The month of October is Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will be sharing stories from families about their loss and honoring their pregnancy journey and their angel babies. Today’s post comes from Sarah Marie. Sarah lost her precious angel, Christina Grace, just less than four months ago. Sarah is currently participating in a community project, called Capture Your Grief, and I have been so moved by her daily posts that I asked her if she would mind sharing a couple of them. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing some of your posts with us. We are so honored to have you be a part of this.
“How are you doing?” asked in passing is terribly confusing. If you know what happened, how can I even start to answer that in the three seconds we have? If you don’t know, it’s not something to quickly explain. I’ve learned to stick with the widely accepted, socially-correct American lie, I mean, response: “Good.”
However, the same question asked when a sincere answer clearly has the time and space to be given, communicates nothing BUT empathy, love and concern.
One way to express empathy is to ask questions that will create space for celebrating her life.
* Say, “Tell me about Christina.” How lovely to connect all the thoughts in my head to the outside world! I get tired of only talking to myself – it’s a real blessing to have someone willing to listen.
* “Christina Grace.” Speak her name; How I love hearing it out loud! Ask about how the name was chosen – does it have significance in its meaning, is it a family name, does it represent something special?
* “What have you been learning?” Give me a chance to process out loud and share some of my discoveries! You will help me organize my thoughts and maybe give me a chance to stretch you, too.
Don’t worry about “reminding me.” I haven’t forgotten.
If you don’t know what to say, or are afraid you’ll say the “wrong” thing, DO something and say nothing: a meal, a hug, a gift (I am especially grateful to those who thought of my five-year-old).
And realize that grief looks different for everyone.
Judgment comes so easily in ignorance.
“We’d never allow our kids to behave that way,” says nearly every childless couple. “What a terrible choice,” the uninformed outsider complains. And too often the friend of one in mourning says, or maybe even just thinks, “Why won’t they let it go?”
We can’t just “let it go.”
Last night I heard a beautiful illustration from a recent acquaintance: “I keep trying to throw grief as far away as I can, but it keeps crashing back into me like a boomerang. And every time I am as surprised as I am hurt by the impact.”
It’s not a conscious choice to say, “Today I will allow my grief to consume me and mourn in ways that make my family and friends uncomfortable.” In fact, I wake every single morning and have the same conversation with God, “I can’t do it today, Lord. You have to help me!”
We don’t want to be experiencing this grief!
There may be some very hurt individuals who are so lonely and starving for attention that they hold onto the pain because it’s all they have left to feel. They may find comfort in the distinction grief provides and the reassurance of feeling any sensation at all. We should support these and help them find the joy of life, not comment on their pitiful state as we turn aside.
But most of us are anxious to move on. Not to forget our loved ones; we never will forget. But to honor their existence by starting a new season, one that reverberates with the impact they had on us and speaks of hope and victory over life’s darkest days. We eagerly await a time when dressing isn’t a chore and laughing comes easily.
Please don’t give us a time limit.
If you catch yourself thinking, “Really? They’re still ______?” then remind yourself that there is no magical formula to process pain and no perfect equation to determine how long it will take. We’re doing the best we can every day to acknowledge, and work through, whatever comes up that day. I imagine the “work” will get less overwhelming, less painful and less complicated as time goes on… But I don’t even know that.
Grief isn’t linear. Grief isn’t simple. Grief isn’t even definable. So please be patient.
Please don’t make us have to hide our work for your sake. Please don’t make us question ourselves because of your unrealistic expectations. Please don’t encourage us to go faster than is healthy. Trust that we want to “move on” as badly as you want us too – we know you love us and just don’t want to see us hurting! – and we’re moving as best as we know how in that direction.
“It’s been long enough,” is a myth.
Choose empathy. Empathy shows kindness, is gracious (I may be acting weird), forgives me if I don’t laugh at your jokes or have to be reminded of the same thing again and again (my mind may be elsewhere).
Above all, please pray.
Sarah Marie says her world changed four months ago. “I realized how much I try to control and how little I can control. I heard, ‘We can’t find a heartbeat,’ and I knew the baby I had carried 30 weeks was dead.” This post is taken from her 30-day “Capture Your Grief” journey inspired by CarlyMarie at Project Heal.
Sarah has shared the last 15 years with her husband, Ryan. Their family lives in North Carolina as “wannabe homesteaders” with a random assortment of fairly useless, yet somewhat endearing, animals. Currently, she is processing the loss of her daughter Christina Grace, celebrating the exuberant life of her daughter Elisa Claire, and looking to God for the rest.