If I am to momentarily remove myself from the emotional impact of this experience (ha! like that's easy) and take a look at the manner in which all my friends and family have reacted and responded to my news, a really fascinating trend emerges. I found that the way people responded to my heartbreak and the way they expressed their love perfectly reflected their personalities and their unique way of being in a relationship. Maybe it was just my therapeutic orientation talking, but I thought it was wildly interesting, and more so, extremely comforting.
I got a sense as soon as I began to share the news that some were more tentative than others mostly due to not knowing the “right thing to say”. I was completely touched when my mom mentioned that she had even done some research on the most helpful things to say to someone who has lost a pregnancy. The thing of it is, I never cared one bit what people said, I just cared that they acknowledged it and took the time and bravery to say anything at all. Well, okay, honestly, that sounds very magnanimous of me, but if you want real-talk (which is what I promised you getting into this thing) there were a few responses that were hard to handle. The hardest was, “Well, you can try again!”. Now, I completely understand the kind motivations behind this statement. I really do. People are trying to tap into a sense of hope and a positive orientation toward the future when they focus on the idea trying again soon. Very “ever forward” of them. In part, it’s true, we will try again and there is a certain comfort in the fact that it’s not like we get only one shot at this. However, something about hearing it following a painful loss is hard to swallow because it brushes over the gnawing pain of the loss itself. The first time someone said it to me it took me aback like a sharp slap to the face. If someone’s husband was struck by a bus and tragically killed no one would dream of saying, “Well, you can get out there in the dating pool and try to find someone else to marry real soon, honey”. Just because I never held this baby in my arms and it never grew fully inside me, the dream of this child was no less real. It was that very real dream that died when that heartbeat stopped.
Even though there were varying degrees of helpfulness as far as comforting responses went, I held no ill will toward anyone who made a sincere attempt to comfort me no matter what they said. I would absolutely prefer a simple “that really sucks, man” to silence. Pity was not what I was after, validation was. I fully recognize that a part of the silence that exists is due to people wanting to respect privacy boundaries and not wanting to upset the would-be mother in question. I am not trying to imply that the "not talking about it" is malicious in any way, but no matter the intentions, the silence does exist and can feel quite isolating. I know for me, that silence started to mess with my head in a moment where I was already so emotionally labile. In one of the many articles I poured over during the days following my loss I read a piece on theglobeandmail.com that referred to miscarriage as “polite society’s last taboo”. This polite silence can feel alienating which brings me back to being grateful for my decision not to "keep things quiet" with my nearest and dearest. The varied responses of my friends and family were proof that I was surrounded by a diverse network of emotional specialties that I could draw upon in this my darkest of hours. The thing about the post-apocalyptic version of Me was that there was never any predicting how I would feel at any given moment. None of the old rules applied. Because of this transformation, having a wide variety of perspectives and styles was profoundly comforting.
There was my mom who felt my pain almost as keenly as I did and it was clear in many ways her pain was doubled--the loss of a grandchild and the empathy toward the emotional turmoil of her eldest born. Her reaction was perfectly reflective of her special brand of maternal--she seemed to magically know the things to say that got to the deepest, sometimes most painful root of the whole thing. Also, in true My Mom fashion, I could tell she was reigning in her own emotional response to try to make it easier on me. She sent care package on care package and offered to fly in whenever I said the word. She was extremely sensitive to my needs and understood the loss as the death that it was in a way that was comforting and validating. To be honest, sometimes the level to which she understood the depth of my pain was hard to handle because it was too truthful a reflection of what I felt in times when I only wanted to flee from those feelings. It was at times hard to be made to stare into a mirror that I was already constantly chained in front of. However, I would not have it any other way, just like I would not change a single one of my friend’s or family’s responses. They were all perfect and beautiful to me because they were honest and real.
When I told my best friend he had the understated response of someone who knows what is in your heart without having to say the words aloud (this process made me question a lot, but never how blessed with friends and family I am). However he also somehow managed to swindle me into engaging in a totally absurd and hilarious conversation about a mutual friend (actual topic edited for social discretion purposes, sorry). I found myself laughing and reconnecting with my natural sardonic state in a time when absolutely everything else felt numb. This was my relationship with Jeremy to a tee. We could make each other laugh through the inevitable heat-death of the universe and this was the closest I had ever personally been. Jeremy was there to remind me, almost against my will, that I was still in there somewhere under the mummified layers of pain. To ask someone who does not have a uterus and has no interest in getting anywhere near a uterus to understand and respond to this unavoidably uteruscentric issue was clearly a tall order. I am sure there was part of him that wanted to run a billion miles per hour in the opposite direction, but his response of love, sensitivity, and presence cut with distracting humor was a perfect reflection of his personal context and personality.
There were certain friends and family members (they happened to all be female in my case) that just openly wept when I told them. I had a momentary flash to switch into therapist mode and comfort them when this happened, but then I cut myself a break and just stayed quiet and let it happen. It hurt to see and hear my pain reflected, but also it felt oddly wonderful and validating that I had people in my life that cared so deeply for me that they felt my sorrow in their own hearts in a way that could only be reflected in pure, raw emotion. The wonderful ladies who responded this way happened to be especially emotionally driven and authentic as people and so their responses could not have fit them more perfectly. They live from a more emotionally connected place and their way of expressing their sympathy and solidarity was no different.
There were also the responses of a dear friend and also a cousin who had been through this before. Their responses, understandably, came from the thoughtful lens of having experienced their own process and a myriad of their own friends’ reactions to it. They provided detail and containing structure and holding. They were survival guides for me and proof that I would live to see a new reality emerge one day. It was fitting that these two ladies happen to be two of the most organized, Super-Moms I know, so again, their personalities were reflected perfectly in the way they responded to my news. Additionally, there were my wonderfully fun friends who offered lovely distractions and family-oriented friends who offered hugs and wholesome comfort. There were results-oriented friends who focused on solutions and magical friends (you know who you are, witchy woman), who offered beautiful suggestions of rituals to mark this experience.
The bottom line is, had I not chosen to share my experience with the people I did, I know that I would have spent a much larger percentage of time feeling profoundly alone. Let's face it, no one really loves talking about miscarriage, but my advice to anyone going through it would be to talk, talk, talk. The concept of keeping it quiet only sets you up to feel isolated and that is not a fertile ground for healing. This revelation has made me feel a moral imperative to share my story. Whenever I did, I found so many women seemed to feel permission to share their own story (that really there was no reason for them to suppress in the first place). Are there women who are just waiting for an excuse to share the worst thing thats ever happened to them? Do they know they don’t need one?