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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Unfriending

Have you ever unfriended someone? I’m not talking about Facebook or Twitter or any of the other social media forums out there. I’m talking about actually telling a friend of yours that you want to end your friendship. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to tell someone something that will make them think you don’t care about them anymore, when that’s not what it’s about at all.

PCDD123-SimonSaysStampsCard (3 of 3)I was discussing this concept of “unfriending” with a friend yesterday. Because in the last year, yes, I have let someone go. I actually took the coward’s way out and just stopped answering her phone calls, which is a jerky thing to do, really. This woman was someone I had been friends with for a very long time. The reason I took the coward’s way out is that I still care about her and I didn’t want to actually have to say the words, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” It’s so grade-school. I know. I just think I’d rather have her think I’m an asshole and be mad at me for not answering the phone than have her feeling hurt at hearing those words. It’s easier to get over an emotional hurdle when you’re pissed off. Anger’s good like that.

I’m 37 years old. I don’t want to deal with the bullshit anymore. I need a friend that can listen to me when I need to talk and not try to make me feel like my problems are small compared to hers. I need friends that are encouraging and supportive and can actually empathize with me even if they don’t quite get the situation I may be in. When you’re a kid, you befriend people for almost no reason at all. You play together, crush on boys together, whisper secrets and pass notes. It’s great. But as adults, we befriend people who we have things in common with, whose lives are moving in similar directions. There is some kind of commonality that brings you together and makes you feel close. Sometimes those childhood friends don’t share that common thread with you anymore. Sometimes the two of you are just friends because you always have been.

I need more than that. Yeah, I’m high-maintenance. It’s healthier for me, emotionally, to be talking to the friends who are able to make me feel connected. But I still feel like a jerk.

The Berserker Tear-Jerker

I think I’m fighting a losing battle with the Whole 30. I’m really hating life right now and I’m only on day five. Twenty-five more days of starvation may help me drop some weight, but I don’t think its worth it. Although, if I give up so soon, I’ll feel like a failure and feel worse about myself. So the million dollar question is: do I feel bad about myself for giving up my super restrictive diet plan, or do I feel bad for the next month because I’m miserable eating food I hate and hungry (because I’d rather not eat than eat food I hate)?

Anyhoo, now that I’m done playing my tiny little violin of pity, let me get back to my Book Blogger Challenge.

Day Five: Recommend a tear-jerker.

I don’t like books that make me cry. I feel like I’ve cried enough in the last two years over things in my own life to last me a long, long time. So I don’t want my escape mechanism of reading to also make me cry. But I have read one whole tear-jerker this year that my book club (when I was still going) was reading. And I would definitely recommend it: “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See.

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I have a hard time sometimes getting into books about different cultures. Not because I don’t think different cultures are interesting, but because I can’t relate. I get angry when cultural rules or mores abuse people and suppress their natural human rights. I feel thankful that, being a woman, I live in America in the present time.

I didn’t have a hard time getting into Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Probably because its about women and friendship. I think that topic might just be universal. The book is about two girls from different classes in 19th century China, one lower class, one upper class, who spend their lives building a friendship through the sharing of their emotions and thoughts. They send each other secret communications that they write on a silk fan. They find comfort in each other in a time where being a woman in China (two words: foot binding) had nothing comforting to offer.

The tear-jerker part, other than the misery of their lives, is that the women have a misunderstanding that could potentially destroy their friendship. The woman telling the story is the lower class girl, Lily, and as she is the one who damages this lifelong friendship, you really feel her heartbreak, guilt and regret as well as her love for her friend.

What I got out of it, other than the fierce desire to name a daughter Plum Blossom or Beautiful Moon, is that women need each other. We have these crazy close friendships with other women because they are essential to our emotional well-being. No one will ever truly understand what a woman is going through or has gone through like another woman. No one can prepare you for a life event like a woman who has already experienced it. Women just get what it means to be a woman. And we can support each other emotionally because of that.

Personally, the real tear-jerker part was that Snow Flower, who takes such joy from her children, keeps losing babies. She tries to communicate the anguish and despair, the life-altering sorrow of those losses to Lily, her closest friend, but Lily doesn’t understand. She hasn’t experienced it and she doesn’t know how to comfort Snow Flower. This made me bawl openly. I mean, I was crying tears the way a berserker would fight a battle. I wanted to smack the crap out of Lily because the things she said to Snow Flower to snap her out of this depression were stupid and mean. I wanted to comfort this poor fictional woman who was steeped in despair and self-loathing because I understood what she was feeling. I understand that loss. And it made me relive my own feelings about all of my lost babies. “Cry Me a River” you say, Justin Timberlake? Oh, I did. I most certainly did.

I may just go cry another one.

What’s the last book that made you cry?