What I Wish People Understood About Grieving
December might be my very least favorite month. Every where I turn it feels like reminders of the ones I’ve lost are shoved so aggressively and continuously in my face, ripping open scars on my heart.
The holidays. A time when the world wants to shun and hide grief and loss even more than it does in ordinary days. No, let’s cover it in shiny paper, twinkling lights, cheery songs, and glossy family photos so no one has to experience the discomfort of grief and loss.
I write and talk about how invisible it can feel to be a mother to children who died before birth, how that motherhood is so often unseen and unacknowledged in the larger society. I carried them in their too-brief lives, however, and the love was immeasurable.
I feel the same about having had the love of my life die before we were married. Only engaged so I never got to fully be wife or widow. I was told once that I was lucky to not have been married yet when I lost him, as if somehow that made the pain less. She was wrong. We had the love, oh there was so much love and I have experienced the heart wrenching grief of the loss of him.
I have often felt invisible in that grief.
Because let’s be real and honest here, grief makes people very uncomfortable. No one likes to see or acknowledge its presence. It’s force and depth and power not only makes so many very uncomfortable, it often scares them.
They don’t want it to happen to them and they don’t like the reminder that it could.
I used to feel that I had to be invisible with my grief. I used to feel that if I was honest and open about how very much I missed them and longed for them still, even after so many years, I would be judged or criticized or even left by those around me that I loved.
And, it’s true, I have been judged and criticized and even left because people thought I should “get over” my grief and my losses or that I was wallowing in them. I have been told I was “not very spiritual or evolved” because I continue to grieve for my family. Each and every time that has happened, it has hurt. Bitterly. Painfully.
But I don’t hide anymore.
I am a mother who grieves her children and will long for them until the day I leave this earth.
I am a partner who grieves for her love and will miss him until the day I leave this earth.
What I wish people understood is that these facts are true and also do not negate the good and joyful in my life. I am capable of living both.
What I wish people understood is that this continued grief does not make me weak, or unhealthy, or emotionally unstable. It makes me strong. It takes courage and strength and immense bravery to love beyond death, to face the waves of grief when they come, and to live open and wholehearted in a world that doesn’t wish to acknowledge death or grief, to be seen in a world that wants to make your grief invisible.
I wish people understood that while our society runs from grief and death and powerful emotion, I do not. I am not afraid of the hugeness and the power of grief and emotion. I have withstood losses that ripped and tore and battered the very heart in my chest and my heart still beats, still loves, and still lives. I can handle the life and death and grief that comes from loving so completely.
I wish people understood that the platitudes and pressure to move on, the silence and the “concern” about my lack of letting go does not help me or them or anyone. You do not have to understand my grief, but listening, loving, and accepting me wherever I happen to be does help. My putting on a happy face for others may make them feel more comfortable, but it also damages our relationship and hurts me deeply.
I wish people understood that my continued grief does not mean I have not accepted the loss of those I love. I know that they are gone. Accepting their loss does not mean I no longer miss them or long to hold them. I accept that they are gone and I accept that I will always miss them.
I wish people understood that they cannot fix this loss. No words and no actions can fix this loss. It cannot be fixed because there is nothing to be fixed. This grief, this longing is a normal and natural response to the loss of the physical presence of those I deeply love. I am not broken and this does not need to be fixed.
I wish people understood that even if I fall in love again or have more children it would not take away this grief I have for the ones I have lost. I may very well love again and marry someday – and I will still miss the man I loved and lost. If I did choose to have more children and they lived, I would still long for and miss the ones who died. My love and my daughters cannot be replaced. My family will always be missing them.
I wish people understood how exhausting it is to feel like I have to hide myself and my grief from them. Or how painful it is when they shy away from my expressions of grief and love for those I’ve lost, when they try to gloss over my grief with platitudes, or whisper to others about how concerned they are about my emotional health.
I wish people understood I only desire them to simply be real with me. Share your discomfort. Ask for what I need. Ask for what you need from me. Tell me how you truly are. Talk to me if you are concerned. Let me share with you. Let me tell you how I truly am. Let me reassure you of your concerns.
Let’s all just be real and open and honest with each other. Let’s stop hiding behind platitudes and whispered concern. Let’s stop hiding behind “I’m fine’s” and “I’m doing ok” and happy faces. Let’s stop promoting invisibility.
Let’s see each other, exactly as we are. Messy. Imperfect. Uncomfortable.
Let’s give each other the gift of loving each other – exactly as we are, where we are, and who we are. No conditions, no judgments, no hiding.
Raw. Vulnerable. Honest.
All of it is beautiful. All of it is love.
Are you a mama grieving your baby(ies) this Christmas? Find some love and comfort in the Invisible Mothers: When Love Doesn’t Die book, written just for mama who have lost their first or all their children during pregnancy or infancy to know they are not alone. xoxo