Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grief and Kindness

I am still learning about coping with grief. I lost my father in 2001 and thought I had an understanding of how grief works.

I completely skip the 'anger' step. My first reaction to my aunt telling me my father had died was to say, "No." As if by saying that I could make it so. No, of course he didn't die. I still need him. He can't have died. He was too good. He didn't deserve it. Such a horrible thing is simply not possible. Of course it was not only possible but true. I spent the next two weeks alternately crying and being ridiculously, almost farcically organized, trying to get his affairs in order to help my mother. I'm not sure, looking back, that such a rush to sort out the details of his death was really helpful. It had to be done, but not necessarily so quickly. I'm sure she felt overwhelmed, not only by the loss of the man she'd been with for 25 years, but by my propelling her towards the future.

The sadness of losing my father never goes away. I think of him often, and wonder what he would have thought about the way my life has gone. I wished he could have walked me down the aisle at my weddings (I actually had three weddings - the first, too young, ended in divorce - the second a secret civil ceremony that preceded a ceremonial wedding in Mexico). I wish I could talk to my dad about things. I miss his humour, his intelligence, his love of words and technology.

And now dealing with another loss I have found it to be strangely similar. When I left my doctor's office on Friday morning, I told the baby, "No. We're not losing you - we're keeping you. No, something isn't wrong, you're alright." Denial, plain and simple. At the ultrasound when I saw that empty gestational sac before the second ultrasound, I heard what the technician was saying but my thought was, "No. I know I'm pregnant. I know there's a baby." When the second ultrasound showed the fetus I felt elated - until I clued in to what she didn't really want to come out and tell me. There was no heartbeat. The fetus was too small. This news sank in. And I knew. I went directly from denial to acceptance. My husband was convinced there was a dating discrepancy (the technician's 'long shot') but I knew. (And my descent into grief was not helped by him shouting at me that I didn't know what was going on. I did. Of course, he wasn't skipping the 'anger' step there!)

So the grief goes like this. I'm sad. I cry. It hits me in the shower, or after I see my gorgeously pregnant friends, or when I start singing and realize that before I had been singing to the baby and now I'm just singing to myself. It hits me when I actually want a piece of chocolate - something I was completely turned off by for those two and a half months - and know that I can have it. Or when I make a cup of tea and reach for the decaf, then realize I might as well have regular. Or when I put on clothes and see I still have the baby bump that hasn't gone away yet.

But sometimes I'm happy, too. I am looking forward to the future. I know that I can get pregnant, and that pregnancies, in general, have an 85% chance of surviving. So the odds are good, unless something bigger is wrong with us. I just fell on the wrong side of the odds this time.

After the traumatic days since last Friday, I truly felt the need of some kindness. And I have received kindness - in some expected places, and some unexpected.

My husband has been so great. Once he realized this really was happening, he has been offering me more comfort than (I'm sure) he's comfortable with. Lots of hugs, he calls during the day more often, just to say hi and ask me if I'm feeling alright. He's taken me out to eat, he's made mini-vacation plans, he's kept us busy doing productive things. He's been so sweet. And he's let me know that he really wants to be a parent and that he wants, like me, to try again when we can. He's taking care of me.

My mother also has been sweet. She gives me practical advice and tells me stories. She is far away but we've talked on the phone and she's just so sincerely sorry and sad for us.

My best friend is six months pregnant but she lost a pregnancy last summer so she has been so understanding and positive for me. She shared her experience and also gave me hope as she told me that she and others she knows who lost babies were able to get pregnant again quickly. She cut short other plans to come visit us and brought hugs and chocolate. She listened to the awful details I just needed to share with someone, and made the right comments, and just was there to listen while I poured my heart out.

And here is the unexpected kindness I have found. I have had so many emails and comments of support from people who read my blog posts about what happened and the other women on the babycenter forum. I was in a 'birth club' and shared our loss with the other pregnant women there who are due in January. They were so nice and I could tell really cared and were sorry for what happened. And so many women who read my blog sent such sweet emails and notes, just to say they were thinking of me.

One blogger went way beyond though, and this was the most unexpected kindness of all. Today I received a package from Jenn at Beautiful Calling. In it were such lovely treats. I just kept saying, "Oh, my gosh" as I pulled out each thing wrapped in pretty tissue. A book to take my mind off my troubles. An amazing set from the Body Shop that will be a real luxury for me, I can't wait until my shower tomorrow to try some of the goodies out. Chocolates - because I really do need all the endorphins I can get right now. And to top it all off, homemade cookies. Jenn, a very public thank you for your generosity of spirit and your kindness to a virtual stranger - I hope I can call you instead, a friend.


  1. Oh sweety I just want to hug you! I have been through two miscarriages and it is horrible :( I almost lost my daughter too. She is my miracle baby. I now have two healthy kids ages 3 and 19 months and I thank God everyday for them. My heart goes out to you and know that you are not alone. Contact me ANYTIME if you need to talk, I am here for YOU. Just to let you know right after my first and second m/c I was pregnant within 2 months or sooner! HUGS!

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss, Emily. My very first pregnancy ended in miscarriage in much the same way as yours. I had no signs of a bleeding, no cramping, none of the usual symptoms. Then, at my 12 week visit when we went in expecting to hear heart tones for the first time and ended up learning that our little boy's short life ended in miscarriage somewhere around 8-10 weeks. Though my heartache was immense, I realize that I would not have the same 4 beautiful children that I have now had my first little angel survived. I know he is in heaven and I thank God daily for the 4 little blessings I have. Please feel free to get in touch with me anytime if you need an ear to bend. You know where to find me :) Jen

  3. Emily, I read your posts and it reminded me of my sadness two summers ago. I had a miscarriage at 9 weeks and I know your pain. I skipped the denial stage and went right to sadness and anger. I hated everyone except for my husband because he was going trough the same loss as me. 4 months after our loss we found out we were pregnant again. Now, I look back with some sadness when I think about what could have been, but when I see our angel, I finally accept that everything happens for a reason. Everyone will take loss differently, and no matter how you handle it just know that you have every right to feel any way you do. Take the time you need and heal in your own way.


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