Your Grief Is Not Mine

One of the biggest roadblocks I’ve had throughout my grief journey is feeling like my grief was “too much” or “unwarranted.” I’ve seen the baby loss community be silenced so many times on social media when users felt the grieving mother was oversharing. I’ve read how so many women felt trapped in their thoughts and feelings because the topic of miscarriage and pregnancy loss was taboo in their communities. In my personal experience, I’ve seen how some of the faces of people I’ve shared with turned flushed the moment I spoke about my loss and who my angel baby is. Can we blame them though? Hearing such a sad story about a painful experience someone has had will never feel good. I’ve also found myself comparing my grief to other women who’ve experienced a miscarriage and/or pregnancy loss. In the process I find myself shrinking my baby and experience because I’ve convinced myself that I made a big deal out of nothing. “I didn’t make it full term, so why cry a year later?” “This other woman suffered a miscarriage as well and appears to have moved on, you need to do the same.”

What I’ve learned through therapy (and what I keep telling myself) is that grief should not be compared. I’ve told myself several times that is a simple concept that should be understood, but my mind forgets it when I allow insecurity to set in. My husband made an excellent point one day I was feeling a little down. “Would you expect a person who lost their father when they were two months old not to grieve their deceased father just because they didn’t lose them at 35 years old?” Do you have to have someone in your life long in order for you to feel the pain of losing them? That’s not fair. He said, “It’s not fair to put that sort of restriction on yourself.”

The fact of the matter is that all of our grief is different. We’ve all lost our babies in different ways, and we are all different people. The grieving experience may be similar, but definitely won’t be the same. Family members will grieve loved ones differently, and strangers will grieve their deceased babies differently. Some women will not be deeply saddened by losing their babies, and that is OKAY. It shouldn’t be frowned upon. Some women will grieve their angel babies for the rest of their lives, and that’s okay too. Your grief is your grief, and the important thing is to make sure that you’re healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally. Grief is an ongoing cycle and has no destination. Grieving doesn’t mean being in a deep depression the entire time, but you may feel it from time to time depending on the season.

It’s so important to give yourself grace and to take it one second at a time.

Dear TJ,

The sun has been shining bright, and you have been shining bright in the night skies. These have been some of my better days, and I’m so grateful. I love you baby!

Love,

Mommy…

Would You Do It All Over Again?

If I were asked the question, “Would you do it all over again?”, I wouldn’t. If I had a time machine, I’d never choose to go down the path of losing my baby again. I struggled with this answer for so long because, for a while, my answer would have been yes. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was about 8 or 9 weeks along. I was pretty in denial before caving in and taking a test because all of the symptoms I was experiencing were synonymous with PMS. Strangely, it felt like I was pregnant for a short and long time, at the same time. The days were long, but the weeks were short. It felt like as soon as I’d learned and accepted that we would be having our third child, he was leaving. Early in my grieving, I would choose to do it again just so that I could embrace and love my baby sooner. So that I would have technically had a longer time with him. Although I lost him at 11 weeks and 2 days, I had only known about him for close to 4 weeks. 2 out of those 4 weeks were spent worrying if he was ok because of the bleeding. At the time of my loss, the world had just shut down a month earlier (OB/GYN appointments were spaced out and moving to Telehealth), and the emergency rooms were filled with sick and dying people due to Covid. So I stayed home as long as I could in hopes that I’d make it to my first in-person appointment.

Now, the feeling of wanting to do it all over again visits for a few seconds, but then it’s quickly removed when I remember everything that took place after. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t. However, part of my heart breaks saying that. It feels like I’m saying I wish my baby never existed. It feels like I’m saying my baby brought me pain. It feels like I’m saying that I would have been fine if I had never been pregnant with him. I often let those thoughts consume me so let me speak the truth instead of letting my emotions marinate on lies. Although my loss pains me, I’m so glad my baby existed. The truth is that I do wish I’d been pregnant with him, but I wish I’d been able to hold him in my arms and watch him grow. But if I knew my baby wouldn’t live, I wouldn’t do it again.

The pain of losing a child is one that I will never be able to put into words. The heartache you feel. The darkness you feel surrounds you. The sunken place you feel yourself crying and screaming to get out of, but no one can save you… It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve gone through thus far. It doesn’t matter what gestational age your baby was when they died… it crushes you and leaves you with so many questions and pieces to pick up.

But… What if I didn’t experience losing this baby? Would I have continued to push the date back to start therapy? Would I have ever truly allowed my husband to care for me the way he did and still does? How long would it have taken for me to truly work on finding my purpose and pursuing it? Losing my baby has changed me in a painful way, but it has also blessed me. And that breaks the other part of my heart to say. It feels sick to speak on some of the good things that came out of his death. I try to remind myself of my therapist’s words, “There is duality in grief.” “You can feel both heartbroken, but happy at the same time.”

To me. To other moms of babies who aren’t with them physically… Take your time. The journey of grieving and healing after loss is not linear.

Dear TJ,

“You mean the world to me. You are my everything. I swear the only thing that matters to me…” Is making sure that I honor you forever!

Love,

Mommy

How Does Self-Care Really Work?

Everywhere you look there is a reminder about why self-care is important and needed. As a mother… as a woman… there’s no way you could miss the reoccurring message. It pops up as if it is God sending you a message on how to ease some of your struggles. I follow several women and mom blogs, podcasts, and friends, and it’s beautiful to see everyone making self-care a priority. Everyone has their own idea of what self-care looks like because well… SELF-care! I have searched, researched, and tried many routines, and I’ve finally learned what works for me.

For years, I thought I was inconsistent and lazy when it came to my self-care. So I began to read more on how I could change that. Through my research, I never saw “Do Self-Care.” Most articles and professionals say “Practice Self-Care.” The dictionary defines practice in the verb form as “performing (an activity) or exercising (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.” My issue is that I would focus more on doing self-care rather than practicing it. Doing it just because rather than practicing it to create a habit. I learned that participating in self-care consists of first choosing the types of self-care that you will practice (Whew! and that list goes on and on) and being consistent (the routine). When I pondered upon that, I realized that I’m not truly inconsistent, self-care is just seasonal for me.

I, like so many of you, have gone through many seasons in my life. Each time I need a different self-care routine to get me through. When I was breastfeeding my youngest daughter, self-care was me eating freely while binge-watching shows on Netflix. It then turned into adding some candles with peaceful tunes playing in the background while reading a book. Once my breastfeeding journey ended, I needed to be outdoors! I began to practice self-care by hanging out with my friends more and attending events that fed my soul. When I fell into a season of postpartum depression and needing my husband home from the road, self-care was quality time with him. When my hair was falling out from stress, my routine turned into taking care of the physical part of me by working out, taking care of my hair (includes frequent visits to the hair salon), and working on my skin.

Currently, I am in a season of healing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Wholly and fully. I’ve had to choose my forms of self-care carefully and strategically. I need something that will tend to each area that I’m struggling in. I’ve had to remain open to them changing based on my need at any given time. I am leaning heavily onto journaling when I can’t voice how I’m feeling and my thoughts are running rampant. I sit outside on my balcony or in my car in total silence when I’m overwhelmed or I need peace (because…kids). I’ve gotten back into art (drawing, painting, crafting) in order to add to my therapeutic healing and release. I also FINALLY made the big step of reaching out to a therapist. In addition to those mentioned earlier, I’ve been trying to remain connected to God. I’ve been doing my best to pray and talk with Him, read devotionals, stay consistent with online church services and bible studies (due to social distancing), listen to uplifting music, download meditation apps, and more. On the physical end of things, it’s a work in progress. I’m getting back into working out, interested in yoga, and the urge to purchase a bike came out of nowhere today before I wrote this post.

I now see self-care as a way of healing. Healing your mind, body, and soul. Some choose the spa, vacation, massages, new hobbies, and more. It’s important to remember the root word “self” in self-care. You can be inspired by others and try their routines out for yourself, but it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Self-care is customizable. Maybe you can’t afford to go to a spa (especially now that Covid-19 has changed our way of living), but you can create a spa-like experience at home. The scope of self-care is endless. It can be as small as (which is actually huge) taking a social media break, going for a daily walk, watering your plants, taking a moment to sit in silence for 1-minute, and practicing breathing techniques.

If I’m being honest, self-care can be difficult and often feel like hard work. I tend to have to force myself to do things for myself, and it’s another task to do them consistently. However, considering my current needs, I can’t imagine not making a little time for myself. My children nor my husband would get the best version of me. Hence, my reason for seeking therapy. I’ve found myself irritable, sad, mad, shutdown, overwhelmed, not sleeping, hair falling out, and more when not caring for myself. This journey is still taking a lot of practice, effort, and intentionality, but I’m pushing daily to remember my importance and make myself a priority. I AM IMPORTANT. I AM NEEDED. I AM LOVED. I AM STRONG. I AM POWERFUL. I AM RESILIENT… I AM WORTHY! And so are YOU!  I’ve accepted that as I grow and as the seasons of my life change, so will my self-care routine. I talk a lot about not comparing myself or my journey to others, but I really failed myself in the past by comparing my self-care to others.

That stops now.