What nobody tells you about grief
Grief is one of the most difficult emotions one has to deal with. I lost my mum 16 years ago and I still remember how devastating this emotion was and the long lasting effect that it had in my life.
So when I suffered the devastating loss of my little one I thought I was ready for what it was coming, but the truth is we never are ready for this type of losses, no matter how hard we try.
One thing I had on my side was age as I was older and in theory, wiser. But I keep encountering new situations that teach me just how humble one should be about life in general. Just as easy as something comes, it can also be taken away.
The Invisible grief
My experience was becoming pregnant after being told by several doctors that it was impossible that I could have children naturally. What do you know, right? It was three months of pure bliss and constant nausea , but it was all taken with gratitude as I couldn’t believe that I was so lucky. And then just when we were picking prams and baby names, the dream faded away and before I knew it, I had to face yet again another loss, but this time it was a loss nobody prepares you to deal with.
Ireland is a funny place for these type of situations. Religion is present all the time, god is mentioned and religious blessings exchanged in hospitals by nurses and midwifes. It is assumed that you are religious and particularly catholic. When I received the devastating news, I remember the oddity of what the midwife said to me: ‘It is very sad my dear, but now we can take care of you’, I remember how strange I felt when I heard that. Clearly before I lost my little one I was not number one priority for them. You become second best as the main priority it’s your baby. In that one little sentence I understood in my heart all the protests by women, and how they reported feeling like ‘ovens’ and nothing else. In Spain, they care for the babies but they care equally for the mother. In Ireland,the weight of religion and the lack of resources, funding and consultants makes them work only in ’emergency mode’ so to speak and prevention is unfortunately never part of the equation as it can’t be afforded.
So when grief came back into my life once again, I honestly was not ready for its harmful effects. When you lose a baby, it feels like you are dealing with invisible grief. Many people do not say anything about the pregnancy before three months have passed and we decided to only tell to close friends and family members. Well, this is the most insane thing that people do ever. You are supposed to keep quiet , so in case you suffer a loss, you keep it for yourself and you can forget about it (again the theory).This in theory will help to minimise your suffering. Maybe this works for some people but for us this was utterly crazy. Who wants to grief quietly? Who wants to see family members or friends and have to smile when you don’t feel like doing so? The result of this non-sense was me not contacting anybody or talking to anybody for a few months. On the contrary, it felt right when the people that actually knew said they were sorry for our loss. At least they were acknowledging our grief. And that, mattered to us.
What I have learned from this grief?
1.- That I am not a smiley emoticon. I am human and sometimes I suffer loss and I grief. It may not be pretty and it might make others feel uncomfortable. But that is OK.
We should all deal with our own emotions.My lesson here is that I don’t think women should keep quiet by default and suffer in silence if they lose their babies. That is the most insane thing I had to experience to date. I had friends and family members coming forward and confessing a loss on their own they never talked about until then, while they assured me they knew what I was going through. My heart felt terribly sad for them having to suffer all that grief in silence while telling everybody all was good and never mentioning it again to a single soul? I understand that every situation and person is different so it may work for some women, but I learned the hard way it didn’t work for me.
2.-You learn who your friends are and the people you can count with.
Grief and problems in life are like a wake up call for most of us. You quickly learn who is there to support you and who couldn’t care less. Now that the pain is healing, I forgive those who could not care a bit but the reality is: these people are out of my books. We must move forward surrounded by those who love us, not by those who couldn’t care less. At the end of the day it is about self-love and self-respect.
3.- As your energy is limited, you will find yourself separating the wheat from the chaff.
This will apply to jobs, people, hobbies , etc.. Grief takes a lot of energy and we naturally become more economical with the way we spend our energy in our daily life. The tolerance for annoying, rude or selfish people, jobs and situations is so low that my life now is way healthier and positive than it was ever before. It is funny how clearly you can see things when you are at your lowest and how much you can improve your life from then on.
How others deal with your grief?
Most people have the most honourable intentions when approaching people in grief but this emotion is a tricky one and it is often hard to find the words that will help. The truth is that there are no words that could help really. This kind of grief is difficult for people to deal with as we don’t all experience it in the same way. There are many women out there that just want to forget it ever happened. In my case, it was not like that. I needed people to acknowledge my loss, period. I most definitely did not want to forget about my little one.
What to say:
- I am sorry for your loss
- My deepest sympathy , condolences.
- Your baby will be in our thoughts. S/he will be remembered.
What not to say:
- Well, at least it was not a full term baby. / Don’t worry, you will have another one soon.
People experience this in different ways, so these answers may be comforting for some people. But it wasn’t the case for me as the difficulty for me was to mourn the loss of this particular baby that will always be irreplaceable for me. Some pet owners experience the same when their cat dies, and someone tells them, well, get another cat! Yep, it will not be the same either.
I realised that people have nice intentions and this is not an easy one to deal with, for us or for the people around us. What I am grateful for was the interest, the support and the kind, really kind words of my friends and family. Even when we didn’t have the strength to answer, we felt their love and their support and it helped us, still does, immensely.
Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any comments below.