Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The universality of grief

One thing that I have become so intrigued by is the fact that grief seems to be universal. I got my first look at this during the summer when we attended a grief share meeting at a local church. I was shocked how similar every one's grief seemed to be, especially the outward effects of grief. It didn't matter if someone had lost their child, spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, whoever. Grief seemed to do similar things to people and everyone could relate to what the other was feeling.

Since become a mom without her baby, I have turned to other babylost mothers through the world of blogging. I am shocked over and over again at how similar our experiences are. These women are from around the world (literally). We all come from different backgrounds with different belief systems and cultural values. But, we all seem to experience the loss of a child in similar ways. I cannot say how many times I have read a fellow mom's blog and been in awe because of the words I have read. It's like these women are reading into my mind and heart. They are feeling exactly what I am feeling.

Right away the first blog I came across was of a mother who had a stillborn son at 39 weeks. Her post here made me feel like I wasn't crazy. I remember in those early months (and still sometimes now) thinking and wondering "did I even have a baby?" Turns out its a common feeling for the babylost moms. Another blog I soon found was of a mother whose baby died during labor. Her post on life sentence was exactly how I felt. I couldn't believe how she nailed everything I was feeling. Losing a child is such a hidden thing but something that effects every part of you. There are days when you feel like it is a life sentence to pain and heartache.

Another mom who I admire lost her baby girl to stillbirth at 39 weeks. Her post on being happy really resonated with me. One of the things I have grieved the most is the loss of happy. I know it will come again, but I don't think it will every be as pure. I desperately miss that happy me, the one who was a "glass half full" kind of gal. Now I am melancholic, quite, inward, reserved. It was good to read her thoughts and know I wasn't alone in grieving the loss of happy. She also writes a great post about where she is 17 months later. I loved this post because it affirmed me that I am normal in my grief and though it will change in the days and month ahead, its not going anywhere anytime soon. She is a great example of learning to walk through the dark valley instead of pretending its not there.

Not only have I been surprised at how similar grief can be, I have also been shocked at how similar pregnancy after a loss can be. The women I meet have the same thoughts as I do, the same fears, the same struggles. One mother from Australia who lost her first baby to stillbirth at 40 weeks has been so insightful in helping me through this pregnancy with Abigail. Her post on holding pattern is EXACTLY how I feel most days. All the emotions, the exhaustion, the anxiety.  I read her post and felt instantly like I wasn't crazy.

Another mom who lost her son during labor talks about the guilt a mother carries with her after a child has died and then in a subsequent pregnancy. Boy can I relate to this! Guilt is a daily companion that I live with and struggle with. It was nice to see I wasn't alone. 

 A new blog I found recently is from a mother who lost her baby boy to stillbirth at 38 weeks. She talks about how "not normal" you are when you are pregnant again. Her Post describes so much of the hardship that is a subsequent pregnancy after a loss. The innocence of pregnancy is gone, even though the outside world has no idea most of the time.

All of these women are random strangers. I have never met them and probably never will. The other night after reading a post I cried and cried. I asked Nathan, "why am I so emotional when it comes to people I have never met? He said what I think I already knew " you do know them." And he is right, even though I don't "know," them, I have lived through what they have and somehow come out the other side. I know what its like to lose your baby before you even get to meet them. Our hearts will always be the same.

Which leads me to the final thought- all of these similarities between grieving people just prove to me more what a loving God we have. Jesus said himself " you will have trouble in the world." He knew it would be hard, knew it would be agonizing and at times impossible. That is why he has written it so intimately on all of our hearts the way we respond to tragedy. He did not want us to grieve alone. What a loving father to give us comfort when we need it most in the form of others.

 He also gave us His mother, she is also a mother who has lost her son. I am reading a new book that tells of different saint's visions  of Mary at the crucifixion. St. Bernard saw a vision of the crucifixion with Mary standing by and he had this to say "Mary stood there dying, unable to die herself." That line has stuck with me the past week. Its exactly how I have felt these past 9 months. Like I am dying, but I am unable to die. I read his words and thought to myself "Mary is just like us (babylost mothers), she gets me in a way most mothers who have not lost a child just cannot." I take such comfort in Our Lady and her suffering. She has been there constantly to help me navigate through my heart during this difficult time.

So there it is, my epiphany on how similar grief is. I hope you take the time to read the other women's post. They are able to put into words so much better than I can this experience. Also, if you know someone who has had a loss of any kind PLEASE direct them to grief share. It is an excellent program that has a Christian outlook on grief. It's made up of  13 video seminars with a support group. There are many churches around the country that have grief share and they can be found on their website. If you do not know how to help a friend grieving, direct them to grief share where they can be helped.

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