My wounds are not fresh but they still are not healed. I feel like a young child who can’t stop picking at her scab. I know I need to wash my wound, keep it covered and most importantly leave it alone. But I can’t help myself.
And that is how grief works, grief isn’t linear.
Grieving is not an intellectual process. It’s one made up of emotional and spiritual necessity. In order to heal I need to poke and prod at my emotions. Like a muscle growing stronger due to tiny microscopic tears, I too need to tear at my emotions. Rip them open and expose their raw nerve endings. I need to feel the pain, to be all consumed by it so, hopefully, one day I can grow and in turn heal.
Grief is the price you pay for love.
And this grief had so much love. More than myself. It was a love to add to my family. A love for my marriage. To make my husband a father, my parents and my in-laws grandparents and my sisters and brothers into aunts and uncles.
It was a love that was supposed to move us to our next chapter in our lives: parenthood. How blind I was to the fact that my life’s author would slide in a little chapter entitled ‘Miscarriage’ without my knowledge.
Grief has no right and no wrong. We are all allowed to grieve in the same way we love; however the hell we want. What took me a long time was to realize how my grief was manifesting itself in my life.
I grieve with anger and fear.
I fear today, I fear tomorrow. I fear my past will repeat itself at the same time fearing the future I so desire. I fear I am not good enough; a good enough person, wife, friend, employee and do I dare say future mother. I fear leaving my bed while fearing I won’t have a good enough reason to leave it. I fear my struggles will be forgotten.
My anger resides just below my surface, ready to pounce without my knowledge. I’m angry when it takes me too long to do a task or write a blog. I am angry when I make a silly mistake at work. I am angry that I can’t do more, give more, be more. I am angry that I am angry.
My grief has given rise to apprehension.
My apprehension has turned into anxiety. I find myself overthinking, needing reassurance, having trouble concentrating, constantly worrying, at times lacking patience, having memory issues and withdrawing.
This is not to say that I live in fear, grief and anxiety every moment of every day. That isn’t true.
To compare, I’d compare my grief to the ocean. Wading in the water just up to my ankles, I know my grief is there as I can feel the water gently splashing my feet. But I can also feel so many other things as well: my toes wiggling in the sand, the sun on my face and the taste of the salty air.Here in the shallow water I feel positive, in good spirits. I understand and fully embrace that this is my journey and I feel confident that I will come out of this with the sun shining on my face. I understand life will go on. What has happened to me is tragic but there is a lot of good in this world and I have to keep an eye out for it. Enjoy life.
I’m feeling good so I travel a little deeper on in. I turn my back to my grief so I can observe the other beach goers on the shore. I can laugh when a seagull takes someone’s lunch and I can smile at the toddlers building sand castles. I can appreciate a jogger on their morning run but then I get a nagging inside of me that feels as though everyone else’s lives are going at full pace while I’m still limping along. Oh how I envy those that can run.
And then it hits me, a giant wave. I didn’t even see it coming for I wasn’t cognizant of how far I walked into the waves. Now I’m swept under the water and my grief is overwhelming. I feel like I am in a crowded room, screaming at the top of my lungs and no one is listening. No one is even bothered enough to look in my direction. Why is this happening to me? I can still be happy for others, but still so sad for myself. I don’t want to be this person, I don’t want to feel this way but I am and I do. I feel robbed. I feel robbed that I will never get to experience a pregnancy with the ignorance of miscarriage. All pregnancies have worry, I know that. But until you have experienced pregnancy loss, followed by this won’t happen to me again, only to have it happen to you again. Will you understand what hangs over my head ready to cripple me when I become pregnant again. How will I keep my head above water? Why can’t others see I am drowning?
The pressure I feel to be ‘OK ' is at times paralyzing. To keep smiling when on the inside I am crumbling away is a great cruelty of life. Miscarriage, or any trauma, is usually viewed it terms of the actual event. The physical act of miscarrying, the day a loved one dies, the moment our heart breaks. Grief is a spiral. As a society we tend to want to help when that spiral is circling tightest.
This is not to say that support and help at the first onset of a trauma is not helpful, because it is. However, for the many miscarriage survivors I have spoken with, myself included, we are so numb and emotional void when finding out we are miscarrying that we tend to go on autopilot driven by adrenaline to get the through the labor process and the first few days of coping.
There are several types of miscarriages: threatened (the body shows signs you might miscarry; pregnancy could continue normally or not), inevitable (a miscarriage is coming and can come after a threatened or without any warning at all), complete (when all pregnancy tissue has left the uterus), incomplete (when some pregnancy tissues has passed and some remains in the uterus) or missed (when the baby has died but stays in the uterus). For complete and incomplete miscarriages the most prevalent first signs for a woman is usually pain and/or bleeding. For a missed miscarriage there usually are no signs at all. Some women report feelings of decreased or all together absent pregnancy symptoms.
Take a second to think about the mind fuck a mother gets when experiencing any of these. She is happy and expecting a child when she walks into a routine ultrasound only be told “there is no heartbeat” when she had heard one just the week before or “the sac isn’t developing” when it had measured on track at the last appointment. She is walking up on a Sunday morning to use the restroom for the 1000th time and shocked and frightened when she finds blood in her underwear and when she wipes. She comes home from work on Friday night and drops to her knees in the middle of her hallway on way to put her things away in agonizing pain. Until this has actually happened to you, it is incomprehensible. I know, because I thought I understood once too.
The support I feel we as a society are missing in trauma comes the days, weeks and months after it occurs. When the telephone and the check-ins have died down. That is when my emotions returned. When everyone had stopped asking “How are you doing?” because the truth was I wasn’t doing so hot.
I get asked often how to support someone who is going through a miscarriage. To be honest it doesn’t have an easy answer.
Miscarriage is an uncomfortable topic for many, many people. So much in fact, that I purposely use the word as much as possible to help desensitize people because I have experienced more looks of shock when I say “miscarriage” then when I say “fuck” or any other dirty word.
Miscarriage is not a dirty word!
So let’s start there. In order to support a woman you love dealing with a miscarriage you must be ready to be pulled out of your comfort zone with uncomfortable conversations. A woman may want to talk about what went wrong, the physical pain and details of her natural or medically induced labor or her D&C (dilation and curettage), the blame she puts on herself, her fears for the future, how dumb she was for being so happy, how naive she was to know this could be a possibility. All of these topics may make you feel quite awkward and that is OK! Our society doesn’t discuss miscarriage. We like to sweep it under a rug that is in a room we don’t use often so it never sees sunlight and then lock the door. You are not a bad support system for feeling this way. Giving this Mama a space to speak freely and not be judged is what is important. Let her educate you on her experiences.
“Can I ask her questions about her baby?” Hell yes! It is perfectly acceptable to ask her questions about her baby. Most of us love talking about our babies, even if it brings tears to our eyes, because we think about them all the time and it helps us to know someone else remembers them too.
One strategy that really helped me once I was physically healed is when someone would plan specific outings or get together and not give me too many options. “Do you need to go grocery shopping? I can pick you up at 1 PM and we can go to Target or Ralphs?” “Would you like to go to lunch on Tuesday at 12:30? We could go to El Ranchito or Full Moon Sushi.” “Would you like to bake Christmas cooking on Sunday at 11 am? We could go get the ingredients together or I can pick them up on my way?” Having someone want to spend time with me and plan it out was extremely useful in getting me out of bed and out of the house. Everyone was also very understanding when I said no, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to ask, which is what I needed.
We, as humans want to help but we are also rational and realize that nothing we say will alleviate the pain of someone who is suffering deeply. Due to this we tend to withdraw from the griever, which in turn makes it harder for the person suffering to heal. Grief is something each individual must work out for themselves, but isn’t something they have to do alone. So don’t stop checking in. Even if she doesn’t answer, she sees the phone ringing. Even if she only responds with “I”m OK,” or three heart emojis she knows you took the time to think about her.
“But what do I say back when she tells me her world is falling apart? Nothing I say makes that mountain smaller.” You tell her she has every right to feel lost, that this must be so gut wrenching you can’t even comprehend it. You remind her what she has already gone through and celebrate those accomplishments with her. You tell her you love her. You just listen and don’t need to say anything at all.
We often get so caught up in the phrase “time heals all” that we stop to think about how much time. We expect time to be here, now, this very moment. What is lost is that time doesn’t heal. Time, slowly and eventually simply just puts more space between the spiral of grief and the griever. Time allows us to find things to fill the holes that our loss has created. It has granted not only me to seek out others who have similar loss experiences but it has also allowed my support system to find their own people who have been mothers, fathers and husbands of women who have miscarried. This has allowed us to share coping mechanisms, ideas and find additional support. As my mother loving tells me “time isn’t the healer but it creates the staging area to cope with our loss.”
I often look at people and wonder what grief are they covering with a smile, how much space has time put between them and their grief spiral? All I can do is smile and hope that gives them comfort.