I stared down at the pink lines and the image of holding a small bundle in my arms flashed through my head. My husband was asleep in the bedroom and I had already lived almost a year in the future. If you would have told me that a week later I would be grieving a miscarriage and entering the darkest period of my life, I would have shook my head in disbelief.
After years of infertility, I knew it wouldn’t be possible to experience this life being snatched away after working so hard for it. Then the doctor called and told us the pregnancy was no longer viable. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
I had some of the most wonderful friends and family who took care of me during the weeks after losing my baby. So many had come out of the woodwork and shared their own stories of loss. Women I hadn’t spoken with in years messaged me, and told me how they could relate, because they too experienced the heartbreak of a miscarriage. I was surrounded by people who understood my grief.
And yet, amidst the cards and text messages and hugs of support, I had never felt so alone.
It wasn’t until my best friend experienced the grief of a miscarriage several years later, that I finally heard someone say what I had been thinking: “It’s lonely. Losing a baby is lonely.”
And it is. It is so incredibly, shockingly, lonely.
When you have a miscarriage, you're left bewildered, wondering how it could be over, before it really even got started. And while you're in the midst of your worst nightmare, everyone else around you is bewildered as well.
Death makes people really uncomfortable. Period. And while uncomfortable people often want to provide as much reassurance as they can, they just don't know how to. I probably said all sorts of awkward things to my friends who lost babies prior to my own miscarriage.
Regardless of how they appear on the outside, your friend or family member had already built an entire lifetime with that child.
I've been trying to wrap my head around this for years since I lost my baby—how when people shared their own experiences of loss with me, I could still possibly feel like I was the only one. But maybe that's just it. Maybe so much of it has to do with the fact that we hardly talk about our grief until someone else is struggling. It's only then that we feel comfortable enough to tell our own secrets.
But then, you ask, what about when those women do come, surrounding you in support, wiping your tears and telling you they understand? How could you continue to feel so lonely?
Maybe it's just that no matter what, even if you've been through it, you can't ever fully relate to someone else's crippling pain of losing a child. Maybe it's because when the initial crisis is over, and the food stops coming and the texts messages asking how you are start becoming more sporadic, you're left still hurting, and wondering how life can continue on for others when your own has come to a crashing halt.
Maybe it's because when you stop talking about it, people assume you're OK. Even though you're not.
So how can we better support each other to feel less alone in our grief? How do we start that cycle of love for our fellow moms who lost children?
For starters, be there. Show up, be present and recognize that we all show our loss differently. Regardless of how they appear on the outside, your friend or family member had already built an entire lifetime with that child. Acknowledge that and then let them grieve in their own way without judgement.
And don't forget about them, in the weeks and months and years to come. Send them a card on their due date. Send them a message asking how they are doing that day and that you were thinking about them. Say their baby's name out loud, long after you think their crisis has passed. I promise you they will always be grateful to have you share in their child's brief life.