Watching a friend experience the loss of their baby and the grief that remains can feel so helpless. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach to support a grieving friend through loss, but there are many ways to be supportive. When my daughter died at 33-days-old, it was the first loss of this type…
Grief caused collateral damage in my life, my relationships and myself. Almost six years ago, my younger twin daughter died on the third day after her birth, followed by my mother’s death through suicide four and a half month later. The experience of death changed me so intensely that it took years upon years to get to know myself again. And it still continues to some degree.
I hated the wreckage grief caused in my life
I missed the parts of myself that were lost and hated the person I had become: full of anger, resentment, impatience and lack of trust. The first years, I struggled so much that I told my husband “you have the luxury to leave me, I’m stuck with myself”. I would have left if I could. Luckily, I am blessed with a patient and understanding person at my side. More patient than I would have been able to be given the circumstances.
My twin pregnancy was the miracle of the first round of IVF. A miracle because we implanted one fertilized egg and on the first ultrasound found out – to everyone’s surprise – that I carried identical twins. Even though I was considered to be an ‘older mom’ I was somewhat naïve at the things that could possibly ‘go wrong’ to bring a healthy child, let alone two, into this world. I was nineteen weeks pregnant when the ultrasound showed multicystic kidneys in twin B. My journey of grieving the life not yet born and most probably not meant to survive outside the womb started.
At least you have one child
Having one child is better than no child, at least for those who were trying to make me feel better. I stopped counting the times I heard platitudes like “at least you’ve got one and she’s healthy”. Did this mean that there was no reason for me to grieve given the fact that I “at least” had one? Did they want me to apologize for my grief? Of course not. People who haven’t experienced the loss of a child can’t or don’t want to imagine it. Even if they do, this kind of grief is so far from imaginable that it is difficult, if not impossible, to empathize with.
In addition, I had these old tapes playing in my mind; society’s old grief myths tapes. When I wasn’t ‘feeling better’ after one year, I was wondering what I had done wrong. My grief support network supported me saying “this is normal”. Maybe the fact that I felt anything but normal. My experience, compounded by multiple death, both unexpected and at least one through violent force, an intercontinental move and having to care for a newborn – I felt like a zombie.
What does grief really look like?
Trying to make sense of the very thing that never makes sense: the grieving experience. Somehow society in general still hasn’t managed to learn about and teach an accurate image of what grief looks and feels like. This fallacy leaves the bereaved question their experience and fear they are going crazy.
I still notice that I apologize for the fact that I include my dead child in the conversation. I answer honestly when asked, “how many children do you have?”. They look at me even more puzzled when I add “I have twins” when clearly, they only see one. The rewiring of my brain is still in process.
Don’t apologize for your grief – it is the homeless love in action.
NEW BOOK! Surviving My First Year of Child Loss – Personal Stories From Grieving Parents
The community of parents from the Grieving Parents Support Network has created a new support resource for bereaved parents.
Contributors to Surviving My First Year of Child Loss were asked to share personal and relational challenges they experienced in the first year of grief. The result is twenty-six heart-wrenchingly honest essays that communicate the individual way each parent coped during their first twelve months of loss.
More than anything else, the Surviving My First Year of Child Loss project invites grieving parents to find support in a community they never intended to join.
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