No one wants to imagine what it’s like to lose a baby. The thought alone is often too overwhelming. For those of us who have lost a baby, it is our inescapable reality. It is what it is and nothing will change it.
Losing a child feels like your heart has been ripped from your chest. The life you thought you were living is taken from you, shaken up and tossed back. Nothing makes sense anymore, including your own emotions. In those first agonizing months you’re just barely scraping by…moment to moment. Everything hurts, especially your heart. You don’t feel like yourself anymore because you quite simply aren’t yourself anymore. You’re different.
A bereaved parent is forever changed the moment they say goodbye to their baby.
There is no way to fully explain what it’s like to someone who hasn’t experienced such a devastating loss. It’s as though you are trying to describe a color to them that they’ve never seen before. This often leaves bereaved parents feeling completely alienated and misunderstood. We rarely receive much empathy or support as time passes.
We also often find ourselves feeling the need to apologize for grieving. We are expected to better control our emotions and behaviors and prioritize the feelings of those around us. Put that grief away until you’re alone and get back to life as usual.
No one should ever have to apologize for their grief.
Whatever you’re feeling is what you need to be feeling. With grief, everyday manners and political correctness go out the window. Emotions flare because they have to. It is the process of grieving. Anyone who expects you to put their feelings and needs above your own during such an incredibly sensitive and painful time is best kept at a distance.
Here are some examples of things you do not need to apologize for…
Being moody or unpredictable
You do not have to wear a smile to make others feel more comfortable. Your emotions will shift back and forth from feeling highly intense like a raw nerve to feeling like more of a quiet ache to almost feeling completely absent or numb. This is grief. Feel what you are feeling -or not feeling- fully and let it pass. If you are angry, sad, happy, distraught, depressed (or any other emotion one could feel) it’s okay.
Not wanting to see babies of family/friends or not wanting to attend showers/birthday parties etc.
This is incredibly common and completely normal. Never force yourself to attend a shower or spend time around other babies until you feel completely ready. It doesn’t matter if it takes months or even years. Explain to anyone with young children that you care about them and their children but it’s too painful right now. If they don’t accept the space you need then they aren’t being supportive and you may need to distance yourself.
Not opening cards/gifts or not thanking people for them.
This is not a birthday party or shower situation where you need to thank people for thinking of you. You can thank people one day if and when you are ready but you mustn’t feel obligated. No one should be offering condolences for something in return. When basic tasks feel like running a marathon or go forgotten all together, gifts and thank yous should remain off your to do list.
Not answering the phone or the door
Sometimes what feels best is being alone. Sometimes talking and visiting is too much. It’s okay. Take all the time you need.
Not being ready to return to work/normal activities
After what feels like no time at all, the people around you return to “normal life” leaving you in the dust wondering how anyone can function when your baby is dead. How can the earth still spin? What is most important is taking care of yourself so you can begin to heal. If you need more time, take it.
Laughing or feeling happy in moments
You do not have to stop laughing for the rest of your life. Your child would want you to enjoy yourself and smile. If you find yourself enjoying a moment, allow it. Live your life as fully as you can in honor of your child. Happiness is allowed.
Not thinking of your child every moment
You don’t have to be thinking of your baby every second in order to love them every second. Allow your mind to wander and let other things in. Your love is constant, your thoughts don’t have to be.
Grief changes everything. Allow yourself to grieve and don’t apologize for it. It isn’t a process you can skip or rush. If you try to put it off it will just wait for you down the road. Remind yourself that what you are feeling right now is exactly what you need to be feeling. Most importantly, create healthy boundaries between you and those around you. Who you surround yourself with can help or hinder your grieving process. If they don’t offer the support, space and time that you need in your healing journey, they might not belong in your life.