These are the moments when strength reveals itself.
Please don’t tell me how to grieve.
Content Notice: Suicide
I believe I was put into my boyfriend’s life to fill the void.
You can — and will — survive this difficult time.
I didn’t know how to be happy for her and mourn for me at the same time.
You have to sit there and just take each blow of grief and loss as it comes.
It’s hard to know what to say or do when one of your friends is dealing with grief. Grief is so different to all of us and we go through multiple stages of loss that affect all individuals in different ways. You can never truly relate to someone else’s grief, just like no one can truly relate to yours because everyone’s experiences are all so diverse.
While your friend is struggling with grief, the best thing you can do for them is be a line of support. Listening with compassion and empathy is very important so that your friend knows that you’re there for them. Simply listening is sometimes one of the best things you can do while your friend lets out their feelings to you, but other times, be prepared to sit in silence with them; just having your presence will show your support.
Accepting and acknowledging the feelings without minimising the loss that your friend is going through is also very important. It’s also best not to offer personal advice or mention anything about moving past this or what you have to be grateful for. While someone is grieving, let them grieve and accept the loss on their own terms. There is no time limit on grief, and we all work on our emotions differently.
That being said, offering long term support is important in knowing how your friend is healing. Making assumptions about how a person looks means that you could be overlooking how they are still feeling inside. Long term support means accepting how they’re feeling and helping out on special days such as birthdays or anniversaries.
Physical support is also often needed, such as grocery shopping, taking kids to school, looking after pets and helping with meals. Often grief can overwhelm a person, leaving them feeling helpless and as if their life is out of control. Giving physical support can help things continue smoothly so your friend can grieve properly.
Support is the one thing that your friend needs while going through a period of grief, so never underestimate just being there for someone. It’s a hard part of life for the both of you, but having a friend through this time is one of the most important ways to show that you care.
Image via blokesupport.com.au
Miscarriage is a lot like a death without mourning. No one wants to talk about it – it’s like society’s last taboo. And I thought I knew a bit about dealing with grief, having lost my father to cancer in my late 20s, but nothing prepared me for the gut-wrenching shock and devastation of my first miscarriage.
When – close to the magical, all-important 12-week “safe” mark – I started to bleed and then doctors couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat, I felt absolutely gutted. Sure, I knew miscarriage was common – it affects up to one in four women – but at 36, I was still utterly unprepared for it to happen to me.
“It’s probably your ageing eggs,” explained the ER doctor, unhelpfully, but not unkindly. “But it happens to women of all ages, all the time. Next time, we’ll see you in the labour ward with a healthy baby.”
As we left the hospital, me clutching the pink teddy bear they give to the bereaved, I didn’t believe that doctor for a second. I felt nothing but deep sadness and hopeless, dark despair. I did not see this coming – my husband and I had already prepared the nursery for our much-wanted child. Our hopes and dreams… Cruelly gone.
And I was traumatised, as was my husband, by seeing the images of our dead foetus on the ultrasound scan. These images would continue to haunt me, for months to come, both during the daylight and in my nightmares about the miscarriage.
And then there was the unfortunate timing – the miscarriage occurred the day before my husband’s 40th birthday. We’d actually been out at a top restaurant celebrating this milestone over a long, lavish lunch just prior to the ordeal. I first noticed I was bleeding in the restaurant toilets.
I felt like I’d failed my husband and myself. I was angry at my body – and the world. It took me months to fully physically recover from the miscarriage, as is typical, after I needed an emergency D&C when my body couldn’t expel our baby naturally, as it was too far along.
But the emotional and mental scars were far worse. Aside from the horrors of having to wait almost 24 hours for an emergency D&C at our local hospital; a cold, insensitive and unthinking young obstetrician calling the procedure a “sucky-out machine” (I kid you not!); I was my own worst nightmare.
I constantly headf***ed myself with endless “what-ifs”, which was both pointless and endlessly exhausting. What if that was our only baby? What if I’m too old to have another? What if I did something wrong?
Grief is a funny thing. You can think you’re over it and have properly mourned the loss and dealt with it, only to have something trigger fresh, new pain. It’s kind of like a scab that keeps getting picked at, drawing fresh blood. I took up boxing, kickboxing and yoga with gusto with which to busy myself and help me heal.
And prepare yourself sisters, for if you’re ever unlucky enough to suffer a miscarriage, people will want and need you to be OK again quickly. There is no time for mourning. Society doesn’t seem equipped to deal with parents’ grief, so we rush people’s healing along, thinking it helps them. It doesn’t. There’s no funeral, no acceptable grieving period when you miscarry.
Your much-wanted, precious baby has died, but countless well-meaning people will say to you: “Oh well, it was for the best,” or this other clanger, “At least the baby died early.” Or, “I know how you must be feeling: my grandma died…” or my other favourite: “It just wasn’t meant to be. Will you start trying again soon?”
None of this helps you, in the midst of your pain. And, wanting to please my loved ones, I hurried my pain along, willing it to end, so desperately wanting to be OK.
I returned to a very busy job a week after my D&C, when my head and heart were still breaking, with colleagues nervously eyeing me with a mixture of sympathy and awkwardness. I had a job to do; there was no time or space to not perform at my best.
Happily, with good love and support from each other, our family and friends, my husband and I recovered well and conceived a healthy baby girl just four months later. Our second gorgeous, healthy baby girl was born just 18 months after the first, following a very early miscarriage at six weeks. This was much, much less of a shock and far easier to cope with given it was so early and we already had one beautiful child.
Naturally, I was anxious every second, minute, hour of every day of both pregnancies until we got the all-clear at both the six-week and 12-week scans, but life had ultimately been very kind to us. For in the end, we got not one, but two much-wanted, precious healthy babies.
- October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
- One in four parents experience the loss of a baby in Australia
- October 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s a day where families across the globe are asked to light a candle in remembrance of their baby whose life was too short due to miscarriage, stillbirth or postnatal causes. For more information, visit http://15october.com.au or http://www.pregnancylossaustralia.org.au.
If you need help dealing with your loss, phone Lifeline Australia’s 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue’s 24/7 service on 1300 22 4636.
The death of a loved one, relationship breakdown or loss of employment or finances? If you or a loved one is experiencing grief and loss, we have some survival tips to help you through it.
Although grief is a universal experience, we simply aren’t taught how to deal with. It is powerful, personal emotion which can make others feel uncomfortable about what to do or say. Instead of providing support, people often avoid individuals experiencing grief. Mourners therefore feel isolated and very alone in their suffering, even if they share the loss with others.
If this sounds like you or someone close to you, it is important to know that grieving is a very natural process. Everyone will experience it at one time or another and each person will do it differently. Some will grieve for a short time and other will grieve much longer. Some will cry and display their grief while others with hold it within. There is no right or wrong way as long as you let yourself experience it and ride though the pain.
Sometimes the significant loss we experience leaves an empty feeling within us and we crave to fill it. Initially drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or other addictive behaviours will fill the void and this is why so many people turn to addictive behaviours at the onset of grief. Unfortunately, these behaviours only mask the pain and when the behaviour is removed, the grief will rise to the surface.
Avoiding these types of behaviours and grieving in a positive way will not only get you through the intense feelings at the onset, but also allow you to move on as time passes. The following tips will help you grieve in a more positive way:
- Understand what you are feeling is completely natural. It is ok to be sad and still be able to laugh.
- Take each day as it comes and remember that as each day passed; the pain will eventually ease.
- Be kind to yourself and don’t eat yourself up over the past. Instead focus on the present and the future.
- Talk to friends and family about your loss. Although they may not have experienced grief themselves, they can be your best support so don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
- Look after your physical health; sleep, eat health, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol or sleeping medication. Looking after your physical health will ultimately help maintain your mental health.
- Keeping busy is great but don’t do so to avoid your feelings.
- Yoga, meditation, gardening, writing or things that you usually do to relax will help you stay mentally strong.
- Avoid major decisions like moving or selling your home. As time passes you will have a better perspective.
- If you are experiencing isolation, joining a support group will give you access to others experiencing similar emotions and the opportunity to share your experience.
If your grief is prolonged or if you are having trouble coping, you may need to talk to a professional. The following contacts are an excellent place to start:
Lifeline 24-hour counselling 13 11 14
Kids helpline 1800 55 1800
By Kim Chartres