A Spoonful

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Photo by Gary Little

“There is no way to quantify the pain. Pain doesn’t come in pounds or ounces or gallons.You just feel like you are standing before a mountain that you are going to have to move one spoonful at a time. It is a task you can never hope to complete – a mountain that you can never hope to finish moving. But as you stand surveying that mountain of grief, a loved one steps forward with a hug that communicated clearly. You can almost picture that person stepping up to your mountain of grief with a shovel and saying, “I cannot move the mountain for you . . . but I will take this one shovel full of your grief and deal with it myself.” It seemed to me that every hug helped to dilute the pain a little more, that every sincere hugger carried away a small quantity of the mountain.”

~ Charlie Walton

Ever since I have read this paragraph the words have been repeating in my head every time I receive a hug. Last week was my first week back at work.  Returning to work has been much harder than I anticipated. I could not really pin-point why until I talked with the MEND (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) group last week. Work is a place where I have lots of memories of being pregnant.  The last time I was there I was so excited and happy. Now when I am there I am anxious, weepy and sad. I have been gone for two months; I should be telling them all about how my sweet baby Marcus is doing. Instead I am thinking about what I have been doing the past two months. No one wants to hear the dark places I have been.

When I was staying home I could choose to only leave the house on days I felt strong. I could choose who I let come over and talk. I had the option of lying on the couch all day if I was having a weak day. I never know what feelings the next day will bring so I never know if I will feel strong enough to tell a customer that my baby died when they unknowingly ask how he is doing.  Will I be able to make it through the day without a complete break down?

I feel so fragile at work. It is so strange because at times I know I look normal on the outside but I know how quickly I can be broken: by a particular song, words, a pregnant woman, a crying baby, something totally unexpected! Last week someone said, “Wow this year is flying by.” It was a simple statement but I had to hold back tears. I was thinking the time is dragging so slowly! I cannot wait until the end of the year! This has been the worst year of my entire life and I am ready for it to be OVER!

Then I feel like crying again. I think wait . . . how can I say this has been the worst year of my life? I was the happiest I had ever been in my life while I was carrying my sweet Marcus. Seven months of this year were the best months in my entire life!

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I am so grateful that I am surrounded by such a wonderful group of people at work. They have truly made me feel loved. They made me feel comfortable and did not shy away from my tears. When I cried they hugged me and I thought about them taking a shovel for me and it helped. I shared this metaphor with a few people and my boss Jenny said something that was really special to me, she said “forget a shovel . . . I’ll take a wheelbarrow.”

I anticipate that breakdowns at work will come fewer and farther between as time progresses. But I know there are more to come.  I won’t be able to predict them. That is a source of anxiety, but I am comforted in knowing that I work with great people who will be there to help me up.

A lot of the BLMs (baby loss mamas) in the MEND group have shared that the support they initially received tapered off quickly and they were left with just a few special people who were there to stick it out with them.

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“At some of the darkest moments in my life, some people I thought of as friends deserted me. Some because they cared about me and it hurt them to see me in pain; others because I reminded them of their own vulnerability, and that was more than they could handle. BUT real friends overcame their discomfort and came to sit with me. If they had not words to make me feel better, they sat in silence and I loved them for it.” – Harold Kushner

The simplest things that some of you have CONTINUED doing for me really do help. Your quick emails and texts that let me know your thinking of me have helped to brighten many of my dark days.  I really have discovered who those true friends are. It is easy for me to sit around and think about how unlucky I am but I am reminded by you that I am blessed. I read that most people can tolerate another’s loss for about a month before wanting the bereaved person to get back to normal. I have so many REAL friends who are continuing to offer support even when others have ceased to do so. I am not afraid to ask for your help. I still need you and I will continue to need you for a long time.

So please, take what you can. A spoon, a cup, or a bowl of my tear soup or a shovel . . . maybe even a wheelbarrow from my mountain. When it is your turn in the kitchen I will help you.

feetPhoto via Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR A MAMA WHO IS GRIEVING FOR HER BABY

  • Be there for your friend, even when you don’t understand.
  • Be a source of comfort by listening, laughing, and crying
  • Stick close to your friend and defend their right to grieve.
  • Allow your friend to make mistakes . . . or at least to grieve differently from the way you would grieve.
  • Send flowers.
  • Send cards. The message doesn’t need to be long. Just let them know you haven’t forgotten them. Send one every few weeks for a while.
  • Call your friend. Don’t worry about being a bother. Let your friend tell you if they don’t want to talk about their loss right now.
  • Answering machines and e-mail are great ways to keep in touch, allowing the bereaved person to respond only when they feel up to it.
  • Try to anticipate what your friend may need. Bereaved people sometimes don’t know what to ask for.
  • Avoid offering easy answers and platitudes. This only invalidates the grief.
  • Be patient. Don’t try to rush your friend through their grief.
  • Give your friend permission to grieve in front of you. Don’t change the subject or tell them not to cry or act uncomfortable when they do cry.
  • Ask them questions. But don’t tell them how they should feel.
  • Invite your friend to attend events together, as you normally would. Let them decide if they don’t want to attend.
  • Don’t assume because your friend is having a good day that it means they are over their loss.
  • Be mindful of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

Resources for Mamas Experiencing Miscarriage, Stillbirth & Early Infant Loss

MEND –  Mamas Enduring Neonatal Death

MEND on Facebook (DFW Area)

Stillbirth Day – Miscarriage, Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth & Early Infant Loss

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep {Memorial Photography}

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Jenalea 

I have been married to the love of my life, Marc, for 3 1/2 years. We welcomed our child Marcus Alan Jr. on July 5th 2011 and said goodbye a few hours later due to a cord accident. I feel so fortunate to be his mother and I am grateful for the short time we were able to spend with him. We are so happy to have welcomed home our second baby boy Jack Alan Johnson on August 9th 2012. I love being a mom to both my baby boys. It’s very hard to be a mom to a baby you can only carry in your heart but it makes me all the more thankful for the one in my arms.

Jenalea blogs at the Alchemy of Grief.

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