Why do we compare our grief to others and feel unworthy of feeling what we feel?

I took part in a bauble making workshop on Sunday. I spent four blissful hours dedicated to making something in memory of Daisy and it was just beautiful to give her that time. Spending that time with other bereaved parents, who understand this whole sorry journey, is quite frankly, priceless. Creativity is such a great way to be mindful, and I love being creative, and mindful! It was a beautiful afternoon at The Riverside Hotel in Kendal, Cumbria, and I cherished every moment, thinking about Daisy. Yes it was emotional, and yes it was a little distance to travel, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I shared the afternoon with five other ladies. We had all lost at various different stages of pregnancy, ranging from early miscarriage through to stillbirth at the end of pregnancy. And the time that had elapsed since the loss ranged from a few weeks to nine years. What struck me was how inadequate someone who had suffered a miscarriage felt next to someone who had suffered a stillbirth. I understand that to someone who has had an early miscarriage, and feels distraught from that experience, they must struggle to cope with the thought of losing a baby later in pregnancy. It’s the unknown isn’t it, “If I feel like this after a few weeks then how would I feel losing a baby at eight months pregnant?”

Then there was the lady who got upset and was worried she hadn’t processed her loss and kept saying she should be over it by now. Should you? Who says? I’m not even going to share how long ago the loss was or what gestation, because it’s irrelevant!

What leads us to think like this? Is it an internal acceptance as in I can’t accept that I’m still grieving? Or is it forgiveness of ourselves and others for what we have experienced? Although I completely understand that this can be a hard one for bereaved parents, I feel, forgiveness of yourself, no matter the circumstances or reasons, is absolutely key to the healing/grieving process. Acceptance and forgiveness are the two hardest things to process during any grief. And what if you don’t even have a reason as to why you lost your baby. Or what if the reason is because of something that did or didn’t happen during pregnancy?

Is it the way the medical profession or society handle it? If you have a loss under 24 weeks there isn’t a birth certificate provided, there is a huge definition between the types of loss. There is less done in terms of support through subsequent pregnancies after miscarriage, even in some instances after multiple miscarriages. And as a society we almost adopt this “well it wasn’t a developed baby” attitude. Yes, but it was developing and growing, there was a positive pregnancy test, Mum could feel changes to her body, and may have seen a heartbeat on an early scan. There was a life growing, along with the first day at school, proms, graduation, marriage, not to mention Christmas’ birthday’s family days out, holidays…I mean the list is endless.

When I lost Daisy at 25 weeks, she was perfect. I was amazed at how developed she was, and beautiful of course. And I have had the ultimate privilege of having photo’s shared with me by lots of bereaved parents, from all stages of loss, and I would challenge anyone to think that these babies weren’t babies, partly because of the love and attention given to these beautiful little souls.

I have experience supporting families who have suffered all kinds of loss from miscarriage through to neonatal death, there really is no set rules on how you should feel at any stage. Every single baby was wanted and dreamed about by their parents at some point. And I believe that the loss can begin from the moment the dreams start. I also have those in my thoughts that haven’t been able to conceive, despite long IVF journeys. And they may not have experienced an actual miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death but the fact that they can’t conceive is a loss in itself. It’s the loss of a hope and a dream.
Why can we just not let people grieve and allow them to feel whatever it is they want to feel, because I believe that this is what starts someone grief shaming themselves. Statements such as “I feel like I shouldn’t be so upset when I’m with people who’ve lost at later stages of pregnancy” makes me so sad that you think you don’t have the right to grieve as hard or as long as anyone else.
I think the other factor is how, as a society, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. It’s not helped by social media…although I happen to love social media for bringing me help when I needed it most. And it allowed me to find the right people to connect with, particularly in grief, but in other areas of my life as well. Why do we need to focus outwards in order to quantify what we are feeling? Why does it matter so much to us what anyone else feels, or even thinks about how we feel?
Then I think as a bereaved parent there’s a lot of searching for answers. Wanting to know how long this unbearable pain will last, when will I feel better? When will I be back to myself?

Add in some pressure from family and friends wondering when you will be back to yourself, suggesting that maybe it’s time to go back to work, or to stop being upset… And then your employer expecting you to return to work before you feel able to. And we begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with us because we are still upset. And so we go in search of others who may feel the same. And we compare, we ‘should’ ourselves and we start putting expectations on ourselves.

One thing I have learned is allowing myself to be with my feelings and emotions. And so I spent time exploring the emotions that I felt on Sunday. Because one thing is for sure I don’t want to hold that inside at all. I have learned to look inwards and not outwards to make sense of my feelings. It’s something I’ve had to learn to do, and it doesn’t feel comfortable. There are times when I feel so wretched and heartbroken when I do it, that I feel like I’m transported right back to the time I lost her. But I also know that holding on to that emotion and those feelings, for me, manifested itself as a physical and emotional illness (another blog post, for another time). And I feel so amazing afterwards as though I’ve shed that layer of feelings and I can think clearly again. I have decluttered my wellbeing!

Please don’t compare yourself or put pressure on yourself. We are all allowed to grieve and do that on our own terms, there is no time limit, no right or wrong way and it absolutely doesn’t matter what the next persons experience was. The only thing that matters is that we find comfort in each other, with the one thing that has brought us together, our babies.

Daisy 26.09.2009

In the quiet, there you are

In the beauty of nature
You fill me with wonder

Silent beauty

Everywhere I go
I see you