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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sharing Grief

My different reactions to my miscarriage versus my stillbirth astound me.

When we miscarried three years ago, I completely shut myself off.  I didn't want to talk about it.  I didn't want to be asked about it.  I didn't want people to acknowledge it.  I knew that people didn't see that baby as a baby.  In a way, I didn't really, either.  I loved the child that died, but I didn't feel the intense connection and bond.  When I grieved, I was mourning the connection that didn't have a chance to grow.

With Charlotte, it's an entirely different concept.  I don't just want to talk about it, I feel like I need to talk about it.  I feel like I need people to ask me about Charlotte and my experiences, because I need them to see my daughter as I did, or at least to acknowledge that she was a person, a little girl.  I need them to validate my grief, in a way.  I need them to recognize the void that her death created for me.  If I don't talk about it, it's as though it wasn't real, wasn't important.

When I wrote out my experience, I didn't plan to show it to anyone, save maybe my husband.  I'm grateful that my change of heart came later.  If I had written it to be read by family and friends, I don't think I could have or would have been as honest and detailed as I was.  Now that it's done, I feel like I want to pass out copies to my loved ones en mass.  This goes especially for the ones who just don't seem to get it.

People fall into three, distinct categories.  I don't think any of the people in any of these categories are bad, just misguided.  They have a skewed view of our emotions and/or are uncomfortable dealing with our grief.  In select instances, the person may be too selfish to try to be what we need, and instead are what they find easiest. The three categories are:

1) People who pretend it didn't happen.  They don't ask questions.  They avoid the topic of babies and children all together.  They fill silences with chatter about irrelevant things, just to avoid the silence.  They don't want to acknowledge that anything happened, that grief is necessary, that we need to express our sadness.

2) People who want to fix it.  They provide solutions.  They offer platitudes intended to placate us.  They're anxious for us to get over it.  They also don't understand what we need, and they have no interest in letting us grieve.  Our emotions are to be rectified, and our loss is thus belittled.

3) People who want to support us in grief.  They ask questions.  They listen.  They let us cry.  They might even cry with us.  They help us by seeing the value in what we lost, which lends authority and weight to our feelings of grief.  These people don't always say the right thing, and they are not always comfortable, but they genuinely want to be what we need them to be.

Now that I have my story on paper, I'm hopeful that, if people are willing to open themselves to it, they can maybe move to the third category of support.  Maybe if they can look through the filter of my eyes, they can understand a little more easily why we ask for the support that we do.

We need our loved ones to share our grief, not ignore it or fix it.

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