Trigger warning – I discuss the grief surrounding pregnancy and infant loss in this post.
It’s not just a day…Or a Month.
Grief is not just a one day occurrence. All of the emotions you feel when you’ve lost a baby don’t just wait to well up on the day we designate as “pregnancy and infant loss” awareness day. For most parents the grief is around all the time. It’s a constant. It’s the elephant in the room, the monkey on your shoulder, the inner voice you can’t shake. When you lose a baby your thoughts can go to a very VERY dark place. The loss of a child at any age is just not something anyone is prepared to deal with. There are very few places where it feels appropriate to discuss baby loss. So it’s a very lonely place to be. When pregnancy and infant loss awareness month does come along, it gives a voice to the voiceless and acknowledges the pain so many of us are too afraid to mention. What is that? Why can’t we talk about our grief? Mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings of the unborn or born too soon… why are we guilted into silence? I have some thoughts about this. Grief past a certain period is considered indulgent, selfish, insane, etc. There is a certain amount of time that people will allow you to grieve before they think you’re dragging it out or harping on the loss. It doesn’t seem to matter who you’ve lost, it could be a parent, grandparent, spouse, etc. People expect you to hit the amount of time allowed for grief and then get back to business as usual. But for anyone who has actually lost someone close to them, you know grief isn’t that simple. Grief is not linear, it knows no timeframe, and it doesn’t just turn off after 6 months, a year or 5 years. Grief hovers, it engulfs, it holds on. Grief is the natural response to loss. GRIEF IS THE NATURAL RESPONSE TO LOSS!
It may be a little intense to go all caps on the reader, but when I think about the devastation parents feel when they lose a baby I get intense. Have you ever felt your heart hurt? Have you ever questioned the meaning of life, of your life? Have you ever not wanted to get up and face the day, the world, and other people? Have you ever asked the Sun not to shine, or wished it would rain to resemble your mood? Have you ever cried so hard that your whole body shook until you passed out, only to wake up and want to cry more? THAT is what losing a baby feels like over and over and over and over with no end in sight. It’s a raw and guttural type of grief. It’s a turn your body inside out and expose the most vulnerable parts of yourself type of grief. It’s ugly and sad and frightening. I remember having dark thoughts about things I had never even thought about. Then I felt guilty for having those thoughts on top of feeling guilty for being so sad. I should be grateful I’m alive, right? I wake up every day and have beautiful children and a husband who loves me so I shouldn’t be sad, right? STOP! STOP right there. That is how the guilt starts. If you are busy feeling (or being made to feel) guilty you can’t be healing. You cannot get over something if you haven’t gone through it. I’ll say it one more time: YOU CANNOT GET OVER SOMETHING IF YOU HAVEN’T GONE THROUGH IT. There is no way OVER or AROUND grief. The only way to the other side is to go THROUGH the process of grieving. If you ignore your grief it will just explode one day. It’s easy for outsiders to tell you when you should feel better. However, the reality is that only YOU know when you truly feel better. You cannot rush it. You have to feel all the things. You have to feel all the feelings. You have to allow yourself to hurt if you are ever going to feel better.
Healing often comes from having support. When you have support in your journey through grief the process often doesn’t take as long. It’s when you constantly have to hide your emotions that your grief hangs out the longest. One of the things I have learned is that talking about how I’m feeling, how I’m REALLY feeling, helps me feel better. Am I over my losses? Nope. Do I go days and weeks without thinking about my angel babies? Nope. I’m still in it. It’s still a journey for me. What I do have is support all around me. I have fellow loss mamas, a supportive husband and even children who will listen to me talk about their angel siblings. I have an outlet for my grief. Sure, I still take time to myself and cry when I need to. But I’m not ashamed of my sadness. I’m not shamed by anyone for being sad or constantly talking about my losses. I’m lucky. I voice my grief out loud. Everyone doesn’t have that ability or outlet. Not everyone has the support of those around them to help them through their grief. But there are online groups, church and community center groups. Some hospitals have support groups. You can even form your own with other parents who have experience the loss of a child. If you need help please find it. You could be a prisoner of your own grief and that is no way to live. I’m sending love to all the grieving parents of angle babies and children this pregnancy and infant loss month… and always.
~Ambyr – A fellow loss mama