What I Didn’t Understand About The Stages Of Grief — Until I Was In Them

five-stages-of-grief

Trigger warning: child loss

My daughter died from SIDS when I was 22 years old. My life was just beginning, the best was supposedly yet to come, and I was hit with a head-on collision of shattered grief. Other than my grandma’s passing ten years prior, I’d never felt grief. So I definitely never thought about the stages that are known to go along with it.

The stages I refer to are known as the five stages of grief, and they go like this:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

For me, there was no order, only chaos.

So I started to call bullshit on this numerical way to grieve. After all, how could grief be anything like the steps of an AA meeting? When I started to write this article, I had half a mind to title it, “I’m Calling Bullshit On The Five Stages Of Grief.” But in all reality, I, and so many others, have never truly understood these five stages pertaining to the whirlwind of emotions felt in grief.

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Jessica Zimmerman, LMHC — founder of Willow Tree Counseling, who specializes in trauma, attachment and loss — told Scary Mommy, “I think the most common misconception about the five stages [of grief] is that they are always experienced in that order.”

Although it’s common for people to experience their grief in that order, based on an overall timeline of when someone first hears the news of loss, they are not always experienced in this order. Not every person is alike; therefore, not everyone’s path through mourning will be alike.

Two years deep in the throes of grief, and I’m learning that the five stages of grief are not linear like so many of us like to believe. When my daughter first died, I felt shock. I felt anger, depression, denial and bargaining (anything but acceptance) all at the same time.

Not to mention, I wished a lot of wishes which I knew would never come to pass:

I wish it were me. I wish I would’ve known. I wish I could’ve stopped this. I literally wish anybody else in this world would have died in place of one of my children. 

Immediately following the death of my daughter, other grieving parents used to check in on me from time to time to see how I was doing. They’d ask if I’d felt like I’d hit “this stage” or “that stage” in my grief, and I remember feeling like I was just playing along. Like I was doing my best just to guess where my grief was falling on that scale. But I never felt my grief in a numerological order.

To me, it felt like I was in limbo.

Zimmerman says that the “limbo” feeling might actually be a masked stage of grief — denial.

“I think if someone is feeling in limbo they are probably working very hard to avoid and deny their grief. The first stage is denial — which could be part of what’s happening,” says Zimmerman. “But avoidance is an even bigger concern and much more common. Avoidance is avoiding feelings, avoiding the topic, the discussion, the pain, the hurt and the memories. Disconnecting from the experience and feelings. Unresolved grief, or delayed grieving can cause addictions, severe anxiety, depression, and attribute to many complicated health issues (GI issues, migraines, auto immune disorders, etc.). The more traumatic the loss, the more common it is for people to avoid grieving, and disconnecting to the feelings and experience.”

Although I never thought of myself as avoiding my grief, I very well could have been. After all, I was a mess. The death of a child brought on more emotions than I’d ever felt, and this was undiscovered territory.

Now that I’ve grown and learned to become in tune with my own grief, I know that I will never truly stop grieving. I’ve grown to accept the loss of my daughter, but that does not mean my love has stopped and I can put a crashing halt to my grief. Just because I may have completed, lived through, or graduated the five stages of grief, does not mean that I won’t keep revisiting them throughout the rest of my life.

“Acceptance is really about the brain and body accepting that you’ve lost something, accepting that life as you know it is never going be the same. It’s not accepting the loss, death or pain as ‘okay,’ or not feeling pain any longer. Triggers throughout life will cause someone to have a grief spurt,” Zimmerman tells Scary Mommy.

“However, when someone has done the work, allowed themselves to feel the deep and paralyzing pain, and had compassion for themselves through this process and allowed time and space to just be sad — typically future ‘grief spurts’ are less intense, less frequent, and less paralyzing as time goes on.”

I can relate to this. I’d like to say that as time has pressed forward, my “grief spurts” have become far and few between. But still, when someone shares my daughter’s name, or I’m hit with that first, warm and fresh summer breeze, I’m taken back. My “grief spurts” surface, and I am somewhere in the middle of the five stages of grief.

Sometimes, I’m mad as hell. I’m so mad that it feels like I can tangibly touch the red that I almost visibly see. Other days, I accept her death for what it is. And on the worst of days, I bargain deals within myself that could never come to pass.

And today, if I’m being truthful, I guess I’m a little bit depressed about it all.

I believe that I will always revisit the five stages of grief. I believe that they are a platform of emotions from which the many emotions of grief will always bounce off of. Looking back, I believe that my initial feeling of shock was in fact denial. I believe that the many “I wishes” were my form of bargaining with a different future from what really unfolded.

“I believe that everyone experiences the five stages of grief but not always in that particular order. The process is not linear — it does not go from stage ‘one’ to stage ‘two’ etc. You can start in stage three, then jump to one and then to five. Also, just because you experience once stage doesn’t mean you will never experience it again,” Zimmerman tells Scary Mommy.

“Grief is messy, it’s different for each person,” Zimmerman says. “There is no right or wrong way to grieve.”

If you or a loved one has suffered the loss of a child, check out our Scary Mommy Child Loss Page for resources, connections, financial aid services and more. 

 

The post What I Didn’t Understand About The Stages Of Grief — Until I Was In Them appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My Child Was Stillborn, And I Will Never Be The Same

Trigger warning: child loss

On June 1, my son Orion David was born. His heart had stopped two days earlier. I was 34 weeks pregnant. The details of those few days will forever be ingrained into my brain, but I’ll start more at the beginning of his life…

This was the second baby for my husband and me. We were so excited, had planned it perfectly, and I became pregnant immediately. We were elated. Time went by quickly as I chased around our 4-year-old son, and soon I found out we would be having another little boy to chase.

My pregnancy was completely normal. I felt pretty much the same as I did with our first son, but Orion had his own special energy and routine. He had certain times he moved every day and certain times he slept. I felt his patterns and had them memorized. Every night after dinner he would go wild. Spinning, kicking, punching. I imagined he was laughing at the acrobatics he could perform as his brother, father, and I would stare at my ever-moving belly.

So at 34 weeks I laid down one night and realized he wasn’t moving like usual, or even at all. I poked at my belly, saying, “C’mon lazy bones.” Curious that his normal routine wasn’t happening, I woke up the next day in a panic, realizing he wasn’t waking up with me.

I called my OB right away, and he asked me to come in. “No big deal,” he said, “Let’s just do a nonstress test.”

I calmly went into the office. I was alone — I told my husband I was probably worried over nothing.  I laughed with the nurse who made jokes about him being in a silly position when she couldn’t find him. I heard the whispers from the hall before the doctor came in and started the ultrasound. I stared helplessly at the screen, knowing even before he told me. My baby’s heart had stopped.

My doctor took a deep breath and said the phrase you’ve all heard or said, “I’m so sorry.” I felt myself shatter right there in his office, and for the next however many minutes, he held me as I sobbed. In those moments, I was not a patient and he wasn’t a doctor — we were both just humans. I will always be grateful to him for that.

My husband met me at the hospital. He needed to see the ultrasound to confirm, whereas I couldn’t watch it. We squeezed hands in silence as they checked us into the room of the maternity ward where sadness happens. Where death is brought into the world rather than life. Where a white rose is hung ever so carefully on the door to warn everyone of the room’s contents. The room that’s just far enough away from all the happy, smiling, ecstatic parents and new baby cries.

We were told, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We were handed pamphlets and folders. This was the first time I saw or heard that word — stillbirth.

The nurses were patient and kind. They were not patronizing, and they followed my lead for how I wanted to be treated. These nurses sat and held my hand when my husband left the room so I wouldn’t be alone. They let me tell jokes, they let me scream, they let me cry. They cleaned up my face, my vomit, my blood. They were everything for me.

There were three of them. One nurse when we checked in, one through the night who was particularly nice about my morphine (don’t worry, doctor’s orders), and one who dealt with the brunt of my worst the next day when my son was born.

I was in labor 18 hours. 18 hours to meet my beautiful son, Orion.

It is in a moment like that, when your child is being born still, that you realize how profound and, yes, deafening, silence can really be. As I felt him leave my body, that is what I heard. Silence. Complete silence.

We had gone from the chaos of my screaming, the nurses and my doctor coaching me, my husband comforting me to… silence. My nurse told me she would clean Orion up and put a blanket around him and bring him to me. My doctor kissed my forehead and told me he was beautiful, and to just try to breath. They warned me that my son would have “some sunburn spots” as they put it, and that he would look slightly discolored. But he had beautiful curly hair, and chubby cheeks.

Every word was spoken in a loving way. In a human way. The nurse brought him in to me and I admit, I was terrified. She said take as much time as you need. She placed him in my arms and suddenly the only people in the room were me, my husband, and Orion. I’m not sure how much time passed. It could have been seconds, or hours, but it was most certainly not enough. Not when I had planned on a lifetime.

As I held him, his nose started bleeding. I did not know this could happen, and I panicked. I called in my nurse. She brought Orion and my husband into the next door room. She explained what a cuddle cot was and said we could visit with him until we were ready to go. My doctor said I could be discharged around 6 hours after birth. We spent as much time with him as we could. We kissed him everywhere, memorized his perfect features, told him about his family, and told him how loved he would always be. I  forced myself to leave. To leave him without him.

It had been exactly 48 hours since I realized he wasn’t kicking me.

There is a quote about being a bereaved parent. It says, “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear was that my child died. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to live every day since that moment.” That is beyond true. While the first month was torture, I have now just hit the three-month mark since my son was born, and I have become a different version of the woman I once was. I will now always be a little bit sad. I will always be more worried, more cautious.

I will have a hard time every holiday, and especially every June 1st as we celebrate my son, Orion. I will be happy and enjoy my life — but something, someone, will always be missing. I will need a huge amount of support and love. And I will need constant reassurance.

I make no apologies for this version of myself. It is who I need to be to move forward, and how I am healing myself. What happened to me makes some people uncomfortable and sad. I have become “the woman with the dead baby” — “marvel at how she talks and walks just like us.”

And yes, you should marvel — because I am strong. I love fiercely. I will not let my grief for my son consume me but, instead, I will let my love for him do it. I will speak about and for Orion. I am his voice now. I am surviving every parent’s nightmare.

So I just want to say to you, nurses, doctors, social workers…  you become part of these worst nightmares, and I’m sure you are just as sorry for that fact as we are. It requires incredible courage to walk into those rooms with white roses on the door, to have patience and empathy for the mom screaming at you when she really wants to scream at God, and you squeeze her hand and tell her that her child is beautiful. The gravity of what you do should not be taken lightly. And luckily, most of the time it isn’t. I cannot begin to fathom how difficult it is for you to be a part of this for us, to guide us through.

I know that you have to keep your work and your life separate. That you can’t take work home with you, that you can’t carry home the baggage of our losses — and how could you? But if you could just take home and carry one thing for me and for my son Orion, it would be compassion and love. It would be to see us mothers for our strength and our children for their beauty.

Please continue to be patient and kind. Please walk with us through the worst day of our lives. And please, welcome us back with reassurance and open arms if we do return from the storm to have our beautiful rainbows. We need you guiding us, every step of the way.

The post My Child Was Stillborn, And I Will Never Be The Same appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Please Let Grieving Parents Grieve

My nephew Grant passed away last year. He was only a few days old and it shook our entire family. It is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure, and I wasn’t even his mother. I was just his aunt.

I prayed for him constantly. I prayed for my sister-in-law and her husband constantly. I hoped that magically everything would be okay. I still remember receiving the message that they got the news right before Christmas about the pregnancy and they were trying to process it all. I remember crying immediately. I looked up flights. I contemplated spending several thousand dollars just to be with her for 24 hours so she would have someone to lean on because her husband was hurting and his world was shaken just as much as hers was.

When they went in to deliver the baby, I was a nervous ball of energy the entire time. I was thousands of miles away, wondering if I made the right decision by not flying down for the birth. I was questioning myself. I was hoping and praying for them. It was rocky as to whether or not he was even going to live through the delivery, but by some miracle, he did.

He was the smallest baby to be born alive at that hospital, and I was the happiest aunt in the world to know he made it. A few days passed and he was doing alright, better than expected in many ways, so I flew down to be with my sister-in-law.

Having had a NICU baby, we immediately starting discussing what that life was like with cautious optimism. I spent all the time up there with her or at her house with her and my brother-in-law and nephew. I flew down for the sole purpose of being there for them and doing anything I could to make life easier, but I was only there for a few days before things started to turn the opposite direction.

Being at the hospital, I was around when the doctors would talk and sometimes they’d openly just speak in front of me and it didn’t seem like an issue. Other times I wished they weren’t blocking the door to the small hospital room so I could dart out and give all of them some privacy. I wanted to be invisible and was only there to support them in what they needed and not encroach on their privacy during this delicate time in their lives.

They would get bad news and my sister-in-law’s face would fall and she would cry. Her husband was amazing during all of this, trying to comfort her and make her feel better while carrying this on his own shoulders as well. I was there playing my supporting role in case their grief and fear got too strong that they couldn’t carry it alone. It was a loss for me, absolutely, but it was a loss of a much higher degree for them.

I did everything in my power not to be sad in front of them. They would get news. They would tell me about the news. I would act strong in front of them and go bawl my eyeballs out in the bathroom until someone knocked and I felt awkward and then I would go back in there and put on a brave face and see what they needed or just sit with them in silence.

So often it seems like the people closest to the center of the grief are the ones doing the comforting and that’s what I didn’t want to happen. Grieving parents need to be able to grieve. The loss is not greater than for those individuals who are at the center of it all. It robs them of an opportunity to take care of themselves in a time when that’s all they should be focusing on and yet it happens so often.

It would not have been fair for me to break down in front of them because my sister-in-law, being the caring person that she was, would’ve immediately tried to make me feel better and that wasn’t her job. I found myself trying to keep this protective barrier around them, not wanting anyone to touch them or hurt them or force them to be strong for anyone else when they were already trying to be strong for each other and their son. I wanted to be armor for them in this situation.

I feel this sense of protection around them even now. My little nephew Grant was taken from all of us too soon, but his parents were robbed of a lifetime with their child. Their grief doesn’t go away ever. They carry it with them always despite this expectation that after all is said and done and the proverbial dust has settled, they should just be over it. They’re not. Grieving parents grieve for a lifetime and we should expect nothing else from them. Instead, our support for them should branch much farther than just the week the loss occurs.

So say his/her name. Don’t cringe when they bring their sweet child up. Remember and let them know you do. Feel for them and be there. Let them grieve, but don’t make them do it alone.

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To The Parents Of The Child Who Should Be Starting Kindergarten

Summer is winding down and I’m gearing up for a new school year. Yesterday, I sat down to finish my mailing for my new kindergarten students. I worked my way through the list, personalizing each letter with my student’s name (I feel like it adds a little extra love when you put pen to paper for someone) and daydreaming about the year ahead.

Then, I thought of them; the children who should be coming to kindergarten. I imagined the families who should be receiving letters from new teachers, but instead, they are receiving yet another dose of heartbreak at the milestone their child did not reach.

So, I have decided that, for this year, they can join my classroom. I will be their teacher. Here is their welcome letter.

Rachel Whalen

Dear ______________,

Welcome to Kindergarten! My name is Mrs. Whalen and I will be your teacher. I am looking forward to holding space for you in my classroom this year. Even though you can’t physically attend, I will feel your presence in my classroom every day.

Kindergarten is an exciting place and how I wish you could experience it with me! I want to teach you all about letters, the sounds they make, and how to make words. I wish you could be next to me as we learn lots about numbers, plants, and animals. I’ll be thinking of you when we learn about life cycles and watch as our classroom caterpillars become beautiful butterflies. I just know you would have so much fun studying the work of famous artists, making scientific discoveries, and learning so many other wonderful things.

I know how much your families wish you were here to share the joys of Kindergarten with them. They want to walk you to your new classroom, help you hang up your backpack, and hear all about your day. Please know that no matter how full our classroom is, you will always be missed.

So, on the first day of school, please make sure you send a little extra love to the ones who are missing you. They will be doing the same for you. I am so honored to have you as part of my classroom and to hold space for you in what should be your year in Kindergarten.

Love, Mrs. Whalen

If you are missing your kindergarten student this year, you can take part in the KinderCares program offered by Scared Sidless.

Find more information here: https://www.scaredsidless.com/initiatives 

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Fathers Need To Grieve Too

Trigger warning: child loss

Losing a child is the most unimaginable thing that can happen to parents. I know expressing that heartbreak can be even harder for the father. Crying over the loss of my daughter is a normal part of the grieving process if you are a mother. People expect to see a mother sobbing over losing a child.

However, in our society, there has always been a ridiculous notion that has been instilled into us since we were little that boys shouldn’t cry. A little boy falls down and starts to cry, and someone was there to say, “Suck it up. You need to toughen up.” Because of that stigma, men may feel the need to suck up their feelings of anguish and grief. They don’t feel they can openly cry in front of others. They bury that grief so deeply they are almost numb on the inside.

After our daughter passed away, my husband immersed himself into keeping busy. He would work, and then he would be in the yard working, or in the basement working on his side business. A lot of the time even in order to do that, he would have to be drinking. At least by doing that, it would numb that pain if only for a short time. It didn’t matter how hard he tried to stay busy, or how much he drank, that pain will never go away. Not in days, months, or years. It is a forever heartbreak.

It was Mother’s Day, and my husband and I were sitting on our back deck talking. I was really missing my girl more than normal that day. We started talking about life, and how much we miss our daughter.  My husband then said, “I still don’t think I’ve accepted that she isn’t coming back.” He started to cry.

Immediately, he started to wipe his tears, and I could see and feel that he was inwardly struggling — wanting to get the feelings out and share but at the same time feeling he should keep it in. It made me sad for him and for all the fathers who feel like they can’t freely and openly express their grief and unbearable heartache. They are screaming on the inside and feel they can’t express those feelings of utter devastation that they are carrying, bottled up inside of them.

One of my vices, so to speak, is to write. I can sit down at my computer and pound on the keys and spill my soul. My husband and so many other fathers, are like a tea kettle, who can’t blow the steam that needs to escape.

There is also the ignorant misconception that after a few months or a year we should have moved on. We should be over it. To those that have never experienced this degree of devastation, they will never understand. This soul-breaking loss is utterly devastating. He lost his little girl!

Daddy’s girl. The bond they had was indescribable. Their bond was mesmerizing. Our daughter suffered a severe brain injury at birth. Complications arose, I was rushed into emergency surgery, and he was left there alone, to imagine the worst. He watched them paddle and bag his baby girl for 15 minutes. He was told she wasn’t going to make it. He was the one who had to tell me when I woke from anesthesia.

From second one, the two of them had a bond that was so strong. It was so pure and perfect. Daddy’s girl underwent too many surgeries to count over the years. Daddy was always the one who got the smiles. His unconditional love, compassion, and wild sense of humor was what carried our family through over all the years of medical scares, sleepless nights, and uncertainty. He carried all my worries and burdens on his shoulders. He always kept us grounded. He never once complained.

Our motto was: “Our kids didn’t ask to be brought into this world, we chose that for them. So it is up to us, no matter what the circumstances they are facing, to ensure they have the best life possible.”

For 30 years, he has done just that. He is my best friend, the love of my life, the man I dreamed of as a little girl. I love him with all that I am. I felt compelled to let all the dads who are grieving know you are not alone. You have a brotherhood of grieving dads, who are trying to navigate this heartbreaking journey. Waking up every day, putting on the mask of strength but silently screaming inside.

For all the other fathers,  please say a prayer for the dads out there who are missing a child. Send a text, email, or a phone call and let them know you are thinking of them. My husband is counting his blessings. He has two amazing sons, a beautiful granddaughter to celebrate holidays with, but there is always that place in his soul that will forever be broken and missing.

A part of his soul was ripped away on that horrible August day. Not days, nor months, nor years will take it away. A part of him will forever be screaming silently.

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This Is The Biggest Regret Of My Life

Trigger warning: stillbirth, child loss

The alarms were sounding as doctors and nurses rushed into my hospital room. The flurry of activity was a blur as the sharp pain increased. I felt my face twist with panic as sobs of heartache consumed me. I was in labor far too early, and there was nothing I could do about it. What happened in the minutes after delivering my first triplet is engraved in my mind for eternity. It’s a moment I would give anything to change, a memory that still haunts me to this day. It’s the biggest regret of my life and something that kept me up late at night for years.

It’s supposed to be a special day as you watch the miracle of life unfold in front of you. But for me, the day I gave birth to my triplets is riddled with pain, a memory that seems so distant yet feels like just yesterday. As I lay on bed rest at 22 weeks gestation, I knew something felt off. While I hoped it was just my babies acting up, my instincts told me otherwise. Within moments, the nurse confirmed my fear, contractions had started and my triplets would be arriving more than 17 weeks premature.

I was physically nauseous; my world was caving in. The bright hospital lights blinded me as my husband squeezed my hand. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had prayed for a miracle, and my body had held on week after week. I just needed a few more days; that extra time would give my triplets a fighting chance at life. But there we were, on the edge of viability, and nobody expected my babies to survive.

As the room crowded with our medical team, my doctor told me it was time. “Baby A” arrived in the early morning on June 23, 2013, letting out a tiny squeak and a forceful kick. She was whisked away to an incubator, the neonatologist quickly working to save her. But within minutes, our hopes and dreams were shattered. Our baby girl would not survive.

A look of sadness and concern was visible in the doctor’s eyes as he broke the news to us. Our daughter’s lungs were too weak, there was nothing they could do. He asked me if I would like to hold my child, but instead of reaching out to my baby girl, I burst into tears and looked away. I shook my head no, too ashamed to even look at this beautiful child of mine.

I didn’t want to hold my daughter. Her limited time here on earth was quickly ticking away, yet I was wracked with guilt as I felt my body failing me. The doctor handed our baby to my husband, who gently rocked her as he stood next to my hospital bed. My husband was the pillar of strength, his fatherly instinct taking over as he stared at our child, her tiny features absolutely perfect even though she only weighed one pound.

Eventually, my own mother urged me to hold my child and she quietly placed her into my arms. As I looked at my perfect little angel, I couldn’t hold back the tears. The initial shock gave way to an immense feeling of pride mixed with unbearable pain. My breathing child would slowly slip away, doctors calling her time of death just two hours after being born.

It’s a day I’ll never forget, but the day my triplets were born will always be tarnished with grief. For many months, I played back every moment of that day. I often found myself sobbing in the middle of the night, the guilt and heartache keeping me awake. There were days I felt like a monster. What kind of mother wouldn’t want to hold her own child? I was disgusted and ashamed of myself as I thought back to the moment I looked away from my dying child. And then were days overpowered with guilt. I felt like I failed my gravely ill child when she needed me the most.

You never get over the loss of a child, but you find a way to move forward. As the months passed by, my husband and I settled into our new normal. We had one lone surviving triplet and we vowed to be strong for her. We didn’t want to live our lives dwelling on what could have been, and I eventually realized I needed to let go of the guilt and regret.

As the years pass by, the guilt has faded and the grief has changed. My triplets gave me new purpose in life, showing me the importance of living each day to the fullest. And as I think back to that moment when I was ashamed to hold my baby, I no longer punish myself with guilt or regret. I was in shock as my life changed in an instant, and I know deep in my heart that all three of my babies felt loved. That love began the moment we found out we were pregnant, and it’s something that will carry on forever. Two of our children may no longer be here, but I have no doubt that they’re smiling as they watch us from Heaven. I am lucky to be their mother and I know all three of my children are proud to call me “mom.”

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My Partner’s Lack Of Grief Is Killing Me

There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe what it is to watch the love of your life helplessly sob over the loss of your child.

If I told you my heart was split in two, it would feel cliché. And if I said I was devastated, wouldn’t that be all too obvious?

Not only did my hurt run deep for myself, but also for my strong and loving partner, who was now short one of his daddy’s girls.

Since he was built with an “I can fix it” attitude, my soul fell to ash as we bore a loss that could never be fixed.

Despite our heartache, he was phenomenal to me, and I to him, in the immediate days following her passing. We mourned our incredibly heartbreaking loss as a team, and he continued to place my needs far above his own, as he has done so familiarly in past situations.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t but days after she was laid to rest that his persona portrayed someone quite different than the heartfelt man I’ve always known.

What I now saw was an afflicted version of himself. One who buried his daughter and, in return, buried the memory of her as well. Because if he speaks her name, it brings pain of an awful-sort.

Without delay, he buried himself in 17-hour work shifts. All the while, I was at home adjusting to my new role as a mom of three, but only a parent to two. My arms ached to hold the one I lost, and I longed for a partnership within my grief, that he wanted no contribution in.

My voice felt useless and my first, desperate coping mechanism came in the form of a recent Xanax prescription. There were days that I truly needed those pills, and then there were days I merely wanted them.

It wasn’t fair to our kids, and I thank God everyday for pulling me out of that foreseeable mess. But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t crave one of those blue pills every time I’m defeated with one of his many, “stop talking about her” snarls.

Where we stand within our grief, almost two years later, hasn’t changed much. He doesn’t say her name, and getting him to acknowledge her is like pulling teeth.

Just to clarify how this sits with my soul, it feels like rejection in the cruelest form. Because when my grief comes in waves and I’m succumbed to the violent hurling of my own memories, I only want his reassuring tone and strong arms to lavish me in comfort.

But it seems right to say, he doesn’t have any comfort left in him to give when it pertains to this matter. I’m shut down and closed off time after time again — and it kills me a little more each time.

Coupled with his block-out technique, marches an incredibly pissed-off, blind rage anytime the slightest inkling of her memory is shared within his range of hearing. And the end result usually bears a striking resemblance to the foul echoes of a Jerry Springer episode.

I hope it goes without saying that I understand where his aggression’s ugly roots were first formed — I survived the horrible-awful too.

But why should the burden of her short-lived life create an interference with her memory living on through us?

Because to not remember her, in life or in death, feels like a dishonor to such an honorable little girl.

After all, isn’t this the price we pay for possessing a love so deep?

To me, she is worth every momentary second of my pain.

Even if I knew the inevitable outcome her short life would entail, before conception — I wouldn’t change a thing. I would love her and cherish her for the time she was here, and I would love her and cherish her memory for far after she was gone.

This sorrow, inner affliction, and heartache carry the only newness I will ever feel from her, and these emotions are the only lasting things I have left of her.

So I will continue to feel every bump, swerve, crash and fall in this roller coaster ride called grief, with or without him.

And my prayer is to see a day where her name won’t bring him the saddest misery. But until then, I hope that the realness of her loss creeps up on him kindly.

For if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that grief is a walk alone. I could be surrounded by a million versions of my partner and me, and I would still feel like I was wandering aimlessly in a maze.

Whenever he is ready, I am here. And I like to think that maybe, just maybe, that’s the reason for his blocked out emotions — so, in due time, I can help him as he has always helped me.

The post My Partner’s Lack Of Grief Is Killing Me appeared first on Scary Mommy.

What I Want To Say To The Woman Who Minimized The Loss Of My Baby

Trigger warning: child loss, miscarriage

You are absolutely correct. I don’t know what it’s like to have a full-term newborn baby die in my arms, but I can imagine the trauma and devastation you experienced as you watched your baby take his last breath. I really can. And I am so very sorry that you have been left to live life without your child.

My heart breaks right along with yours because I know the crushing heartache of losing a baby. But I need to be very clear about something.

Your full-term loss in no way diminishes my 20-week loss. Or my six-week loss for that matter. Your loss looks different, sure. And your grief probably does too. But I am just as much a mother to my babies as you are to yours.

I’m not sure why you feel the need to compare or dismiss my grief. Do the differences in our experiences really outweigh the similarities? We both loved our babies. And we both left the hospital without them. Doesn’t that leave us with enough in common to support one another’s grief instead of having to defend it?

You discouraged me from discussing my babies, my grief. You stated that I was full of “crap,” because apparently, you believe that only full-term babies are worthy enough to be grieved. To be missed. You think that because your pregnancy lasted longer than mine, that somehow makes the loss of my baby insignificant.

But I need you to remember that the pink lines on those pregnancy tests confirmed the validity of my babies’ lives. The appearance of those two pink lines proved my role as their mother, just as they did for you. I had made plans to spend a lifetime with my babies, to watch them grow up, to become a grandmother to their children. And I am guessing that you did too.

You said my experiences were “nothing” like yours. And maybe you were right. My early loss did not leave me with any evidence of the life that had been. And my later loss did not allow me to see my baby take a breath. But while our experiences were different, they both had the same ending. With babies who never made it home.

You went on to tell me that I have “no clue” what it feels like to lose a child. But you couldn’t be more wrong.

I know exactly what it feels like for I too have held a dead baby in my arms. A baby whose tiny kicks left me feeling giddy, for a short time anyway. A baby who may have been smaller than yours, but was complete with 10 fingers and 10 toes. A baby who had two eyes and his sister’s nose. A baby whose heart beat wildly until just before birth. A baby who disappeared into the arms of a nurse, never to be seen again.

I bled for weeks. My breasts filled with milk. My baby belly remained. Each of these a reminder of what I should have had, but didn’t. And I am betting I can say the same for you.

And while my early loss did not produce the same evidence of life and death, I knew that my baby had existed and at the same time knew that the life I had imagined would never be.

My response to each of my losses was similar. I sobbed. I hid in bed. And I too, for awhile, became lifeless. However, my grief looked different after each loss because each one possessed distinct characteristics. But different does not mean less significant.

And just like the differences between my losses, your experience was different too. But there is no need to compare. I have not experienced your grief and you have not experienced mine. However, we can acknowledge that we both have a reason to grieve.

I have great compassion for you as I can only assume that you are wading through the deepest waters of grief. Raw grief that can lead to the belief that your suffering is greater than the suffering of anyone else. And that’s okay. I’ve been there too.

So I will mourn your baby with you, and I will listen when your grief needs an outlet. But I will never stop talking about my babies who are gone. And I will never be ashamed to mourn them. Because they were babies, just like yours.

40 Things That Are Really Hard After Losing A Baby

No matter how you’ve lost them, losing a baby sucks.  It really does. 

Here’s what else has the potential to suck after losing a baby.

1. Baby shower invites.

2. Social media.

3. Playgrounds.

4. Small talk.

5. Commercials for pregnancy tests.

6. Crying in the grocery store.

7. Crying at work.

8. Crying in your car.

9. All the crying.

10. When friends text you.

11. When friends don’t text you.

12. Anxiety.

13. Hearing babies cry.

14. Hearing babies laugh.

15. Leaving the house.

16. Holidays.

17. Putting on “real” clothes.

18. When people say the wrong thing.

19. When people say nothing.

20. When people say the right thing but it upsets you anyway.

21. The baby department.

22. Doctor’s offices.

23. Pregnant women.

24. Pretending to be happy for pregnant women.

25. Feeling guilty about not being able to be happy for pregnant women.

26. When people ask how many kids you have.

27. When people assume you don’t want kids because you don’t have any.

28. Being a little bit sad even when you’re really happy.

29. Never really knowing what is going to upset you.

30. Getting your period.

31. The nightmares of what happened.

32. The daydreams of what could have been.

33. Sex.

34. Looking at yourself in the mirror.

35. Feeling unsure of where you fit in.

36. Visiting your baby’s headstone.

37. Storing your baby’s ashes.

38. Not having a headstone or ashes.

39. When you start to become accustomed to the heartache.

40. Spending your time reading lists like this.

What sucks for you after losing your baby?

There Is A Sad Rivalry In Child Loss, And This Is It

Throughout my adulthood, I’ve experienced two forms of death which have molded me into the woman I am today. As we started a family, an early miscarriage stood in our way, and my most recent and life-altering loss was that of my precious four-month-old daughter, Lainey.

Lainey drifted away in the silence of a muggy, Sunday morning. The pain associated with that day is still excruciatingly painful and is a cross I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Caila Smith

As the news of my daughter’s passing started to unfold, many mothers offered their support by sharing stories of their own loss. But while I was in the early stages of my grief, I didn’t think anyone’s story could compare unless they also had endured the loss of a child who had lived a life on Earth. I harshly thought to my then-self, “You don’t understand my pain because you didn’t know your baby. You didn’t rock her to sleep, see her smile, or hear her coos.”

And I think these moms felt those harbored feelings which I thought I had masked, because they would always degrade their own hurt by emphasizing, “I know my pain doesn’t compare to yours.”

But as time went on, it took a friend’s innocent (but hurtful) comment about a fellow, bereaved mother’s loss for me to understand just how mistaken I had been. This mom we spoke of seemed to wear the weight of her adult daughter’s loss just as heavily as the day she left this world. And my friend, exasperated, said to me, “But Caila, can you imagine losing your adult child?”

I thought to myself: “No! I can’t imagine what losing my adult child would be like, because my daughter didn’t get the chance to survive her childhood.”

I only know what it’s like to lose my infant daughter — and it hurts. It hurts like Hell. Suddenly, it felt as if a light bulb had switched inside my small-minded head. These fellow mothers, whom I had been internally ridiculing for their heart-felt stories knew my same pain. They longed for the little ones they lost just as badly as I did.

Their babies didn’t make it past birth, and I’d judged them for a hurt they never had the opportunity to experience. The sorrow they feel was and is no different than mine — we both share the same tear-stained pillows on our side of the bed.

Before we lost Lainey and my only experience with loss was my miscarriage, I was still heartbroken. I’ll never forget relaying my devastating news to family and friends, and how one of them required me to pick my jaw up off the floor. “Oh good,” she said. “I thought you were going to tell me you were miscarrying a real baby.”

But to me, I had miscarried a “real baby.” My baby was very real.

Her seemingly innocent remark made my pain feel minuscule, because there were plenty of other moms worse off than me — or so I had been so painfully reminded. And at that time, I didn’t have the experiences I have today. In that season of my life, I was fortunate to not have yet experienced a loss “greater” than a miscarriage.

Now I find myself asking, “Who gets to decide which life is worthy or unworthy to be grieved, based upon the number of days that life existed?” Because once we do that, we’ve labeled ourselves a judge — deciding which life has greater value over another.

Whether it be a life that knows nothing more than the sound of her mother’s heartbeat or a life that knows the chaos of this crazy world — each life is precious and worthy to be felt when lost.

To the moms who tried for years and years to get pregnant and couldn’t conceive — please know, you are rightful and more than justified to feel your pain as you grieve your loss. Just because the opportunity of losing a child was never presented does not mean you didn’t lose the hope and possibility of a life with the children you so desperately wanted.

It hurts me that I had to learn this lesson the way I did, but it leaves me with a powerful message to my fellow bereaved parents out there. Can we please stop the grief wars? Can we stop internally competing our loss with the thoughts of, “my pain is greater than your pain”? Because in the grand scheme of things, what two person’s pain is exactly the same? There is no rivalry in child loss — only hurting parents with broken hearts.

After all, there is no footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

Caila Smith