As I emerged from my recurrent pregnancy losses, I discovered that the new version of me had found her calling: to help support others in their grief. Just like a lifeguard devotes time and attention to make sure other swimmers are safe, I’m now standing on the shore of grief throwing out lifelines to those who are sinking. This is not to say I feel particularly qualified. And yet the need is so pressing, that it doesn’t matter. It’s a privilege to write as I do — but can I be really honest about what it’s like?
I’m not alone in this grief support work. But sometimes this work is lonely.
I show my husband a photo of a precious baby. Oh my gosh, she’s beautiful. She’s curled up as though to sleep, lips just the faintest bit darker, eyes closed peacefully. She looks just like my newborn baby did. Except for the peeling skin. A telltale sign this baby has died. As beautiful and serene as she is. She is dead. Some days, I hear dozens or hundreds of these stories and pictures. These are the hardest days.
My husband can’t take it. He always tells me how sad it is, and I see it in his eyes. I know he cannot handle anymore, but I feel alone in this. I want someone else to see what I do every night. There is so much loss of the most precious and sacred in life. And it leaves me with all the feelings to feel … all alone.
And I do feel it all.
As a highly sensitive person, I struggle because I care so much for you. I have spent hours crying over many of your losses. I’ve felt the sucker-punch of shock when you tell your story, and I’ve prayed aloud, “Please not this one,” when I see a profile picture of your baby — and I don’t know if this is your living child or the one gone too soon.
When I start to numb up, I have to walk away. You and your grief deserve more than my robotic answers. So I pull back into my life, and breathe in my rainbow baby and hug my husband and marvel over my living kids until I can feel again. Then I dive back in.
Some days the back and forth gives me an emotional whiplash.
My days are spent see-sawing between opening myself up to the sanctity of your grief … and then slamming back down to my own reality of dishes, homework, chore charts, writing deadlines, dinner prep, showers, bedtime books and nursing my rainbow.
As both a mom and a support person, I have to be really careful about boundaries and self-care because I feel needed all day long. But because I know what it’s like to be consumed by grief at 1 a.m. and feel lonely and scared, it can be really hard to put that phone down. But yet . . .
What is infinitely harder than being needed is not knowing what to say to meet your need.
There are absolutely stories I completely relate to and can reach out with “been there, done that, here’s how I coped.” But there’s also the posts where I cannot relate. I’ve never planned a memorial service. I have not woken up to a baby dead in a crib. I’ve not signed a DNR or autopsy request form.
There are moments where I cannot reach you as one bereaved mom to another. There are moments where I think, “there are not the right words for this.” You know it, and I know it, but on this platform, words are all I have to give.
So I offer up my meager words, pray they offer comfort, impart hope, and let you know you and your baby are loved. The process of offering my words to you gives me a gift too.
Truth be told, I write as much for me as I do for you.
I write to the woman I was six years ago on the other side of the screen. The process helps me make sense of my experiences. Then I share because it gives my own babies a legacy they could not create on their own. Yes, I write for you. But it is as much a selfish undertaking as it is selfless.
Yet I fear my efforts are in vain.
I write, I speak, I give, I pray … and yet I know that none of these efforts are enough. I hate that this sacred, necessary work will never relieve you of your pain.
But I never want you to carry that pain alone.
And so I still show up. As do my sisters and brothers here in this grief work. Every one of us inadequate in our own ways. Scared. Lonely at times. Overwhelmed.
But we do so because you are also showing up. Brave mamas who are also feeling inadequate. Scared. Lonely. Overwhelmed.
We meet in this sacred space.
We clasp hands.
And then we navigate the rough waters of grief … together.
Turns out that the lifeline I hoped to throw you is the one that helped save me as well.