For some, pregnancy and motherhood are sorrowful topics – topics that bring gut-wrenching sobs, weak knees, breaking hearts, and bitter tears. Grief. It’s not a happy subject by any means, but I think it’s one that we need to talk about. All too often a mama plans for the birth of her baby. She picks out the names, she decides on the nursery colors, she reads all the books. And, after 9 months and for varying reasons, she still finds herself with empty arms.
Infertility. Miscarriage. Still-birth. SIDS. Adoption that fell through. Foster child that was taken back. Custody battle that went wrong. There are too many times when tragedy strikes and leaves shattered pieces of a life that once was. Whether you’ve lost your child or you’ve had to say goodbye to a child you never had the privilege to meet, you are familiar with the pangs of grief settling in your gut. You can’t run from it, you can’t ignore it, and you can’t imagine getting through it.
I have been one of these mothers. I have actually been several of these mothers. I found myself in the stages of grief when they told me that I couldn’t have a baby. For years I hurt and fumbled and wept in silence. I found grief again when my husband and I were passed over for a set of siblings through the foster system. Children I had not even met and was only aware of for a brief hour had left me sick with loss. Again, grief knocked when we had adopted two children and were in the process of adopting our third, a little boy that we’d had for 9 months and had brought home from the hospital – a little boy whose father decided that he wanted him after all. And again I felt grief start to rear it’s ugly head after miracle of all miracles, I became pregnant and made it to the delivery room, only to have my baby’s heart beat become faint and fail to register on all the machines, despite the numerous efforts of doctors and nurses, leaving me in emergency surgery in order to safely deliver my son.
Heartbreak is heartbreak, no matter your situation. And those that love you, those that are trying to help, will say things like “Time heals all wounds” (no, it doesn’t) and “If you stop trying, you’ll get pregnant” (not necessarily) and “It’s time to let go” (umm... how?!). Chances are you’ll get angry at your friends and family for their misguided attempts to help you through your grief. And that’s OK. You’ll still love them, because you know deep down that they can’t help but try to “fix” something that’s just too broken. It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault. It’s just there and it hurts like the dickens.
I am a firm believer that everyone grieves differently and that you have to find your own way through – but for some, knowing where to start is the greatest challenge. So here is a list of things that helped me and may help you start your own process.
- Be angry. People who say that anger will only hurt you have never really experienced grief before. Not only is it uncontrollable, it’s necessary. To pretend it isn’t there is to ignore the fact that you loved and lost so very deeply. Be angry... but don’t live there forever. Let it eventually motivate you into doing, becoming, or creating something different.
- Memorialize your child. Whether it was the idea of a child or one that you lost, don’t be the one to throw every reminder out with the trash. You will regret this in time and will have no way to retrieve all that was lost. Keep special trinkets, but please don’t keep the shrine. Love what was lost but don’t lose yourself in the memories.
- Find an outlet. There are things inside that need to come out and any form of expression will do. If you have a pencil, write. If you have a voice, sing. If you can rhyme, make poetry. If you have lungs, scream. For the sake of yourself, and for the sake of letting your story guide others, let it out.
- Love again. Mama, this one will be the hardest. This one will require trusting again, despite the fact that grief could, once again, come in and sweep away your new love. But remember, living without loving isn’t living at all. And there are friends, therapists, pastors, and family that will be there to help you when you’re ready.
I don’t even know you, but I feel your heart. You are not alone. You are not too far gone. You are not too broken. I love you and stand with you.