I am going to preface this by saying that this is a heavy topic today, but I need you to read it with an open mind and heart. I’m not trying to point fingers or place blame. I’m not trying to have a debate with anyone. And, I’m definitely not trying to be ungrateful by any means. I believe that most of us are good people, and do and say things with good intentions, but even good intentions can still be wrong or hurtful at times. You may not like some of the things I have to say, or you may take offense to something, but I ask you to take a step back, and attempt to understand what I’m actually trying to get across here…
Life has such a beautiful and painful way of teaching us things, and if you pay attention, you can always come back stronger and better for it.
I often have thought about the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” and I have to be quite honest now – That saying is not true for everyone!
There are people who become bitter, or withdrawn, or vengeful, or even twisted from things that don’t kill them.
It only makes you stronger IF you are actually paying attention to the lesson at hand, and then go forth ACTING positively on that lesson for the rest of your life.
We have SOOO many inspirational quotes and sayings that we regurgitate to each other in difficult times, and we post them on Facebook, and share Instagram photos of them all the time.
It’s all well-intended and good…Buuut, unfortunately, most of us are still missing the mark.
And, a lot of us simply reiterate those sayings and phrases without actually understanding them and/or actually living by them.
Recently, I had a very disappointing experience, and it’s one that no one likes to talk about. The problem, though, is that it happens all the time, and yet, because we don’t talk about it, most of us don’t know how to deal with it appropriately.
I want to talk about it…
Back in November 2014, I got pregnant.
We told our families at Christmas-time. And, a few close friends.
I had a lot of morning sickness, but it was a welcoming symptom, because I knew the outcome would be well worth it!
I had my 8-week appointment, and was very excited for the first ultrasound. We even brought Bailey to see the baby! 🙂
The doctor, however, was not excited about what he saw. I have never felt such panic before in my life. I honestly didn’t even know how to process that moment.
The doctor scheduled me for one week later to see if anything would change.
And, it was everything I feared. No growth. No heartbeat.
I have had many heartbreaks and disappointments in my short lifetime, monumental ones, at that, but never have I felt such a heavy heart like this one before.
I can’t even explain it to you, not even with the best Shakespearean phrases and poetic lyrics.
It’s something you have to feel for yourself.
And, many, many women have felt it before me.
It’s actually very common to miscarry.
What I learned from this experience, though, is that just because miscarriages are very common, and “everyone and their mom” have gone through it before, it doesn’t take away MY pain and disappointment.
Just because it’s common, and happens all the time, and tons of women have had this disappointment before me, that doesn’t change the fact that I am suffocating right now with heartache.
This is MY experience.
This is MY time to grieve and process.
This is MY heartache to have.
So often, the first things we want to say when someone is grieving are things like…
“It’s okay, it happens to everyone! My mom and sister had miscarriages, too!”
“It’s not your fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. Something better will come along.”
“I had 3 miscarriages before I had Alex! Betty had a miscarriage last year, too! Don’t worry!”
“Be strong! Hang in there! Stay tough! Keep trying!”
“I need you to stay strong for the rest of us!”
“God just has better plans for you!”
“The baby is in a better place!”
“Time will heal.”
We all mean well. Of course we do! I am so guilty of all of these, though. And, mainly it’s because I personally have very little experience with death and situations of this magnitude. So, I default to all of the things I’ve heard other people say before…Which, is what many of us do, too!
After it was confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat, I quickly shut down and avoided everyone, including my family. Not because I didn’t want or need the support, because I totally did…But, because I didn’t want to hear all of those “thoughtful, yet completely regurgitated” phrases.
When I finally did start talking to people about it, it changed me in a lot of ways…
When someone told me, “It’s okay, honey, it happens to everyone! It’s really common!” It made me feel like my experience wasn’t important, then, because I’m just a “number” among the thousands of miscarriages that happen in the world. I’m no different, so no one really has the time to soothe me, since this happens to everyone all the time.
When someone said, “Stay strong! Don’t cry! You’ll get through this! You’re so amazing and I’ve always known you to fight through things!” It made me feel like I wasn’t allowed to cry and break down…So, I did so underneath my covers late at night.
I was “shamed” into dealing with my pain privately and in secrecy.
The one time when I needed to let go, and let someone else hold me up, I was denied that. I think because so many of us don’t know how to correctly support someone, we throw the responsibility back onto the person in pain. Not intentionally, of course, but it’s an unfortunate coping mechanism that many of us use without even knowing it.
Don’t ever tell someone in pain that they, “Have to be strong” for you, or the kids, or whoever. It puts far too heavy of a weight on their shoulders…shoulders that are already collapsing. And, as uncomfortable as it can be to watch someone suffer, if you deny them that time and support, it can have detrimental consequences!
It’s okay to be sad, disappointed, angry, upset, and depressed. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to “take a day off.” It’s okay to let someone else take the lead for awhile as you recover.
There is a false notion that being in pain is a sign of “weakness.” But, the opposite is true. I find it heartbreaking that so often we convey the message to each other that feeling pain is “weakness,” and suppressing it is “strong.”
Stop doing that to each other!
I had one person tell me, “It just wasn’t meant to be. There was just something wrong, and it got taken care of by nature. It’s better this way.” It made me feel like something was wrong with me. And, no, it’s NOT better this way. It would have been better if my pregnancy was healthy and worked out.
I think the absolute worst thing to say to anyone, though, is “Well, it could be worse.” Or, “It’s not the end of the world.”
Don’t ever say that to anyone. Ever!
While technically those are both very true statements, and the intentions are to make the person realize that even in dark times, there’s always things to be grateful for still, those statements are actually telling the person, “Hey, come on, seriously, you don’t have it that bad. Buck up! You’re just being a big baby right now. It’s not that big of a deal. We’ve all been through worse things than you. This is child’s play compared to others. Quite your whining and crying. You have it so good still. I don’t want to hear anymore from you.”
Again, very well-intended words coming from a good place, but actually really offensive!
A few friends shared their own miscarriage experiences. I get it. They’re trying to make me feel like I’m not “alone.” They’re trying to connect with me. I appreciate that.
But, when they started talking about themselves, it took away from MY grieving. I suddenly had to “share the stage” with them, and it just wasn’t the right time.
I needed the stage all to myself. I needed them to just listen and let me cry.
I needed to be “the only one” right now.
I started thinking about all of the times I tried to support someone during a difficult time, and I cringed, because I’ve said all of those things before, but now I know how those things are received by the people in pain.
It made me want to call every single one of them and take back everything I regurgitated to them that was so cliche, typical, expected, and repeated by society.
Such empty words.
Now, I actually really hate the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
I hate a lot of those sayings and quotes now, because we use and abuse them so often, and they are just a slap in the face to people in pain.
It was really hard for me to not show my annoyance with people, because I knew they were just trying to be supportive and helpful, and they all have the biggest hearts on the planet, so I appreciated the effort dearly. I really did.
BUT, it made me realize how inaccurate we are at supporting each other (including me).
We’re doing it wrong.
And, it’s time that we admit that, and talk about how to do it better.
It’s actually quite simple, though.
Just be there.
Bring them dinner without asking them. Do their laundry. Take their garbage out. Hold them tight when they break down, and just let them cry and scream and snot all over you, even if it’s for 3-hours. Listen. And, listen well. Really listen! Hold their hand. Text them a quick hello. Bring by a cup of Starbucks coffee. Send some flowers. Take them for a walk, and allow them to be silent the whole time, if they want. Bring them some groceries. Rent some movies and sit on the couch with them. Take them to the beach and read a good book. Babysit their kids for a few hours so they can do something else, even if it’s just taking a good, long nap. And, respect their privacy, if they want it.
Let them have their time on stage.
Let them grieve and process.
Let them do it THEIR way, and NOT yours.
We all grieve and process differently. But, I think we all need acknowledgment and validation of our own feelings.
We need to be able to be ourselves.
We need to be able to let go and be vulnerable, and, yes, even ugly, during times of pain.
And, often times, you don’t even need to say anything. Leave the regurgitation behind…
Just be there.
Your presence is much louder than anything you can say!
You don’t need to be Superman. You don’t need to be ever-wise and philosophical. You don’t need to “fix it” for them. You don’t need to be their life coach or psychologist. You don’t need to be their savior.
You just need to be a friend that shows up!