Grief (My Reflections on Empty Arms)

Cold Stormy Waves

It comes in waves, clenching my throat,

stealing my breath, drenching my face. 

The waves are spread out now more than at first,

yet the swells are just as high and crash down just as heavy. 

Paralyzed I am, spinning round and round as each scene swirls up from the deep to haunt me again. 

I surface just in time to ride along on a vessel of what-ifs in a never-ending sea of sorrow.

     I wrote this poem a while ago after a good friend lost her baby and her loss triggered some intense flashbacks of my own loss from nearly 17 years ago.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly and spontaneously we can be transported back to a traumatic event and feel again the same emotions with the same intensity as the original experience.  For several nights in a row after her loss, I would lie in bed and suddenly find myself semi-paralyzed reliving every horrific moment of the day my little girl became an angel as my body struggled to bring hers into this world.  In the morning light, I felt guilty for mourning my own loss when my friend’s loss was the current reason to mourn and honestly, I think that was part of the reason I experienced such intense emotions during this particular wave of grief. I realized that this time, not only was I mourning my own loss again, and her loss as well, but I was also mourning the fact that now she had entered this secret club to which no woman ever wants to be granted membership.

     I’ve learned that grief doesn’t pick and choose when to come and when to go. You don’t get to choose when you feel it. It just hits you sometimes like waves and all you can do is learn how to deal with it and how to live through it and how to cry with others who experience this same loss because you can’t truly comfort others through their loss. The loss stays with you, becomes part of you and your story.  There is no going back to the former you.  There is no patch for the hole in your heart that was meant to be filled with a million baby giggles and gurgles and a lifetime of parental memories.  However, I have learned that talking and writing about the experience, even though it is painful, helps release some of the grief tension that builds up inside my heart.

I haven’t ever opened up much about my heartache because honestly, it hurts to recall that terrible chain of events and also, I didn’t want to burden others with my pain. Additionally, I didn’t want to hear people’s awkward condolences.  (I do realize that most people mean well and often don’t know what to say and I have learned to appreciate the intended kindness of their words.). In the past I have made it a point to not look at social media on Oct 15th and have quickly scrolled past posts that attempt to bring awareness to pregnancy loss and stillbirth.  I debated on whether to actually post this or not.  However, I’ve realized that by not sharing my story or linking arms, albeit virtually or in person, with other women suffering the same loss, perhaps I’m adding to the secret nature of this club and that doesn’t help anyone.

Therefore, if you are like I was for those first several years, suffering through this grief alone, I encourage you to reach out to someone who has been through it and can hug you and cry with you through the pain. It won’t take away the grief, or ensure that you never feel it again, but it will help ease some of the built up grief tension within and reassure you that you aren’t in this alone.  If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, feel free to contact me! I am willing to listen to you, pray with you, and pray for you through this.  You are not alone. Trust me.  I get you Mama…

  • If you’ve ever felt like your chest would explode with all the pain that resides where your little one was supposed to lay their head each night, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever looked around at all the other Mamas with their babes and wanted to scream out against nature’s injustice, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever avoided places where you know there will be lots of babies because you just can’t right then, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever seen a picture of your friend’s child who is the same age as your angel would be and teared up, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever felt the tension of being mad at God, yet clinging to him because He’s the only one who could possibly understand your pain, I get you.
  • If you find yourself pausing before talking about pregnancy because, well,…it’s complicated, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever been in the awkward and sometimes infuriating situation where comments are made assuming that you’ve never had a child and you don’t know how to respond, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever spent Mother’s day as a mother without a child, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how all the other women who’ve gone through this are coping so much better than you, I get you!  (And they probably aren’t, some are just better at wearing our ‘OK’ mask and grief looks different for everyone.)
  • If you’ve ever felt guilty for mourning your angel while holding one of your other children close, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t feel anymore after keeping the pain and grief bottled up for too long, I get you.
  • If you’ve ever wanted to punch someone in the throat after making a comment like “Only God knows why these things happen.” Or “It’s all part of a bigger plan.” – I GET YOU!

I get you and thousands of other women in the world get you.  Different cultures have their own norms surrounding how to act or “cope” with pregnancy and infant loss, but no matter where you’re from or how you were raised, it hurts and it sucks!  If you need something, ask for it.  Need friends to not mention it around you for a while, ask them to not mention it.  Need someone to hug you long and hard while you cry, ask someone to do just that.  Need to talk to a stranger who’s been there, DM me, I’ll listen.  Need to talk more, find a grief counselor near you and schedule a time to meet them.  Need someone else to make food for your family, ask your local support group.  (*Usually the very same people that we want to punch due to their well-intentioned awful comments are the best to ask because they really do want to DO something for you which is why they say things that they think are comforting, but aren’t.)

Dear women who haven’t ever lost a child and wonder how to respond to someone who has here are some suggestions, but remember that everyone processes grief differently and may not react the way you anticipated to your intended kindness.  please, please, please:

  • Do ask a grieving Mama, “What can I make you/your family for dinner this ____day and when would be a good time to drop it off?  (Don’t ask, “What can I do to help?” or “Can I make you dinner?”).
  • Do pray for grieving Mamas.  (You don’t have to tell them that you’re praying for them though.)
  • Do be willing to hug them while they cry it out, if they ask you to or if you have the kind of relationship where physical affection is welcome.
  • Do not complain about your own lovely, healthy, rambunctious children around your grieving friend.
  • Do not distance yourself from your grieving frined just because its awkward and you don’t know what to say.
  • However, do not say things like,
    • “Well I just thank the lord that it never happened to me.

OR

    • “God works all things for good.”

OR

    • “At least you’ll see him/her in heaven one day” (although as a believer, this is the one thing that does bring some comfort.)
  • Do try to remember that we all have a story and you may not know what others have gone through.  There are people that I have lashed out at because a comment they made touched a nerve surrounding this topic.  Those people probably think I was being hormonal or (insert some other adjective here), when in fact I was responding from a place of deep grief.  Remember, it comes in waves, unexpectedly, and sometimes it’s hard to keep bottled up.  Instead of turning away from that person, ask if they would like to share their perspective with you and you just may find that your eyes are opened to a whole other way of seeing life, death, and the grief that comes with living through both.
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Alli Buus
Alli Buus
1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your heart. Loss is never an easy thing. <3