Chelsea already knew what the doctor would confirm. In hindsight, I suppose I did, too, although I tried to believe otherwise. I wanted us to feel like parents as long as possible. After about nine hours of waiting in the ER, we finally received an answer around 4 a.m. It was a strange feeling—we were expecting, and then suddenly we weren't.
Chelsea took down the baby's stocking. I put away the Christmas photo cards—the announcements that we were having a baby, which we had planned to mail that week. I considered deleting the videos of us telling our immediate families we were expecting. Ultimately, I decided to keep them—I think some moments are worth remembering, no matter their conclusion.
I had almost fooled myself into thinking that life could have some resemblance to what it had been months earlier. If only it hadn’t been December. I love Christmas parties and get-togethers, but last year I wanted to celebrate quietly instead of putting up some facade of happiness around others. Still, to maintain a sense of normalcy, Chelsea and I attended the usual events. We sat among the younger couples expecting babies and the experienced couples with babies and the older couples with grandbabies while celebrating the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. And we answered the usual questions:
"About time to have some kids, eh?"
"Why don't you have kids yet? Don’t you want one?"
"When are you guys gonna have kids? You ain't gettin' any younger!"
As a would-be father, I grieved. As a husband, I tried to hide my grief. "You know you have to be strong for Chelsea," someone told me. "Never let her see you cry." Hence, I constrained my grief. Whenever she wept, I tried to be encouraging, optimistic, and supportive—but never bereaved. It felt like a solid approach until one particularly long, tiring day of colliding emotions caused Chelsea to reveal her frustration that I wasn't grieving. "It's as if the whole world has moved on, including you."
"I am grieving," I responded, "but I'm trying not to show it."
"But that's not what I need," she said. "I need to know that I'm not grieving alone."
I didn't know what to say. I had recognized that we both felt alone, but I thought we felt alone together. My intentions were good as I tried to follow others' advice. But in hiding my grief, I had hidden my empathy. Physically, I was there. But my silence spoke louder than my presence.
It's understandable for a couple to feel alone after a miscarriage. A pregnancy is a very public affair. A miscarriage is just the opposite, often treated as a taboo subject. Sadly, this creates a cycle: Couples don't speak about their miscarriage, so they feel alone in the experience because, again, couples don't speak about their miscarriage. It's easy to feel as if you're the only people in the room who've had one, even though you're likely not.
Friends would say to me, "I hear miscarriages are pretty common," often with the intention of giving comfort. But how was that supposed to comfort me? I wouldn't say to someone at a funeral, "So sorry for your loss, but I hear dying is pretty common."
It has taken a year, but I think I finally understand what they were saying: They weren't trivializing or dismissing my grief. They were saying that there are many others who have walked a similar path. Maybe even some of them. They were saying that, no matter how I felt, I was not alone.
Grief can feel like a sentence to solitary confinement. But do not fall for that misconception. You are not alone. I have found that the best way to know this myself is to make sure others know it, too. It's why I feel a personal conviction to share my story. Too often, we boast of our accomplishments yet hide our discouragements. We don't want to be seen as weak or broken. We're afraid of what others might say. But we weren't meant to walk the grieving path by ourselves.
We are surrounded by secret grief. Every individual around us has endured a personal tragedy. Perhaps their experience is far different from ours, or perhaps it bears some similarities. There's no point in trying to decide whose situation is the worst—I don't know why anyone would want to win that contest, anyway. We all have lost someone. But all is not lost.
When we want to grieve openly, we can speak to people who can relate to our experiences. When we want to grieve privately, we can immerse ourselves in the articles and books of grief specialists.
As we gather together at our holiday celebrations, we may hear laughter, but we never know what is behind it. Some are hiding their pain—who, we don't know, which is why we must be kind to everyone. But some are genuinely happy because they have risen above their situation to find new experiences, new joys, new life. It gives me hope that anyone can rise above their tragedy to find happiness.
Some days test our faith; other days reward it. The same drawer that holds announcement cards for a baby who will never arrive now also holds ultrasound photos for a baby due in January. Like most wonderful things in life, this event came when Chelsea and I didn't believe we could feel such joy. Is this new baby a replacement for the previous one? No, each has been its own blessing. Our best days don't erase our worst ones. Couples may have more children, widows and widowers may remarry, and orphaned adults may form relationships with parental figures. However, we will always ask, "What if?" What would we be doing right now with the ones we've lost if they were still here, not just in our hearts and minds but physically as well? What would we say to them, and they to us? There's probably little point in hypothesizing what might have been. The best we can do is make the most of what is and imagine with hopeful anticipation what will be. I would like to think they, too, are eager to see us. Even the ones we never knew.
—Josh Armstrong, Editor-in-Chief of The Next Step
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Tags: Grief Support