I had “one of those mornings” today. The kind that make you stress, angst and basically question if you are making the right decisions. I was deep in thought driving to work on a busy highway, when something caught my eye. Sitting high in one of the trees that lined the car-filled street, was a large, stunning bald eagle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that wasn’t sitting in a zoo or displayed in HD on a flat screen- and here was one right above my car. I drove ever so slowly so I could have a look at this very beautiful creature.
What struck me about the eagle was his majestic presence and the sense of calm he seemed to exude. He was looking carefully at his surroundings, but he wasn’t phased by the noise, cars or mayhem that was just below him. He sat very still and took in the world around him. It was an amazing site.
The strange part was, that just seeing this regal animal immediately made me feel calm. It was as if the eagle’s presence had swept over me and reminded me that a higher power was watching over me that very instant- when I really needed it.
The eagle was a powerful reminder that we can experience our hectic surroundings without letting them rattle us. If you are feeling overwhelmed today by tough circumstances, sadness or grief- sit still, take a deep breath and invite calm to sweep over you. Be like the eagle.
As I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, 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 2015 and beyond.
Holidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.
If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them. It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.
Should I Go?
Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
- Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
- What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
- Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
Every October I remember the child I lost. I didn’t lose my child at the mall, or get separated at a park. I actually didn’t “lose” my child at all…my baby died. Even all these years later, it is still difficult to say it like that. My husband and I had waited ten years to have children because I traveled frequently and I was finally settled and ready. But our “best laid plans” were about to take a horrible turn.
It was just before Halloween and I was 3 months pregnant with our first child. My two sisters had five children between them and I was finally going to join them in growing the family. I had not considered, even for a moment, that something could go wrong. But something went terribly wrong. Over the next few weeks my pregnancy unraveled and my baby, and my hope for a family, was gone. In the empty space where my baby had been was confusion, disbelief, anger, numbness and incredible pain.
Read 9 Things Never to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage
Fourteen years have passed. We now have two perfectly healthy, and perfectly wonderful daughters and I smile and get misty as I write these words about them. But I do still think back to the child I will never know. I wonder what my baby would have looked like and sounded like and what kind of person he or she might have been. I still wonder…but it doesn’t hurt as much now. There was a time that just typing these words would have left me sobbing. Time does heal, but it doesn’t make us forget. I do still think about my baby. Especially this time of year. But now, I can wonder and move on, as anyone who is grieving must do at some point.
If you are hurting from the pain of grief, remember that time will go by. The intense pain will pass and one day you will notice that the daggers of grief are now a dull ache. Your life will return to a new version of “normal” and you will go on. Be brave enough to remember the loss of your past and move steadily toward your future.
Last week, we lost a comedy and screen legend and my heart is still heavy. We were forced to say a sad and early goodbye to stand-up comic and movie genius, Robin Williams. The firestorm of comments that erupted following his death, apparently by his own hand, has been amazing and incredibly unsettling at the same time. While droves of Robin “fans” shared memories and condolences with his grieving family, others took the opportunity to chastise Robin (?) by leaving hurtful remarks and belittling the actor on his families social media accounts. Experts than began chiming in to state that his suicide could have been prevented.
I have watched and listened in silent horror and I can stay silent no longer.
It is painfully obvious that our society still fails to be able to frankly discuss death with compassion and without fear of the conversation. We consider ourselves to be a “modern” society and yet we struggle with dying and grief in ways our ancient ancestors did not. Our modern medicine and ideas have left us ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable event of death and dying. We still find ourselves speechless and uncomfortable during times when our grieving friends and family need us the most.
Read “Nine Things Not to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving”
As someone who has had personal experience with these painful matters, I can tell you that it is impossible to pile any more pain, grief, guilt or sorrow onto Robin’s family. You never stop asking yourself if you could have done more…you never stop second-guessing the steps you took, the words you said, the comfort and help you tried to offer. You never stop asking yourself the painful questions that will have no answers.
The only silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud is the public conversation that is now happening about mental illness and suicide. If there is one thing that could make us smile after all of this, it is only the possibility that these conversations could save just one person. Let us find ways to join the conversation to help those grieving, with broken hearts, and those struggling with the grip and pain of mental illness.
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 to 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 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 misunder-standing.
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.
Return to Zero
Did you miss the release of “Return to Zero” Minnie Driver’s new movie on stillbirth? The movie is now available on DVD!
RETURN TO ZERO is based on the true story of a successful couple, Maggie (MINNIE DRIVER) and Aaron (PAUL ADELSTEIN) who are preparing for the arrival of their first child. Just weeks before their due date they are devastated to discover that their baby son has died in the womb and will be stillborn.
The movie shows their struggle with the grief of loss and the toll it takes on the couple and their marriage. After deciding to divorce, Maggie finds that she is pregnant and the two reunite for an anxious journey through the difficult pregnancy.
Read more about it and order the movie at the Return to Zero website.
The Silent Storm: A Father’s Grief
Fathers can sometimes be forgotten during the grief of miscarriage. Although society expects a woman to show emotion and sorrow, it often expects a man to be the ‘strong one’ and protector of the family. This can lead to great frustration and lack of support for fathers.
NY Med Episode Shows Pain of Miscarriage
Amid the gun shot victims, violent patients, life-and-death heart surgeries and general mayhem, I was pleased to see a story on last week’s NY Med episode that showed a couple’s miscarriage. As a loyal fan of the show, even I can applaud the choice to fill a spot that could easily hold another gritty, eye brow- raising piece, with an honest and painful depiction of the couple’s loss.
The story took on even a deeper meaning when the emergency room doctor who was assigned to examine the young mother, shared that she had a miscarriage herself just 2 weeks earlier. She spontaneously shared the shock she felt and the sadness of her husband as she received the same news, at almost 12 weeks pregnant.
It was so refreshing to see a doctor who truly understood what the couple was facing and one who had the guts to share her own heartache on live t.v. in the hopes of comforting the couple. She made a point to remind the grieving mom that the miscarriage would not have any affect on her chances of having a normal pregnancy next time.
As the show wrapped up with a grateful mother who was going home with the new kidney she received from her son and an ecstatic heart surgery patient who received a second chance at life; the final image was even sweeter. The emergency room doctor and her husband shopping for baby clothes. The doc, now 6-months pregnant, was sharing the special moment with all of us who have suffered loss and reminding us that there is hope for the future. May we all have the courage to hope.
Where Did All This Stuff Come From?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been moving to a new home! That explains why I haven’t posted in little while. My husband and I hadn’t moved in 15 years, and throughout our packing, lifting, storing and unpacking, we kept saying the same thing to one another, “Where did all this stuff come from?”
We thought we were doing “okay” in the clutter department. I like to keep things I might use again and my husband likes to get rid of things. As a compromise, I have a garage sale- religiously- every year. Anything that doesn’t sell gets donated, never to be seen again.
However, as we put our entire lives into boxes, we were shocked at the sheer mass of it all. Where did it all come from? How did we collect so much stuff?
It made me think about a lot of things as we hoisted it all into our new house and filled up the 2-car garage that had been so carefully cleared for our arrival. I wondered how much of the boxes, bags and bins we really needed?
As I began unpacking, I decided I would not put anything we really didn’t need into the new house. I grabbed some empty boxes, wrote “Garage Sale” on them, and started filling them with things we wouldn’t use.
I wonder how much emotional “stuff” we are all holding on to? Are we dragging our past anger, grief, sadness and bitterness everywhere we go? Let’s clear out our emotional baggage and over-filled boxes and make more room for the good “stuff” in life.