You were expecting something more festive, right? I know, jingle bells and all…but tragedies don’t wait for convenient dates on the calender. Grief and coping with loss can be even more difficult when everyone else is celebrating. I write this post hoping to help if you or someone you know is experiencing a loss or crisis. It can be so hard but you can survive. I know because I did…and this is part of my story.
Last year between Christmas and New Year my unborn baby died. For several days our world stood still while we waited to see a heartbeat. We had seen it just two weeks before- blinking like a Christmas tree light. And then nothing, only silent stillness on a sonogram. The last thing I remember before surgery was trying so hard not to sob and wondering what in the world had caused that sweet little light to quit blinking. While everyone else was celebrating my husband and I were grieving. For weeks after, we waited on negative test results to rule out a rare form of cancer. I want to share what I learned through the healing process. Maybe it can give you a little hope. Or at least I want to let you know that you’re not alone. Someone knows and cares that your heart is breaking. I do and that’s why I’m offering what worked for me. Use what you can and dismiss the rest.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Forget the stiff upper chin. You don’t get extra points for suffering in silence. It’s okay to show your hurt. Whether its death, divorce, or a pink slip: loss HURTS and pretending that it doesn’t helps no one. That being said, you can’t wallow in it forever either. We had a private memorial service at Church one week after my surgery. I let myself cry and mourn that week but had determined that once the service was over I WOULD BEGIN TO HEAL. It’s important to allow yourself to move forward.
- Hit the autopilot button. I had a hard time dealing with people’s (mostly stupid) statements so I just went into robot mode and mechanically replied “thank you for your prayers” to whatever comment was offered. I figure that most people don’t mean to be hurtful- they just truly don’t know what to say. Side note: if your loved one has a miscarriage DO NOT say things like “something was probably wrong with it anyway,” “at least you didn’t get to hold it,” or “did the doctor say what you did wrong?” Just say “I’m sorry for your loss. I’ll be praying for you.”
- Quit asking “why.” Talk about it with a friend or a professional but don’t get stuck in the “why” stage. There may be a medical reason that can physically help you; however, there is no emotionally acceptable or comforting answer. Bad things happen. Very bad things happen and trying to make sense out of the senseless only tortures you and prolongs your pain. I remember crying out to God. I didn’t get a reason why but I did get reminded that He knew exactly how it felt to lose a child.
- Resume your daily routines- whether you feel like it or not. Staying engaged is essential to keep short term grief from turning into long term depression. Shower, eat, work, exercise. Don’t give up on life just because you’re hurting. Don’t give up on God, either- even if your faith is wavering. Keep plugging along. Keep moving forward. Baby steps count! You’ll get a little bit stronger and better everyday. You will get better.
- Realize that you won’t ever get over it but you will move past it. There is a difference. It is vitally important to remember that while the feelings of loss and sadness will remain, the intense pain will one day subside. Don’t feel guilty for beginning to get better, for enjoying others, and life again, or for growing beyond the grief. Life never stands still. Everything changes: the good, the bad- it all moves along.
Every one’s process and time is unique. Don’t push yourself too fast or too hard. Don’t beat yourself up- for feeling bad or for feeling good. Emotions vary- it’s normal. If you think you are not getting better or if you ever think about harming yourself or others, PLEASE GET HELP. Your pastor, doctor, or mental health care center can direct you to available resources.
Over the past two years my husband and I have experienced several losses. I still cry a little sometimes. I am still healing. I’m still growing. You will too.