Losing a baby, how to be supportive in profound grief

I wholly believe that personal narrative is of the most profound activism there is. This is a moment of unrest for so many, and a time to pass the mic. Today’s essay comes from Renee Lawrence. 

*July 15th, 2013*

Five a.m. hardly seems like a perfect time to say good-bye. The sun has not even said hello, and here I am expected to leave everything I currently knew as my life in this hospital room. I spent the previous hour and sixteen minutes holding her. She not yet a pound, laid on my chest making small movements, sucking her thumb, and peeing on me.

It’s barely five a.m. and I have given birth and said goodbye to my daughter Lucy, today. Lucielle, actually. Spelled wrong, on purpose. She never did have a chance. She spent her whole twenty three weeks in utero fighting for her life. And I, fighting with her, naively believing that although every evening for the past week I would labor, laying flat on my back to not disturb her, refusing medicines, unsure of their effects, and not listening to medical reasoning, that I would have my daughter to raise. Blind faith in her, and she in me. Not ever meeting and we would already would do anything for one another.

It’s five a.m., on that day. Our fight was now over. But, Lucy… It had just begun. “Lucy” as she is known has brought light into this world in many ways. I hear her calling to me to bring love to the forefront. It starts with women, mothers, and daughters who know our pain. This is a love like no other, it’s not tangible, yet it’s palpable.

 

***

Infant and pregnancy loss is taboo. Rarely talked about and leaving so many living in silence. There are not many people who can rise above their comfort levels and I have experienced that on many levels. But, they also need someone out there speaking their voices, so they can find their “Me Too.”

One in four women will share this experience in their life time. That’s 25% of our women, hurting.

I think that it takes the collective “US” to rebuild our women. I get it, you may not know how to help, it can feel pretty devastating to see someone endure loss of this magnitude. Even I am learning how to approach other women who have my story. So, I have analyzed my own experiences and experiences of other women with my story to provide you with a list of what I like to call: Act and Refrain.

REFRAIN: I like to dub myself an optimist; short list.

-Refrain from verbalizing false positives. A child loss mother wants nothing more but to acknowledge and honor THIS child. We are grieving a life…

…SO REFRAIN from phrases:

“At least you know you can get pregnant.”
OR

“I am sure it will be better next time.”

OR

“Are you going to try again?”

OR

“You already have children, you should feel grateful.”

OR

“If you have another (boy or girl), will you name them the same as (lost child).” (WHAT? NO)

-Refrain from sending flowers. (They die too…and we are in no space to care for plants)

-Refrain in thinking she should “get over” it. She won’t, ever.

I am resilient and I “get over” things pretty quickly, but I will NEVER get past losing my daughter. So, in three years, Im going to still cry about it and need you to hear me.

-Refrain from taking her to places where babies hang out.
So, I never experienced this feeling. I have heard it verbalized a lot by loss mothers. Target can be a glorious healing place or HELL. Refrain from triggering these feelings. I however wanted to hold ALL the babies, but grief looks different for all Moms.

ACT: When we show up for the people we care about, we put love in action.

-Act on acknowledging her and the life her baby.
Facilitating and being a member of support groups, this is the one thing that I hear most women verbalize. Women have hopes for these children, they have spent their whole pregnancy investing a life in this child, where their children are born and go off and change the world. We want to know that you believe our babies existed. You can do this in so many ways. You will have to find what speaks best to you, but just show up.

*Remember their baby’s birth-date.
*Remember their baby’s death-date.
* Remember October 15th. (Pregnancy and Infant Loss, Day).

-ACT on giving her space, but don’t stop holding a place FOR her. She wants to know that you not forgetting about her, but you are there when she needs you.

-Be an ACT(ive) listener without judging or interjections.
Your personal experiences might not be appropriate at this moment. But, this doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about you.

-ACT on being a positive role model for self care.
This is huge. I remember thinking that getting out of bed and brushing my teeth felt like a major accomplishment. It was in that normal ritual of love for myself, I was able to see some light.

*Send a care package with her favorite bath salts.
*Ask her if she would like go for a walk.
*Order her a massage.
*Offer to watch her other children so she might get some time to herself.
*Bring her food

-ACT(ively) seek to provide laughter.
The first time I laughed felt raw and confusing. I thought that if I was laughing, I wasn’t actively grieving. Not even remotely true. The more I sought out laughter in the saddest time of my life, I was able to dig out. If my friends weren’t there to crack my ass up, I’d be lost.

-ACT on finding her resources and connecting her with other loss Moms.
Solidarity is found in other women who share stories.

-ACT by supporting Women’s rights. In fact, fight for it. Honor ALL women, all the time.

Lucielle Diane, was born with a small body and a big purpose. It took her to leave us to even recognize what that was. Her name, the meaning, held the clues. “Divine Light”, is what we choose to lead our lives with. In Lucy’s name, in all things, put love in ACT(ion).

Actively listening to your stories of “Me Too”; my message box is always open.

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Do you have a narrative you’d like to share here? Details about why personal narrative is so important to me and how to submit yours here: http://bit.ly/2gaRsmh