Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?
I remember the very first time after Caleb died that I was able to wake up, get out of bed, and make myself scrambled eggs. It was probably 6 weeks after he died. I felt so proud of myself that I had actually had an appetite and that I had also made something. It took all of my energy and then I went back to bed. That was the first real step I can remember in starting to join the land of the living.
I feel like the whole first year was a lot of trial and error. I would think I was alright to go somewhere and then we would get there and something would knock me down- a crying baby, mention of a pregnancy, seeing the same car seat as we being used by a random family at Church. It took almost a whole year for me to be able to recognize what was too much and what I could handle.
I stayed away from a lot of things that first year and I think that was a good decision. I just couldn't go to parties and pretend I was fine. I couldn't pretend to care about what was happening in others lives. My grief was so much like a sickness and it was all consuming. So I stayed away. I feel like that let others enjoy themselves more. I could always sense the awkwardness. No one knew what to say- the normal topics- kids, jobs,etc, were all out. So I just stopped going places and let others enjoy life while I tried to stay alive. My support groups and counseling sessions became my new social life. At first that made me angry but then I began to realize it was exactly what I needed.
I learned a new hobby-sewing. Doing something with my hands and seeing a project have a beginning,middle, and end was awesome. It helped lower my anxiety about my subsequent pregnancy and also gave me something to talk with people about. It was so hard in those days to carry on conversations and sewing gave me a good topic I could talk about without spending much energy. When I sewed I could "turn my mind off," which was so nice.
After Abigail was born we began slowly bringing back social things. A dinner here, a movie there. It feels good to be able to go out and not have to prep myself for my surroundings. I can usually handle most things and even if something hurtful or painful comes up I can now hide my emotions until I get home. One big step I have taken is wearing mascara again! I quit wearing mascara after Caleb died because I cried so much. Then when the tears were less often I thought about putting it back on but was still scared. It seemed too "normal" to wear mascara everyday. So I put it off until this Christmas when I felt like I really wanted to start wearing eye make up again. I bought some new things and so far so good. Just another example of re-entering the real world.
The tender areas-there are still so many- always get me. Lately I have been struck by how isolating pregnancy loss is. So many people out there think it can never happen to them. When I hear others talk about it I often feel a social stigma like I'm the elephant in the room. At baby showers, I feel like the bad luck charm. When pregnant friends talk about their pregnancy I feel reluctant to chime in b/c my baby died and so really should I be giving anyone advice? It's all confusing in my head and the hard thing is that things hurt and will always hurt that people dont really mean for them to hurt. I have had to learn to give people a lot of grace for saying things that sting b/c they just didnt know how hurtful it was.
Advice- go slow. Reentering the real world is so hard. Everything about you and your life has changed and others will not understand that. Some relationships will be gone forever and thats ok, trust that God will give you new relationships. Try to ease back into life if you are able to. Don't put yourself on a timeline or push yourself too hard. Get rid of Facebook. Maybe that sounds extreme, but I deactivated my account for over a year and it was one of the most helpful things ever. Seeing new babies constantly was just too much, so I took it out and overall had fewer breakdowns.
Do not be afraid to say NO. There are still things I say no to now b/c they will be too hard for me to handle. It's ok and if people don't understand that then oh well. Lean on God. One of the most beautiful things I heard during a grief session video was a woman talking about her relationship with God. She said, " I used to need God for the big things in life, now I need him to help me set the table or go to the mailbox." Lean on the Lord for everything, even the small things that you think you should be able to do but just can't seem to.
Living again is hard, but it won't always be as hard. It is like rehab for a broken leg, it hurts real bad at the beginning but then slowly gets easier the more you work it. One day at a time or one hour or one minute. Just try to get to the next whatever and hopefully that will be better.