Lost in Loss

Dear Kate,

With Christmas coming I find myself feeling really sad.

A few weeks ago I was pregnant, and now I’m not.

I don’t know if you have any advice on how to get through it, but I’m finding this a lot harder than I thought it would be.

My husband and I both have complicated families and every year Christmas is full of holiday family drama. Before finding out we were expecting we had talked about going away, just the two of us, just to avoid spending Christmas with our families. When we found out we were expecting we changed our minds. It was to be our first, and also the first in both our families, so we were excited to share the news and we thought (hoped) it might make for more pleasant and positive interactions. We made our commitments and planned to stay. Now, feeling as down as I do, I don’t want to see anyone at all least of all our families. I really wish we had stuck with the original plan.

I had allowed myself to get fully involved in the baby-dreaming. Given the time of year I was often imagining what Christmas would be like a year from now, with a little one to spoil. I was excited about Christmas shopping and decorating… now I’m not excited for anything. I honestly just want to curl up and cry. Like, all the time. I’m devastated.

I know this happens a lot, I know the statistics, but you never imagine it will happen to

you.

And when it does…  I just don’t know how I’m going to get through it. At Christmas, of all times.

Signed,

Just Lost

woman by window

Dearest Just Lost,

Oh honey. Every time I begin to type I stop to let out a sigh.

I don’t know if these words will bring you comfort, but I offer them anyway in hopes and with hugs.

A year ago at this time I was pregnant, but had found out that the baby I was carrying had stopped growing. I was waiting to miscarry, which I finally did mid-December at 12 weeks. I already have two children from two uncomplicated pregnancies, so I had been very open about that pregnancy and many people already knew. The closer we got to Christmas, the more the ones who were asking how I was doing kept asking, the more the ones who were silently unsure of what to say kept silent. My mother wouldn’t stop telling me about her own miscarriages. My in-laws didn’t know if it was their place to say anything so they simply didn’t. I didn’t want to be checked in on, to respond to emails or to return phone calls. I also didn’t want an elephant in the room. I lost a child, I wanted people to recognize it, and then to leave me the heck alone so I could deal. I dealt with it by throwing myself into major chores like house-painting, by staying up to all hours baking, by doing whatever I could to make sure my two living kids had a happy Christmas without my sadness overshadowing. When Christmas was over, I crumbled. I fell to the ground and wept and yelled and wallowed in a pool of sorrow.

In the spring I conceived again, and again I miscarried at the end of the trimester. The second time was harder than the first. One miscarriage I had learned to wrap my mind around, it does indeed happen, it is indeed normal. But two? Two was unnecessary. Two really meant there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t look at a person without welling up, even total strangers. It was worse around family who knew. They would look at me as though to say something and I would turn around and run away.

I find miscarriages are often dealt with in a very clinical way by professionals–cut and dry, placed in a very neat and tidy box with a well-known label. Grief, however, is not cut and dry and cannot be contained in boxes or by labels. Grief is real. Grief leaves you raw, numb and confused. Grief leaves you in a heap on the floor, sometimes wishing tears would come so you can move on, sometimes willing the tears to stop. The most important thing I learned about grief during both of these experiences is that you have to experience it. You have to allow yourself to feel your way through the grief. You need to process your way through all it’s stages. You can’t bypass anything, you need to stay in it.

And then, you need to get out. It’s only once you’ve allowed yourself to grieve in full, and then make the conscious choice to step away from it, that you will gain any healthy perspective. It is only then that you begin to heal. You never fully get over it, but you do learn to accept it, and to live your life not defined by your loss but as having undergone (and survived!) the experience of loss.

I also recently experienced another near-to-Christmas miscarriage. We hadn’t told anybody about this pregnancy. My husband and I were actually talking about just that a few days before I miscarried, how he felt it didn’t actually make any sense to hide this information from family because family is who should be helping us through such times of grief. I didn’t necessarily agree with him, but it did lead me to an illusion that I had become strong enough to openly communicate about miscarriage as it was happening, were it to happen. And then it did happen. And I realized I wasn’t really.

As I sat in the hospital waiting room, the same Bob Marley lyric kept playing on repeat in the back of my mind: “Baby don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright.” I knew this to be true,it was going to be alright. I still didn’t want our families to know about it. I realized that I wasn’t willing to go through another Christmas with the looks and non-looks, the questions and non-questions. So we’ve made the decision to keep it to ourselves and work our way through to acceptance from the comfort of our own home, as we’ve done twice before.

And this is what I want you to do, Lost. I don’t want you to run away in an attempt to escape the grief, or to try and escape the reality of a pregnant-less Christmas. But I don’t want you to honour your family commitments either. I want you to look at your calendar and set yourself a period of no less than two weeks, but no more than three, where you are allowed to wholly and guiltlessly grieve. I want you to stay home as much as is possible, spend days in your pyjamas, have movie marathons on the couch and eat lots of food. I want you to allow yourself to cry or not cry, move or not move, do or not do. Let your body tell you what it needs. Don’t feel obligated to spend time with family if it isn’t within you to manage their drama and your own emotions at the same time. Prioritize your emotions. Be selfish. You’re allowed. Grieve the memories you’d been creating in your mind. Grieve the plans you had made to share your news. Grieve the loss of excitement and the countless conversations over baby names and what purchases to make and all the I can’t wait for‘s. Grieve. And when you’re ready step away, step back into your life and live it day by day.

There is one thing about your story that I don’t know anything about, and that is on losing a first child. I can only tell you with certainty that the best resource you have to help you through this time comes in the form of other women. If you have women in your life who have been through miscarriage, confide in them. They will open their arms to you, wordlessly. If you have women in your life whom you are sure will simply offer their time and listen, never pry, confide in them. Look to your community, there are others who have been there, who understand, and who know how to acknowledge and let be. There are groups and online communities full of women who are in or have been in your shoes. I can promise you that until you find the strength within you to carry yourself with your own two feet, it is other women who will support you, if you let them. I strongly urge you to let them.

You said, “I just don’t know how I’m going to get through it,” and the truth is nobody does. It’s not something you’re meant to know. But you will get through it. And you’ll find yourself one day on the other side looking back, and from that vantage point you’ll speak to that baby, and what you’ll say is “I love you. The time has come to let you go.”

All my best,

Kate

 

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Have a question for Kate? Email her at LettersforDearKate@gmail.com

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