I remember the first couple of weeks and months after saying goodbye to my precious Jonah at 30 weeks gestation due to a heart condition as extremely difficult and filled with so many ups and downs, I felt like a marionette doll living someone else’s life, because there’s no way that much sadness could be…
When you first experience a loss, the idea of anything positive occurring from it is the furthest thing from your mind. The mind and soul feel broken, and the idea of the future is impossible to picture. For me, one of the unexpected things that have happened to me since my first loss was diving into my loss community and taking on a role as an administrator in a private loss group. This has been a life-changing experience for me. Not just because of the grief I experienced and worked through, but because of the stories of the other members of the group.
In acting as an administrator, we (my fellow group leaders and I) are often the first contact for a grieving parent. This is such an important and sensitive role. We know that by accepting the initial request to join the group that we will also be hearing this person’s story. We may even be the first person they have relayed it to. The responsibility is huge and heavy, but it is also something that I willingly accept as a part of my life’s plan. The members of our group are special. They are comforting, they are sad, they are angry, and they are all in different stages of their grief journey. It is often too much. We take turns stepping back to work through our own triggers to grief. This helps us to be more effective as leaders and as soul sisters for the parents coming into our group.
Empathy in Grief
For me personally, I tend to take on some of the grief of others. I am empathetic, and this means that I can often feel other people’s grief. It enters my soul, and I feel the weight and the crushing effect it has. I have accepted that this is part of my responsibility, part of my path. I appreciate every single member who comes in, shares their story, and continues to engage as they work through their grief. We have so many members and so many stories that sometimes we end up with people who just disappear. I wonder about them for years afterward. I hope that they are okay and that their grief didn’t slowly envelop them into a dark and sad world.
When I hear about public stories of people losing babies, I immediately feel the pull to contact them, to write a letter and let them know that they are not alone. So much of my own grief was tied up in the fact that I didn’t have people around for the first few months afterward to talk to about it. I felt isolated and angry, and I wanted to talk about it, but I had nowhere to do so.
Loss Can Be Overwhelming
It’s hard for me to hear about a friend of a friend or an acquaintance experiencing a loss because I want to find them and talk to them. But I am a stranger, and it’s weird. This is where the group comes in. It’s a safe space where members can add someone they know who is experiencing a loss. That person can have a place to grieve without the worry of judgment or fear.
This topic has been on my mind for a long time now. Over a year, in fact. I was in a professional development course. One of the topics we discussed was hidden factors that affect people in extreme ways. I immediately thought of people experiencing loss. Loss can be so overwhelming that even the simplest tasks, such as getting out of bed to go to work, feel impossible. The weight we carry around that no one else can see makes every step, every breath, and every second of each day a struggle that can’t be explained unless you’ve experienced it, too.
Friendship in Grief
I’ve met my best and closest friends through my loss group. Had I not experienced loss, I would not have these amazing women in my life. Women whom I love and respect and absolutely need in my life. I hate that this experience brought me these women. That the reason we all know each other is one of the worst things to happen to a person. I feel guilty even trying to reconcile this in my mind. My loss brought me these people who I now rely on.
The whole experience of loss, with its twisted mind games, is something that is difficult to navigate alone. Because of this, I feel like it is my responsibility and privilege to be a comfort to others. The grief I take on is worth it every time. I hope that by being present and taking on some of that grief, I can provide a fraction of relief for someone else. Even if it is only in the form of being able to tell their story.
Related Post: Self Care: Support Groups
Photo Credit: Ben White, Ben White Photography