Everyone Has a Story: Finding Compassion in Grief
Shortly after losing Aiden, my husband and I had gone out to get some groceries. It was one of our first outings since Aiden’s death. In the parking lot, we passed a couple I knew as acquaintances and were also in our prenatal class. They were carrying their newborn daughter, born just five days after Aiden. We didn’t make it further than the parking lot before we turned around and went home. Once at home I completely fell apart. I remember crying and screaming, asking my husband over and over what made them so special? Why did they get to keep their baby and we had to lose ours? I screamed and cried that it wasn’t fair, that we didn’t deserve this. Why us?
It is not a moment I am proud of. It was an ugly moment of raw, intense and painfully honest grief. It was a moment when I was deeply entrenched in my own pain, with feelings of anger, bitterness and jealousy taking over. I have since learned that these moments, no matter how dark and ugly, are a normal part of the journey through grief. Grief is neither easy nor pretty, and you have to face these moments, the ugly side of grief. This was one of those horrible and painful, but very real and honest moments of my grief.
A couple of months later, that same woman contacted me over Face Book. She had heard about our loss and wanted to reach out to me. The previous year, she and her husband had lost their first child.
My heart stopped as I read her words.
It had only been a couple of months before that I had focused so much of my bitterness, envy and anger on these people during my melt down. I had made assumptions that having a baby had been so easy for them. And now here she was, not only kind enough to reach out to me, someone she barely knew, but also sharing with me that they had also endured a devastating loss. I felt awful for the way I had acted upon seeing them out with their baby, even if it had all been within the privacy of my own home. But at the same time I was so grateful for her kindness and compassion, reaching out to me at a time when I had never felt more alone or isolated in my life.
We continued to correspond and shared many experiences, emotions and thoughts that we had in common. It felt reassuring to know that what I was feeling wasn’t crazy or unusual, but actually normal. I wasn’t the only one. After sharing so much with this woman, I felt that I owed it to her to confess what had happened when I saw her that horrible day in the grocery store parking lot and apologize. Beyond that I wanted to let her know just how profoundly her reaching out to me had impacted me. She was understanding and supportive as I shared this with her. She told me that she had experienced similar moments where jealously, anger and bitterness came up. Just knowing that I wasn’t alone feeling this way lifted a huge burden from me. I had been feeling like a horrible person, adding guilt about the way I reacted to the mix of so many difficult and painful emotions of grief. Confessing this to her and not only getting her forgiveness but also her understanding and empathy, was a huge step towards forgiving myself and accepting that grief can be difficult, dark and raw.
This family had unbeknownst to them become a negative part of my grief journey before we connected through Face Book. Her kindness and act of reaching out to me turned an experience that I was ashamed of and haunted by, into an experience that taught me so much. It taught me about true kindness and compassion, and what it can mean for someone in a difficult place to have someone reach out to them. But most importantly it taught me that everyone has a story, everyone faces their own pain during their lives, and I must not judge or make assumptions. There is so much about people that is hidden under the surface, so much about people that you won’t know until you hear their story. My experience with this person was an important and profound lesson in compassion. It taught me to always try to show kindness because you never know what a person is facing. And you never know what an act of kindness could mean for them.