The Real Boogey Man: Hiding Your Grief and Pain

The past few months have been trying ones for me. On top of the “normal” stresses of life with a family and career came devastating news at home and at work. Three of my co-workers’ wives were struck were serious illnesses within weeks of one another. At the same time, my beloved Mom was diagnosed with a traumatic illness of her own. But it didn’t stop there, my dear friend and neighbor was then taken to the hospital by the rescue squad, finding out that she needed major surgery.

The weight of all of these tragic events has been pressing on me. A few times I found myself sneaking to the ladies room at work, afraid I may cry some very public tears. While I found the distraction of work to be a blessing, it sometimes wasn’t enough to keep the worry and pain from creeping in. I realized I was going to have to deal with everything that was happening, because trying to hold it all in definitely wasn’t working.

The grief of loss is exactly the same. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we are okay and we quickly move on so we won’t have to feel the pain. Only to find that it is simply hiding, ready to attack later on. Like the “boogey man” who haunts our dreams, grief patiently waits for the right time to strike, and then takes us by surprise.

The more I realized that I wasn’t dealing with my feelings, the more I started to feel them. As difficult as this was, it actually made me feel a little better. At least I wasn’t looking for ways to stuff down my feelings, leaving me in a better place to deal with my swirling emotions. When I started feeling vulnerable, I reached out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I started to rely on my faith, the better I began to feel.

I still have a lot of difficult times ahead. While some of my friends and family are getting better, others have life-changing decisions to make. I don’t know what the future will hold, but at least I’ve stopped the boogey man from chasing me. I’ve realized that I cannot make it through this on my own and I’ve asked for help. Don’t be scared by your grief and pain any longer- reach out for the help you need.

 

Trial by Fire: 9 Tips for Grieving Couples

coupleFather’s Day can stir a mix of emotions after a miscarriage. Fathers and Mothers can be affected by the event – which can be a painful reminder of loss.

You will often hear that grief and loss bring couples together, but it can actually do just the opposite. It is possible to emerge on the other side of grief with a closer marriage, but it does take work.

 

Here are some tips adapted from the book “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” that can help your marriage survive the stress of loss:

 

1. Give each other the freedom to grieve in an individual way. Resist the temptation to feel that your way is the only way to handle loss. Do not be fooled if it seems that your spouse has not been affected by the loss.
2. Remember the good times. Think about activities you enjoy as a couple and make time to do them- even if you do not feel up to it yet.
3. Expect tough times. Be tolerant with your mate and understand that you are both going to fail each other during this turbulent time.
4. Do not lash out at one another. In a weakened state of grief, this will only push you apart. Find constructive ways to release the stress and anger of grief.
5. Prepare for change. Loss and grief change people and it will change the face of your marriage. Decide together that this trial will bring you closer and commit to your relationship.
6. Reach out. Resist the urge to spend time away from your mate or reach out to others who better understand your grief.
7. Avoid placing blame. Tossing accusations at your spouse will only place a wedge in your relationship. Understand that feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion are normal during this time.
8. Love each other. Be sure to offer the hugs, cuddling, and love that each partner needs to feel secure and supported. Be sure to resume your physical relationship as soon as possible.
9. Seek information and support.
Educate yourselves on grief and try to understand one another. If you are having difficulties resolving your grief as a couple and you feel your marriage is in trouble, get help immediately! Do not wait until it is too late to seek help.

 

There are no easy answers for couples dealing with pregnancy loss. It is crucial that you make the decision to put your marriage first and then do it!

 

Lisa Church is author of “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” and founder of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to helping women and their families facing miscarriage.

It’s a MAD World: Simple Steps for Handling Anger

bumps

With the recent passing of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, parents who have suffered the loss of a child can find themselves feeling very angry. Grief can often cause intense feelings of anger, which can be a very difficult emotion to handle. Here are some steps you can take if you are feeling angry:

  • Write a letter to the person you feel angry with: yourself, your baby, your spouse, a family member, or even God .
  • Talk to a close friend or professional about the anger you are feeling.
  • Find a healthy outlet for your anger such as punching a pillow, intense exercise, yelling or screaming aloud (not at another person) or even running around the block as fast as you can.
  • Help another person. Use your restless energy to clean someone’s house, mow a lawn or fix a meal for someone in need. Focusing on others is a great way to take your mind off your pain.
  • Cry. Many women (and even men) release their anger  through tears.
  • Confront the source of your anger. If you are angry with a spouse or family member have an honest discussion during a time when you are NOT feeling angry. If needed, ask a close friend or professional to help.
  • If you are angry with God or your baby, face an empty chair and have a ‘confrontation,’ expressing your anger.
Adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun ©

Unlock the Silence: Tips for Helping Men with Grief

man_sunYou may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but don’t be fooled. Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. A man who is grieving will often find himself in a tough spot- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.

 

  • Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
  • Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to be of service to a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
  • Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunderstanding.
Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone. Understanding a man and him giving the space and support he needs will be critical.

 

The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death. We share this article each year near Father’s Day.

 

Christmas is About a Baby

tree

As I think back over last year’s Christmas Holiday, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas. It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2016 and beyond.

Note: This article is an update to a similar post we ran last year. We thought the new, happy ending was worth sharing. Enjoy!

On Thanksgiving: What if I Don’t Feel Thankful?

thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and as everyone prepares to eat way too much turkey, sweet potatoes and pie, our thoughts turn to the real meaning of the day. What are we truly thankful for? For those dealing with the grief of loss, this simple question can become very difficult.

 

So what do you do if you aren’t feeling so thankful this Thanksgiving?

First, realize that what you are feeling is normal, but you don’t want to get stuck there. If you’ve ever met anyone who is bitter, you have seen the results of being unable to find the good in life. Not a very good life.

There isn’t a “five-step” program or magic cure for finding thankfulness, but there are some things you can do.

Be on the Look Out.

book of awesomeIf you aren’t looking for good things, they can easily pass you by. Grief can cause us to focus on the what is missing, and not see what is there. A simple way to do this is to get The Book of Awesome. This unique book helps you remember the little things that make us smile like catching all green lights on your way home or popping bubble wrap. Read a page a day to help you find things that you can smile about.

Listen Up.

My Philosophy for a Happy Life: Sam Berns

My Philosophy for a Happy Life: Sam Berns

There are always others who have dealt with difficulties and loss, and have something to share about their journey. These are folks worth listening too- and one of them is Sam Berns. Sam is a high school student who has wisdom beyond his 17 years. Watch his inspiring TED Talk, My Philosophy for a Happy Life and you’ll see for yourself.

 

 

Focus on Others. 

Volunteer

Sometimes the hardest thing to do when grief has caused us to lose touch with our thankfulness is to focus on anything else. One of the greatest ways to heal is to help someone else. It may seem strange to reach out when you are hurting yourself, but it is one of the most powerful things you can do to refocus your life. Read our previous post:

Are You Grateful? Soup, Sandwiches and Humble Pie.

Finally, during tough times, take hold of your faith. Focusing on a higher power can shine light in times of darkness. Talk with your pastor, priest, rabbi or trusted friend. Don’t have faith? Find out more here.

Take the time this Thanksgiving season to work on your thankfulness, you’ll be glad you did.

9/11: The Worst Kind of Loss

9-11_PicWe can all remember exactly what we were doing when the attacks began on 9/11. It was a day that will be forever etched in our memories. For some, the day marked the tragic death of a loved one- a mother, brother, son, co-worker, granddaughter, spouse or friend. An unimaginable loss.

 

Death is an unfortunate part of life, but when it comes as a result of a tragedy, it seems even harder to bear. My family has suffered many losses since that day on September 11th, 2001. My beloved father-in-law passed away after a good long life, and a daily battle to breathe was ended. My young brother-in-law who fought for his country, fought his last gruesome battle with cancer and finally ended his painful journey. Both of these fine men are in a better place, and while we struggle to fill the holes in our hearts, we have peace.

Can You Be 100% Sure You are Going to Heaven When You Die

The losses that haunt us, are the ones we don’t see coming. My husband’s best friend, an active guy and avid golfer, who died in his driveway of a massive heart attack. He was 41 years old. My excited family member who went to the hospital to have twin daughters, and brought home only one baby girl. The year before 9/11, I lost a baby of my own to miscarriage, before ever having a chance to be born.

When tragedy strikes and takes a loved one away from us, we feel a different kind of pain. The peace that can come from knowing that a painful illness has ended, or appreciating a long, full life isn’t there to comfort us. The chance to say goodbye is taken away. And these are the ghosts that haunt our sleep and make it difficult to heal.

Help with Overcoming Grief and Loneliness

So what can we do if we’ve suffered this kind of tragic loss? The kind that rained down on so many families on 9/11. There is never a magic formula to healing- it is such a personal and difficult journey. However, you must always begin with grieving. You have to feel the pain to move past it- really feel it. You can shove it down, avoid it, but it will be there-lurking and waiting to reveal itself. Grieve. When you’ve felt the pain you can begin the long process of healing. And it is there you have a decision to make. Will you live in the past, holding on to the pain of your loss, covered in the death of your loved one? Or will you move ahead, making a new kind of life, and finding a different happiness? A monumental choice to make.

On this 14th anniversary of 9/11, a date that marks so much pain and suffering, a monument now stands in place of the Twin Towers. The damage to the Pentagon has been repaired, and the pieces of the plane in Pennsylvania have been gathered. If you are grieving a loss today, will you pick up the pieces and move on? You are the living, so choose life.

Questions Without Answers: Why Me? Why God?

questions

Why Me?

Facing a major loss usually causes us to confront or even reconsider our basic beliefs about God, religion, death, and the afterlife. Some may turn to God for strength and comfort, while others find themselves questioning the religious beliefs they have known all of their lives.

Men Have Feelings Too: Father’s Day After Loss

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. They will often hear friends and family asking their wives how they are doing, but rarely do men recieve the same type of attention. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation for them.
It may sometimes appear that a man is not experiencing the pain of pregnancy loss. It is critical to understand how men and women grieve differently. Life experiences, along with cultural and personality differences mean that men and women are going to have separate, but equal dealings with grief.
If the lines of communication and support break down during loss, you will find a man feeling alone and unsupported. Here are some ways you can help a man during grief:
  • Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.
  • Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
  • Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to help a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
  • Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunderstanding.

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone. Understanding a man and giving him the space and support he needs will be critical.

The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Am I a Mother?

Are you spending this Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? 900,000-1 million women in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

“For women who experience a miscarriage during their first pregnancy, the question of motherhood is an even greater one,” says Lisa Church of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to the support of women and their families facing pregnancy loss.

Am I a Mother?

Mother’s Day is the most difficult holiday a woman must face after pregnancy loss. A time that was supposed to be a celebration of a new life and a new motherhood becomes a time of sadness and grief. Church’s book, Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death, encourages women to use the holiday to remember their babies, rather than making it a dreaded event to endure each year. “Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you,” says Church. Here are some tips from the book that can help:

– You Are a Mother.

The best gift you can give yourself on Mother’s Day is the acknowledgment that you are a mother. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you do have one in your heart.

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Church also reminds women that their spouses may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, “so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.”

We run this article each year to help grieving Moms handle Mother’s Day.