A secret sisterhood exists right under your nose. You'd never know about it unless you were a part of it. It's not kept hush hush out of snobbery. Actually, it's not really secret at all. It's just not discussed in the outside world because no one really wants to hear about it. (And that needs to change, but that's a post for another day) It's the Sisterhood of Loss. We are your neighbor, your coworker, your family member, your waitress, your wife, your friend. We are the woman on the street you pass every day. We feel alone in the world until we find each other, and when we do, we are less so.
In the past few weeks, I have met a handful of very strong women whom I am very glad to call my friends. In my discussions with them and my reflections on my own feelings, I have compiled a list of the Top Ten Things Mothers of Loss want you to know:
Here they are...
10. We don't want to hear about why you think this happened or what purposes it may serve. We don't care about your rationalizations, we just want our baby back. Nothing you can say to justify "why" will make us feel better.
9. We are still a mother. Our baby is just as much of a person to us as anyone else walking and talking around on this Earth. We might not get to change diapers or wipe noses, but we still look at ourselves as a mom. And that itself can cause a serious identity crisis when we have no one to mother.
8. The list of "Firsts" since losing our baby or being pregnant is miles long. Each "First" we attempt hurts just as much as the loss itself because it is a reminder of what we don't have. Be patient with us if we don't feel like going to a certain restaurant or even completing a simple household chore. It takes an enormous amount of mental energy to cross items off this list.
7. "I'm sorry for your loss" is a perfectly acceptable thing to say, and is usually all that is needed. You don't have to come to us with words of wisdom or profound thoughts, we are probably only half listening anyway. Just let us know you are grieving too and leave it at that. Words are not always comfort.
6. "How are you doing?" is a loaded question. Do you really want a truthful answer? What do you want us to say? That we are doing ok? What is "ok"? Between "I'm super, thanks for asking." and "I have absolutely no reason to live for one more second", we are probably somewhere in the middle, but it is far too complicated to explain exactly how we are doing in an every day conversation. Besides, we have already been asked this question more than we can count and are tired of thinking about it - and we will most likely respond with, "I'm doing ok." anyway.
5. We need to be rescued from our thoughts every once in a while. Taking us out for ice cream is a good start.
4. You can't protect us from pain. We have already experienced the worst. We are broken, but not beyond repair. Do not treat us like we are made of antique porcelain. We want to heal and we want to feel normal. For example, if we are out with you and you (horror of horrors) notice there is a stroller coming toward us, do not try to steer us away or make a big deal out of it. We saw it before you did.
3. Random texts or messages like "Thinking of you" or "<3" can be disarming to us. We might have been having an okay day so far, and then we are reminded that we are supposed to be sad. And then we are sad. And then we feel guilty because we were not sad for a brief moment of our life. If you want us to know you are thinking of us, send us a message that is relevant to events. For example " Something hilarious happened at work today...it was..." or "Going to see a movie tomorrow. Wanna come?" Also, if we don't respond to your text, it might be we just weren't up for interaction at that time. It is not an indication of our feelings towards you. Take the Magic 8 Ball's advice and "Try again later".
2. We want to have opportunities to talk about our baby, and when we talk about our baby, we WILL cry. Sometimes, it's because we are sad. Sometimes, it's because we are angry. And sometimes, just sometimes, it is because we are so very overcome with love. Allow us to talk about our baby (and cry) without getting that strange and sympathetic look on your face. If we see you are uncomfortable, we will stop, even though we don't want to. Also, there is no reason to be uncomfortable with our grief, or worry about what you should say to us. You don't have to say anything. We really just want you to listen.
1. We are forever changed. We will never be the person we were before. Never. This loss will always be a part of our lives and we will deal with it for that long. We will be visibly sad and detached for a very long time, but that does not mean we will be that way for the rest of our life. Getting stuck in grief does not mean we will always be stuck. Moving on does not mean forgetting.
(By the way, if you find that you have been guilty of any of the above, it's okay. We know you mean well and we still love you.)