I know how you feel. It’s a dangerous term. It’s a hurtful term. It opens the floodgates to comparing our grief. Like we have a balance scale out to see which pain is heavier. Maybe we compare by the gestational age of our babies. Maybe we compare by the cause of death. Maybe by how many people are in our support circle. This loss community is full of strong bonds. We are the only ones who know what it feels like to lose a baby. No matter what the circumstances, no one truly 100% understands the other. And that’s okay. We all have lived different lives. We all lost our babies in different ways, at different ages. Some of us have other children at home, while others carry on with empty arms. I’m guilty of comparing. I felt so incredibly defensive the first time that someone told me they understood. It was someone who had suffered an early miscarriage. Thoughts raced through my head. No, you don’t understand. There were no kicks. No completed nursery. No hospital delivery with an unexpected outcome. I bit my tongue and I instantly regretted those thoughts. It’s not my place to belittle another’s pain. For that person, in their life, that was the most painful experience imaginable. It was still the loss of hopes and dreams. I learned not to compare. I learned to be careful with those two words: I understand.
Since I’ve started writing, I’ve seen a whole other kind of comparison. We look at other loss moms and we feel insufficient. I’ve gotten comments and emails that say, “You’re doing so much better than I am.” In sharing my son, it is never my intention to make other moms feel less of themselves. All of us are on different grief journeys. Nothing is black and white. Society knows of the “stages” of grief, like there’s a cookie cutter way to live on after loss. This is just not the case. These stages are very real, but we don’t all live them in the same order. We don’t have a guidebook that tells us how to grieve. Everyone is doing what they can to keep living, and that alone, makes you strong and brave. This writing, and these paintings: they’re all that I can do to keep myself upright. I have been depressed. I have been angry. I have been confused. I have struggled to get out of bed and keep going. I have broken down and cried in the middle of a grocery store. I feel the hole in my chest ache and spread throughout my entire upper body. My health has suffered. My body is tired. I am lucky that I have found ways to express myself. I have found some things that heal. But I have my bad days.
My journey might look different than yours, and I hope you know that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to feel bitterness. It’s okay to be depressed. It’s okay to curse and scream at the sky. It’s okay to question your purpose in life. It’s okay to feel guilty, but you do not have to. Because it’s also okay to feel joy. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to sing and to be playful. Your baby would want you to. They would want you to live. They would want you to allow yourself to feel on the very deepest level. Where there is great emotion, there is great love. We wouldn’t hurt if we didn’t love them from the very deepest parts of our hearts and our souls. So feel it all. Whether it’s joy or despair, let it come. It’s okay.