“We do not have control over many things in life and death but we do have control over the meaning we give it.” ―
Nathalie Himmelrich, Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple
For over a decade now, I’ve scoured the shelves of my local library and bookstores for the types of literature that speak of women’s suffering—especially, the stories of women who have grieved over losing a child. In 2004, I found myself part of a community that I did not want to belong to, a reluctant joiner. Reading about how other woman had lost their babies didn’t make me more depressed about my miscarriages, no. Knowing I was not alone, that support existed, and that my feelings, experiences, physical and emotional wounds, and attitude about what I was going through were quite normal—all of it became an integral part of my healing journey. Our stories, no matter how painful they may be, need to be shared.
Miscarriage and infertility have affected me in dire ways. When I lost my first child, I knew I would never be the same. Honestly, I thought I would never get over the physical, not to mention, emotional toll losing her did to me. It wrecked me so. Yet, I survived it, five times more, even.
Today, I can reflect on the journey and realize, that with each baby loss, my capacity for compassion and empathy, tolerance and patience toward others, and myself, has grown in ways that may never have occurred if I hadn’t lost so much. The woman I am today is simultaneously stronger and softer, because of the suffering I have endured.
What I have learned along the way, with each subsequent baby loss, is that you must, must, must—only when you are ready—speak of your loss, share your story, and let your heart grieve in all the zig-zag ways it will. I’m so thankful for those book authors and bloggers I discovered, and for their courage to scratch open their wounds of baby loss to help me, and others like me, grieving a miscarriage and a child lost far too soon.
Once you open yourself up to the truth of your loss, you will begin to heal. You’ll cease feeling haunted by the what-ifs. What could I have done to prevent this? What should I have done differently? Will this happen again?
In sharing your story, you will find that you are not alone in the loneliest, most shockingly isolated time of your life. People will begin to open up about how miscarriage and infant loss has affected them, as well. You will discover that a friend of a friend has lost multiple children, too. That a college friend has lost a niece to SIDS. That your elderly neighbors lost their first child, and a set of twins, at six months along. Your best friend will struggle to get pregnant for the first time. She’ll go on to have a beautiful girl, and when ready to try again after a healthy pregnancy, she will struggle with secondary infertility and repeat miscarriages. Your college roommate, who lives 3,000 miles away from you, will text you a devastating message that she just lost her third, and she is giving up all hope of opening up her heart and womb to another chance at bringing life into the world.
You will begin to become jaded, thinking about nothing other than all of these gut-kicking losses—and how none of it makes any sense. All the suffering is overwhelming—just too much. Much too much. Though, you must find the will and the way to carry on.
This is where you allow the stories of so many other parents’ heartbreaking losses reach you, speak to you, guide, inform, and empower you to move on—although, forever changed. Prayer is a healer, too. (So is a little self-care and more frequent indulgences, such as luxurious bubble baths, weekly massage, an afternoon movie, Pilates and yoga class, and more nature hikes.)
One morning, you will wake up and find your footing and breath once again. You will gain strength, and surprise yourself with your resilience. Some of that resolve you will gather from your newfound community of loss. You will learn to reveal your pain in healthy ways, and begin to be able to offer comfort and support to others’ going through the nightmare of miscarriage, and losing a child. You will. You may not want to be the baby loss expert, but your loss has an enormous purpose, and your baby’s life has tremendous meaning—especially because he or she lived such a short time.
You can be brave and find treasure in the tragedy. You can turn your loss into hope for yourself and others. You can find a glimmer of hope in the murk of despair.
You will smile again. I promise you, you will. You will be able to face a shopping trip inside a mom- and baby-filled Target, and for once pass the baby section without bursting into tears. You will, one day, be able to stop sending regrets for the baby shower invites of beloved friends and family members growing their families without trouble or tragedy. You’ll one day want to hold those new infants in your arms, and will be able to without grief washing over you like a waterfall of despair. You will find yourself truly happy for your friends and family, and these new lives. You will.
Don’t rush the grieving process, though. You take your time, knowing you’ll get to a place of peace and hope in your way. One day—you will. Maybe not today, maybe not even by next October. However, one day—your day—will come. I promise you that.
What has helped you reach a level of peace and hope after losing a child?