What Not to Say

It’s a rainy day here in Maine. It’s also the only day this week that I don’t have something going on. So I’m hanging out in my jammies, doing laundry and watching movies with my little guy while I sit on a tennis ball. (It’s supposed to massage your muscles. So far it just hurts.) I picked up my Kindle while re-watching Wreck-It Ralph for the second time in 2 days to browse my Facebook newsfeed. And I saw a post of a friend of a friend who was letting everyone know that she had just lost her baby.

I clicked on her status post and read each of the 50+ comments written there. I can’t explain why, but maybe it was some morbid need to see what her loved ones had to say about this devastating moment in her life. And then I got upset for her. Because some people just say the absolute wrong things. You can’t blame these women either, because they haven’t gone through the experience. They are trying to be loving and supportive. But they still say things that can almost demean what their friend is going through.

So if you have a friend who has recently experienced a miscarriage, these are, in my opinion, some things NOT to say:

You already have 2 beautiful children. This may be true, but it isn’t comforting. I don’t care how many children a woman has, she will still deeply mourn the baby she has lost. A friend shared with me that her husband’s grandmother had 14 children and had one miscarriage. Only a couple of years ago that grandmother shared that she still hadn’t gotten over the loss of that one child. She still mourned some 50+ years later. And what about the women who miscarry that don’t have any children? Does that mean they are entitled to feel more grief? Grief is grief, whether other people think we’re entitled to it or not. Please don’t try to demean the depth of a woman’s grief by reminding her she already has other children. Because for me, it made me feel like I was being told that I shouldn’t be too upset about my loss because I had already attained the ultimate goal of a woman: I had already experienced motherhood. It made me feel guilty that I had children when some women couldn’t and I should get over my grief more quickly so as not to possibly offend the women miscarrying who didn’t have any children yet.

Everything happens for a reason. This is a tough one. Partly because I believed it when I kept losing baby after baby. I wanted to believe there was a reason. I had to believe there was a reason. And I couldn’t figure out what that reason could possibly be. I became so fixated on trying to determine why I was miscarrying that I couldn’t allow myself to complete the stages of grief. I thought if I could figure it out I could fix it and get pregnant again and finally have that elusive third baby I kept wishing for. I really struggled with my faith during this. Because I kept hearing about how God has a plan for me and knows what’s right for me and blah, blah, blah. I listened to this and tried so hard to embrace it, to take comfort in that thought. I had friends and family praying for me and with me and that support really meant a lot. But I asked myself a lot of ugly questions. Like, is this some kind of message? If so, what’s the message? Am I not being a good enough mother to the kids I already have? Am I sick with some hidden illness I’m going to discover is the culprit behind my losses? Am I supposed to experience this so that I can write about it, so that I can help other women get through it too? I had my fourth miscarriage at the end of April this year. I was still grieving my other three and was so overwhelmed. Then, a few months later someone said something to me that enabled me to finally let go and start to heal. She said, “We want to believe there is a reason for everything bad that happens in our life, but the reality is, sometimes things happen for no reason at all. They just happen.” And there you have it. Shit happens and it doesn’t have to mean a damn thing.

So now I’m crying for a stranger who is going through something horrible. A woman who will probably hide her grief during the day so that she doesn’t upset those 2 beautiful kids she has and who will sob into her pillow when she goes to sleep. If she were my friend, what I would say to her is this: My heart is breaking for you. I love you and am here for you if you ever need anything. Let yourself cry. Your kids will be okay.

Be there for your friend. Don’t try to say things to make her feel better. She needs to cry. She needs to get all those emotions out. Let her know she can do that with you. Give her a hug and don’t let her go right away. Make her feel loved and supported just by your presence, even if it’s just on the phone.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to sitting on my tennis ball.

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Books and Loss and Faith

I have been doing a lot of reading. Most of the stuff I read is purely for entertainment with a few informative non-fiction books thrown in that are almost always about parenting or healthy eating or both. I also belong to a book club, so I get my fix of the literary fiction that I find both beautiful and, lately, too emotionally charged. A friend on Facebook (of all places!) posted a link to an e-book she was going to be reading where the authors would also be conducting a weekly book club discussion of each chapter. So I have been reading this amazing book, Hope For The Weary Mom: Where God Meets you in Your Mess for the last few weeks. I finished it early just because I needed the support of the authors’ words and the hope offered in the title.

The chapter they are discussing this week is about loss. It is crazy how easy it is to access such raw emotion. Always the deep thinker, I have been doing a lot of “feeling” with my intellect rather than my heart. I tell myself all the right things to help soothe the turbulence that has taken up residence inside of me. I have relied on prayer and positive thinking and distraction to try and give myself time to scab over that raw place on my heart. But reading about another woman’s loss and her struggle with her emotions, her faith, just ripped me open again. Since writing about my own losses, I have had so many women in my life come forward and share their own story of loss. It amazes me how much we, as women, hide of ourselves. We hide our pain. We hide our worries. Sometimes we even hide our faith.

I have always believed in God. I grew up going to church as a child and learning about God in Sunday school. The churches I attended with my family were traditional, conservative churches where you sat, quietly, and listened and worshiped, quietly. My parents never really discussed their religious beliefs and I don’t remember talking openly about God. I knew they believed, but it was something personal that we didn’t talk about. My belief was strong, but personal. This is the first time I have ever spoken, or written about my own faith. A lot of that is because of judgment. I have found that people that openly discuss their faith or quote scripture seem to be judged by our society as close-minded fanatics bent on stopping the positive progression of society. This is not my own belief and I am neither close-minded, nor a fanatic trying to halt positive change in the world.

But I keep my most personal beliefs, thoughts and feelings close. I think most people do. One thing I did not write about back in March, when I was grieving so fiercely, was my struggle with my own faith. It is hard to have faith in a loving God when you are feeling so much pain. It is hard to say a prayer each night for the strength you need, for the hopes you have, when you feel let down. Faith is about trust. When you have faith in God and His plan for you, you are trusting in Him. You are vulnerable. You are helpless. And when bad things happen, it hurts you both emotionally and spiritually.

As I struggled with my grief and all the complex emotions that go along with the loss of a baby, I was also struggling with my faith in God. How could I turn, now, to the one who let me down? What had I done wrong? Was there some meaning in these losses that I hadn’t yet discerned? Was I not a good enough mother to my other children? Was I being greedy wanting more children when I had already been blessed with two healthy kids? Was I supposed to take this grief and use it to help other women in need? No one will ever understand God’s plan. I know this. That doesn’t mean I accept not knowing, but I understand that I will never understand the whys I keep asking myself.

After 7+ years of marriage, I have finally gotten my husband to agree to attend church with me. I have waited patiently (yes, I was patient about something for once in my entire life!) for 7 years, never pushing, never nagging, just occasionally sharing some of my spiritual beliefs with my husband. This summer, with no warning, he turned to me and asked me if I would like to check out some local churches. We checked out a church that I knew some friends attended and have been going ever since. It’s been interesting! I’ll tell you about it soon, I promise. But even though my faith seems stronger than ever, I falter. The anxious control freak inside of me struggles with trusting anyone but myself. Daily, I worry, I hope and I pray for the strength to just let go and accept that I am not always the only guide down the path of my life. I cannot always be in control. I will never be able to predict the events in my future and protect myself from them. Life is going to happen and I just have to have faith.