Since I started this series of posts, I have had several people reach out to me, apologizing for anything insensitive they may have said to me during my time of darkness. I don’t hold grudges. I don’t remember most of who said what and it wouldn’t matter if I did. That’s over. Though there are always scars from loss and trial, I wear them with contentment and gratitude now. They are a badge of honor. A part of my fabric. Without them, I would not be me.
My last post addressed the “helpers” and what they could do to avoid causing damage and to promote healing. This post is for the suffering. Because looking back, I can see what aided my healing and what was only a distraction.
My long bike rides and college classes were distractions. They diverted my attention for the exact amount of time I was physically engaged. But the moment I arrived back at my house from either, I was empty again. My distractions did nothing to help me heal. Maybe some people get results this way, but I did not. I did spend a lot of money figuring that out, though.
Looking back, here’s what helped me. I’m sure the internet has broader and better ideas. These are mine.
- Look for the helpers. Mr. Rogers was once quoted as saying that his mother told him to “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I agree. There will always be people doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and waiting to embrace you without you having to tell them how. Surround yourself with those people. Build that cushion and then fall back on it as often as you need to.
- Follow the signs. As I coped with infertility, there was a path I was forced to walk. I was trying to get from Point A (Working Missy with no kids) to Point B (Missy staying home with a gaggle of kids) with no idea how to get there. There wasn’t only one path. The path was unclear. There were decisions to be made. Rabbit trails to follow. Big forks in the road that felt like game changers. None of it was clear. None of it was obvious. None of it felt comfortable. Along the way, people approached me with bits of information or advice that felt like signs. Signs pointing a certain direction in my path. Signs of things I needed to do. “Here’s the name and number of my therapist. He’s good. He can help you. Call him and set something up.” / “My friend, Michelle, just adopted a little girl from an agency in Gainesville. She has a lot of knowledge about the subject and she would love to talk with you. Here’s her number.” / “Here’s the name of a good support group. They meet Tuesday and Thursday. You should go.” I don’t like talking to strangers on the phone. I don’t even like calling the cable guy or a school secretary. I don’t like receptionists. I don’t know why I hate it so much, but I can go to great lengths to avoid a phone call to a stranger. Even so, I did it during my infertile years, because those were the people who helped me heal. I got skilled at recognizing what might be a step forward and I made myself do those things, and make those calls, no matter how uncomfortable I felt. Sometimes strangers became unexpected helpers. If you see a sign, pay attention and follow.
- Educate where appropriate. I did a poor job with this one. With some years and wisdom and distance, I see now where I could have done better. You may have someone walk up to you and say something damaging to you, your spouse, or your child. In that moment, you may bristle, or tear up, or fake-laugh it off. But you’ll likely go home and replay the conversation in your head 59 times in one afternoon, wishing there were something different you could have said or done in that moment. Instead of permanently stewing, as I often did, you could educate where appropriate. Let a little time pass. Get a little perspective. Think through what you really want the offender to know. Push the snappy comebacks away. And then contact them. Maybe by text. Maybe by email. Maybe by phone (not me, man). Maybe in person. And tell them what you have dealt with and what grief their comment caused you. Teach them better, with kindness. It isn’t an easy thing to do. It certainly has the potential to score high on the Awkward Meter. But it is guaranteed to make them think the next time.
- Give grace to others. Along the way, you’ll encounter unexpected helpers. You’ll also encounter people who set you back three steps in your progress or healing. Give people grace. They may not ask for it. They may not deserve it. But you’ll benefit from giving it anyway. Give people permission to say stupid, hurtful things. Whether they are ignorant or whether the motivation is something more sinister, the only way past it is to forgive and let go.
- Give grace to yourself. There are so many hard things crowding together under this umbrella. Unmet expectations. Delayed dreams. The unknown. Emptiness. The loss from an early miscarriage. The loss from a late one. The loss of a baby. It’s all loss and it can be excruciating. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge that it’s really, really hard. Don’t feel like you have to put on your dry-cleaned skirt and show up in the hard places and wear a stiff smile and make yourself look like everybody else. You can’t skip a step in this process. You can’t pretend it didn’t happen or isn’t still happening. It’s okay to be sad. I was. Unapologetically.
Give grace and let yourself grieve. But don’t stay there
forever. There will come a time when you come to a turning point in this
process. You’ll see a fork in your road. For you, it may be a support group*. It
may be a therapist. It may be pursuing a new phase of treatment or adoption. You
may see it before you are ready to lean into it. When it’s time, you’ll know.
Be on the lookout.
And then get ready, because life is waiting.
And it’s going to be amazing.
*For those who’ve suffered the loss of a baby, many area hospitals have meetings for the AMENDS group (Aiding Mothers Enduring Neonatal Death). These meetings come highly recommended, but I never went to one myself. I opted for a higher priced therapist closer to home.