.  People often have no idea how to express their concerns or feelings of empathy.  Some of your family and friends just ignore it almost entirely because they don’t want to upset you.  Others will do little things to comfort you or just be there while you vent.  This can be a double-edged sword because you need to talk about the loss, but are sometimes relieved when no one forces you to.

When you reach that ever looming stage of anger, you can be surprised who you direct that anger towards.  There can be a maddening rage over anyone whose pregnant, recently had a baby, or those who just ignored your loss all together.  You can direct your anger towards yourself and the body you feel failed your baby.  You will at some point likely cast anger on your spouse, wondering why they don’t feel or express their anger, frustration, and pain the same way you do.  It’s all normal, and it’s okay to feel these things.  They way you direct your anger, hurt, and loss is the most important aspect.

For me, I can sometimes wallow in my pain for weeks.  I’ll let myself fall into a depression that I lose all strength to climb out of.  Laying on the couch, not really watching whatever happens to be on the television.  No desire to eat, feel, or talk.  Just numb to life and what is going on in it.  Or I will switch into overdrive staying constantly occupied with something, anything, to take my mind off the pain.

The trouble with overdrive mode is that you crash…hard.  All the physical exertion to avoid the mental pain leads to exhaustion both physically and mentally.  I stayed in overdrive this time, until I crashed.  Dead tired, just so exhausted mentally and physically.  It hit me late last week and I couldn’t distract myself anymore.  I’d been crying in the shower, over the washer, anywhere I was alone.  And suddenly, crying was all I could do.  My empty womb was all I could think about.  The idea that I may never carry another child successfully hit me hard.  As I sorted through my children’s closets and packed away outgrown clothes I realized that there might not be another child to wear them.  Still, I folded them neatly, labeled the bin with the size and contents, and added them to the ever-growing stash of outgrown baby things in my basement.

I grieved, and then I decided to push forward because those clothes were not going to go unworn.  That currently unused crib, rocker, swing, and all those bins of baby clothes would be worn again.  I had prayed on it, thought about it, talked about it, and it was going to happen somehow.

While I may be quite experienced in dealing with the grief of a lost child, it has created a strength and determination in me that did not exist before.  If I want something, I figure out a way to make it happen.  While the number of children I have lost is higher than the number of children I have living, I really don’t give up.  To me, that means I have yet another angel looking over my family.  Another little miracle worker to make the impossible happen and to bring forth more happiness and light in our lives.

The healing that takes place after miscarriage is often a long process.  Your body often heals long before your heart.  You’ll go through days where you’re okay and you’ll go through days where you need to let yourself grieve and process all the emotions that have been thrust upon you.  It isn’t a road with a clear path and the outcome can often be surprising.

What I’ve learned is that you have to let yourself feel it all to heal.  It’s messy and it’s often scary, but in the end, you’ll come out okay.  You’ll likely be changed, but you can work to use it to your advantage instead of letting it consume you.

Tears In My Coffee Cup

There are tears in my coffee this morning.  I’m trying so damn hard to be strong, to be okay…  I’m mostly succeeding, but these early hours where sleep leaves me and refuses to return, they’re hard.  I’m the only one awake and I’m left with all the feelings I try to ignore the rest of the day.  It’s just me, a keyboard, some Avenged Sevenfold, and a coffee.

Funny thing is, ordinarily, all these those things would leave me blissfully happy with some time to write.  But when you go through a loss – a miscarriage in my case – you crave and detest alone time.  You don’t want to talk about it, but then you do.  You don’t want to feel it, but you have to verbalize it all to move past it.  I know all too well this process, yet it doesn’t get easier with experience.  Time doesn’t heal, but it does numb the pain a bit.

I can still remember the awful feelings I went through when we lost our baby way back in April of 2006.  I remember losing it one night when I was left alone for several hours and literally ripping the head off a teddy bear we had bought for the baby for whom my body became a tomb.  That loss – above all others I’ve experienced – was the hardest.  You see, that little baby’s heart was beating away just one day before my body failed him.  I was at the door of thirteen weeks – we were supposed to be safe.  I was so filled with rage and anger.  For months, and sometimes even now, there was nothing that soothed the raw pain that loss left me with.  It changed me permanently.

While my other losses have been no less significant, they have at least not been so physically traumatizing.  I’m older this time, eight years of distance has brought me more losses, two healthy children, and a bit of a better handle on my emotions.  I still feel sad, hurt, shocked, angry, and bitter.  Those are all normal reactions to the loss of a child at any stage.  I still get tired of people asking how I am, yet appreciating it at the same time.  I still hold most of my emotions in, with little outbursts when I feel as though I can’t hold it in anymore.  I cry in corners, behind closet doors as I prepare my children’s outfits for the day.  I won’t dare take down the list of baby names we were working on.  I’ll leave the positive pregnancy test on my sewing desk where they’ve sat the last couple of weeks.  Though most would feel it’s a reminder I shouldn’t be taunted by, it’s comforting to me.  Those things will be put away when I am ready, but not until.

Tears In My CoffeeMiscarriage and stillbirth are so often swept under a rug and I don’t agree with that.  I’m not going to apologize if my grief or open talk of my lost children makes you uncomfortable.  I am not sorry for acknowledging their existence and the pain that their loss has brought.  I want you to celebrate their little souls just as I do.  When I plant flowers this fall and spring, I’ll nourish the flowers and delight in growth because that life brings me hope.  The breeze, the raindrops, sand between my toes…  All these little pieces of nature are little tiny fingertips upon the earth that I see my lost babies in.

I often watch the light dancing in my two little boys’ eyes.  Oh that light!!  I cannot tell you how much it calms and replenishes the broken pieces of my heart.  I see so much in that light.  I know what a big, huge role their lost siblings played in bringing them into my arms safely.  They have been blessed with such health and happy spirits.  They bring so much laughter and love to all those who know them.  It is no coincidence that these two little beings are embodiments of pure happiness.  While they carry their own energetic spirits, they carry their siblings too.  So much life in such little bodies – it is a blessing to witness.

I have no idea what the future holds for myself or my family.  We may remain as four, I might not find the courage to face pregnancy again.  Even if I do, I know I am not guaranteed another child.  We may have another child brought into our lives by other means, the future isn’t entirely our’s to write.  What I do know is that I am allowing myself to feel all that life has given me.  I am not forgetting my lost babies anymore than I’ll ever forget my living babies.  I will celebrate the souls brought into my life, even if it was ever so briefly.

Even if you never experience a loss yourself (and I pray you don’t), don’t judge those who do.  Don’t tell us it happens for a reason – it isn’t comforting.  Don’t tell us it’s time we move on and let it all be.  Just listen to what we do and don’t say.  Don’t comment on our bloodshot eyes and sallow faces.   We already know how much our makeup isn’t hiding.  Just love us, even when we’re bitter and mean. Hug us even when our shoulders are stiff and our bodies cold and unmoved. Make us laugh.  We don’t want pity, we have enough of that on our own.  Treat us like a normal person, don’t try to shield us from all things baby or pregnancy.  Sometimes, we need a little hope and we’ll find it in the oddest of places.

Just accept that our babies brought us joy and that their loss brought us pain…  We’ll pull ourselves out of our pity and pain in our own time.  Until then, we just need support to grieve in our own way.