Sunday, 13 January 2008

G = Grief

Snap out of it.

It’s time you were over it.

It wasn’t a baby anyway.'

You can always have another one.

At least you …. (fill in the gap … weren’t very far along; can get pregnant; didn’t die; have your health; didn’t really want children anyway; have a good job; etc ...)

Grief is something that comes to everyone at some stage. So why is it that we are so terrible at dealing with the grief of our friends and family? Why is it that we don’t talk about grief? That we don’t understand that we need to listen? When we offer platitudes or solutions, we are often trying to help ourselves to feel more comfortable, rather than thinking about what the grieving person needs. So we end up not permitting them to feel the way they feel, trying to get them to cheer up, in effect, denying them their grief.

Sadly, over the years, I have been involved with hundreds of women who have lost babies, and almost invariably their grief is accentuated by the insensitive or simply ignorant behaviour of their friends, families, and colleagues.

I shared those experiences.

  • My best friend gave me a book to cheer me up in hospital. It was about a woman who had a miscarriage that destroyed her relationship!
  • My mother said that she could relate to my feeling of isolation, because she felt that way when she was in hospital waiting to have her baby and all the other women had already given birth! (ummmm, NOT the same Mum!)
  • Another friend, when emailed and told about my losses, emailed back and said “thanks for your email. We’re pregnant and attached is a photo of our scan!”
  • A friend tried to tell me that it would be “good for me” to see another friend’s brand new baby.
  • My sister-in-law said I should come and visit her, just days after getting out of hospital. And that while I was visiting I could babysit for her, as the Chinese believe that you’ll get pregnant if you hold a baby.
  • My mother-in-law asked what was wrong with me that it kept happening.
  • My brother-in-law reminded us that his wife had no problems getting pregnant.
  • A friend said that I’d never had anything (ie a baby), so I hadn’t lost anything.
  • I was asked if I needed psychiatric help, after only a few weeks and whilst still undergoing treatment and surgery, because I wasn’t “over it” yet.

The sad thing is that my experiences were very mild, compared to those of many women. I knew my friends and family cared, and my husband was amazing, our relationship strengthening and deepening through all this. I might have lost a future, but I would go on. And now I can actually laugh about the lack of tact of these people!

Even though my experiences of grief have been related to loss of a baby, I feel better able to deal with others’ grief now as well. I was able to help my mother through the loss of my father. I recognised the feelings, the different stages. It helped me through his dying and death too. I knew that as horrible as things might get, I could and would survive it.

Grief has been part of me, and made me who I am.

So maybe G is also for Gratitude.

9 comments:

Bridgett said...

I miscarried before Sophia and my mother in law said "I don't know what to say to you. It's not like you ever heard a heartbeat."

My mom said: "I don't know why you had such trouble. I never had any trouble." As if I was going to blame her? Hmm.

And you're right. I see it now, in ways I didn't before. My sister in law emailing weekly updates on her pregnancy, and on the list is her cousin who just miscarred for the third time. Rachael doesn't want to read this, I thought. But Christy didn't get it.

Mali said...

B: You really get it. I'm sorry you had to.

Helen said...

I guess knowing what not to say is as important as knowing what to say. Or as you point out, maybe knowing you don't have to say anything, just listen.

Indigo Bunting said...

Mali: I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but you are such a gifted writer, and you are so able to clearly get to the heart of things. This is an incredible post. Thank you!

Mali said...

IB: Blush! You're too kind.

Aslo White said...

What people don't seem to understand about grief is that, whatever or whomever it is that we grieve, it is about a loss of an attachment. That attachment may be to someone we have known for many years, or to a child we have yet to hold in our arms. That a baby had not yet been born when he/she was lost does not diminish the attachment and the love we had for him/her.

Grief can be about the loss of hope, too.

Mali said...

Aslo: You're so right.

Mrs Slocombe said...

you know everything about your own and nothing about anyone else's: it isn't a currency, I have found: but the one thing is : you have to say something, and it has to be as little as possible, and then wait and watch...it is information which carries with it absolutely no wisdom.

Mali said...

Mrs S: I was very conscious of you when I was writing this, a little nervous in fact.

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment - "You have to say something, and it has to be as little as possible, and then wait and watch..."