Why is it so much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves?
This summer, my mother-in-law died very unexpectedly. My husband was abroad and when I called to tell him, he replied, “Ok. Um, ok. I’ll call you back.”
We both went on auto-pilot. Call the police. Check. Call the coroner. Check. Get the funeral home here. Check.
I sat, stone-faced, while my kids sobbed in my arms that their grandma was dead. I screamed at my poor sister-in-law, like crazy-person screamed, letting years of rage and grief pour out of me like lava from a volcano.
When you’ve had trauma, a new trauma is likely to bring that original trauma back.
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I knew this, logically, but I really thought, “Look, I’m good at grief now. If you can be good at grief, I can. I know what to do. I know how to do this.”
But I didn’t. I don’t. I am no grief expert. I made some of the same exact mistakes again. I let my hurt and pain and anguish show in a Facebook post and got unfriended by two family members. I was too vulnerable. I’ve spent years getting vulnerable to try to help others–to try to help people know they’re not alone.
I cried for two days straight, and then I got this email:
My name is P. I recently had a miscarriage (my first pregnancy) and came upon your book “Almost A Mother.” I’m writing you to say THANK YOU. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and emotions with the world. Reading your book truly is like breathing a breath of fresh air.
Today I had a moment of weakness where I just broke down and cried in the car. I was on my way home and I thought to myself, “I need Christy. I need to get home and finish her book.” Your words have helped me grieve and have subsided my pain through the early days of my miscarriage.
When I started reading your book I had put my journaling on hold. Since reading I’ve gotten a sense of relief like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. Granted your experience was different from mine but every emotion and thought that you described in the book, I felt. Just reading the note that you left (before chapter one) for your readers made me cry. I then knew that this was the book for me. I knew that your book was going to be different. I didn’t think I’d find anyone who felt the pain that I did/do until I read your book. I am so grateful to have gotten a copy and I’m so grateful for someone who isn’t scared to be brutally honest. Please keep writing. You’ve given us moms hope again. I’m now off to finish your last chapter of the book.
Immediately, my embarrassment and hurt began to ease. Sure, I make mistakes along the way.
But I also know how to communicate and I know that if someone told me I hurt them – I would make it right.
This email reminded me that when you’re trying so hard to do the right thing, to do something hard, you won’t make everyone happy. It reminded me that I have to be so careful with what I share and how I share it because at the end of all of this, I am still an actual person with a giant heart that gets broken very easily, and I hate hurting people.
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But most of all, it reminded me that what I and the other writers at Still Standing, and the people who run the Facebook pages you follow and your grief counselors, etc., are doing, it matters.
These past few years have been difficult for me (and probably for you!).
I’ve realized that not all relationships can be saved. That once trust is broken, it is really, really hard to earn it back. I’ve realized that I have very likely hurt a lot of people and have had no idea.
We are not perfect, y’all. We’re especially not perfect when we are grieving. When we’ve been traumatized. When we’re human.
I guess the point of my post this month is to remind you all to forgive yourself first. To take some big, deep belly breaths and close your eyes and know that you have a good heart. You can only do your very best, and in my experience, your very best will never be good enough for everyone.
Wherever you are in this journey of grief, I hope you can find some peace today.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Christy Wopat is a 4th grade teacher and writer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and who hilarious, energetic children, and without her boy/girl twins, Sophie and Aiden, who lived for a very short time in 2009. She is honored to share her words in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding infant loss and grief.