I am by no means a loss or a grief expert. I’m just a mom that lost her son and learned so many things along the way. I was so blessed to have moms that had experienced similar losses come up around me and offer their wise counsel. It’s important to me to speak out to let other loss parents know that they’re not alone.
The Things People Say
I try to be gracious because I know that people are well-meaning and not intentionally saying painful things, but people say really dumb things to loss parents. This has made me so much more cognizant of the words that come out of my mouth these days.
“At least you can have more babies”, “at least he’s in a better place”, “at least you knew ahead of time”, etc are all phrases that we heard during the worst days of our lives. Any phrase that begins with “at least…” should not be used when discussing loss. There’s no at least. I’ve never heard someone tell a young widow “at least you can marry again” or “at least you’re young”.
The fact that someone has been pregnant before doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll have success getting pregnant again. And even if they do manage to have another child, that child will not fill the hole from losing a child. My Rainbow Baby, Easton, is an amazing blessing, but he isn’t a replacement for his brother.
There is no “at least”.
Grief is a weird thing. Everyone experiences it differently and handles it differently. Even my husband and I who were experiencing the same loss at the same time handled our grief differently. We had to find a new normal in those first days and we will never go back to our former normal again.
I’ve learned that as long as there isn’t self-harm involved, any way of handling grief is normal. It might be sleeping all the time or not being able to sleep at all-that’s normal. If it’s binge watching the Food Network for days on end or not being able to watch TV at all-that’s normal. If you need to talk about your loss constantly or if you just need to be quiet and keep things to yourself for awhile-that’s normal. (Obviously it’s not good to bottle things up long term, but short-term bottling is okay in my opinion)
It’s important to do what you need to do to survive, especially in those early days.
Nothing shows you who your real friends are like going through a major crisis. We had friends from all over the world surround us with love during our darkest time. We had numerous friends provide meals for us when we were barely able to function. One of my dear friends came to my house and took my stockpile of newly purchased baby items so I didn’t need to see them.
We had a friend start an online drive to help cover medical and funeral expenses. An online cloth-diapering group that I had been in for a few years came together and started a “Love for the Marlowes” campaign. There was a financial element to their campaign, but it was also so moving to know that so many people held us up in their thoughts and prayers.
My biggest piece of advice is to let people help you. There will be things that you can’t do or don’t want to do. If you have friends that are offering to help, let them help you.
I also had some friendships that I had to let go. It’s a hard thing to realize that a friendship is potentially damaging and it’s time to let go. It’s difficult to realize that your friend is incapable of giving what you need. It’s hard to see that someone you love is draining you emotionally. I don’t regret ending those relationships but it was still hard.
The New Normal
I’m not the same person that I was on the morning of January 29, 2014. I changed the instant the doctor told us that something was wrong with our baby. As a family, we had to find a new normal. I had to find my personal new normal as well. It’s important that I remember to give myself grace when things prove more difficult than they used to be. I can’t focus on tasks like I used to and I had to give up my dream of homeschooling my children because of it and that’s okay.
I have to accept that some days I’ll feel perfectly fine and other days it may be a struggle to even get out of bed.
Becoming a mom changed how I spent my free time and the amount of sleep that I got, etc but I was still the same person. Burying my son changed my very person. It has made me less likely to jump into meaningless arguments. I don’t cry as easily during television shows and movies now. (Pre-loss Sarah totally would have sobbed during every episode of This Is Us!!) I’m more anxious since losing Bennett and I’m, sadly, quicker to anger at times (I’m definitely working on this one). There’s just something about realizing the mortality of your children that doesn’t allow you to remain the same as you were before.
To all of the new loss moms and dads out there-you’re not alone. What you’re feeling and experiencing is normal. Give yourself grace and let yourself work on healing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone else that has gone through this before you. And know that my Facebook inbox is always open!