Jade’s letter to her younger self carries wisdom and compassion, and the messages that it’s okay not to be okay, that all feelings are valid and that it’s always good to have hope.
When you're able to look up from the depths of darkness, you'll see your loved ones, ready and waiting. They may not fully understand, and they may not even say the right things a lot of the time, but they are there. Sometimes that's enough. They may even feel a loss too; a grandchild, niece or nephew, cousin.
I was writing a piece about how to support a friend through loss, but I realised what we often need is to be a better friend to ourselves.
So instead I’m writing to you, past me, to be the friend you haven’t got the strength to be right now, and to tell you that it’s okay to not be okay.
It’s March, 2018. You’re 26-years-and-4-days-old. It’s been snowing again. Today is The Worst Day.
Today, your world implodes.
You feel the initial rumble in the loaded silence before the words are even muttered and you know then what’s about to happen. The phrase, “I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat” serves only as punctuation.
Just a week ago you turned right out of the sonographer’s room, your legs wobbling with relief after seeing the fluttering heartbeat.
Today you turn left. Past the waiting women held rigid with fear and into the ‘bad news room’ where you wait for hours before the surgery is booked in for the following morning.
You’re carried through the motions of surgery and recovery by some invisible resilience, masked gloriously by anaesthetic and morphine, and return home in a groggy and delirious state. You sleep for 11 hours, surrounded by family who don’t know what to say, but who buy you pizza and clean your kitchen.
You wake up the next morning and are winded by the weight of it: what on earth do I do now?
So here’s what I’ve learnt you need, and I want you to know that you are going to be okay. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
Trust the process.
I’m not here to tell you it’s going to get easier, that the grief will lessen or dissipate. No. That missing piece in your heart will always be there; the weight of grief will rest heavy on your shoulders, and the emotions will render you unrecognisable. The pain is physical, too, which will come as a surprise; it will bruise your muscles, squeeze your lungs free of air, shock you into stillness.
But know that whatever you feel right now is exactly what you need to feel. Your feelings are valid.
And I promise you this; you will gain the strength to carry the weight of grief.
Grief doesn’t get lighter; you get stronger.
But it takes a really long time.
Grief doesn’t leave. There will be days when you feel lighter, which you’ll recognise only when your laugh takes you by surprise. Don’t feel bad for laughing. You don’t have to be sad to prove you are grieving, and you don’t have to be happy to prove that you’re not. You can live your life with a missing heart piece; some days you just have to work a little harder to breathe. And on those hard days, if breathing is all you manage, that’s okay.
Listen to your body.
Despite how cross and betrayed you feel, your body has only ever looked after you. Repay it in kind. Slow down when it needs to rest, move when it needs to rejuvenate, and enjoy the sun on your skin when it needs warmth.
Oh, and wine will make you cry, so go easy on the Chianti. Or share it with friends; it’s good to cry. They might even make you laugh, too.
You have had so much to process, your little brain is fit to burst. You don’t have to carry all of this in secret, grieving silently in the shadows. Find an outlet, whatever that may be; some run (if I tell you you’ll be running a daily 5k in a couple of years you won’t believe me); some talk, whether to a counsellor, therapist, friends (you’ll find it helpful to open up eventually); some find a creative hobby (yours will be crochet, you just don’t know it yet); some write, (and some, like you, never stop) it gives you the space and clarity to process your feelings, emotions, experiences. Some day it may even help someone else, too.
You are not alone.
You may not feel it right now, but you are not alone. For one, your partner has lost a baby too. And whilst he’s picking up the pieces of your broken heart, his heart has shattered in all the same places.
If neither of you have the strength to raise each other out of the pit of grief, then understand at least that you are both there together. Talk to each other, and listen. Listen to the emotions that fill the space between words. That’s where the truth resides.
And when you’re able to look up from the depths of darkness, you’ll see your loved ones, ready and waiting. They may not fully understand, and they may not even say the right things a lot of the time, but they are there. Sometimes that’s enough. They may even feel a loss too; a grandchild, niece or nephew, cousin.
And if it’s a blanket of comfort and understanding you need, get online. There is a whole community of baby loss warriors just like you. They will make you feel heard, connected, safe.
And finally, forgive.
You’re angry: at the alternate life you should be living, at the lady with the bump you should be flaunting, at the body that “failed” you, at the partner who grieves differently to you, at the people who can’t comprehend your invisible loss.
Anger, though undoubtedly necessary as part of the process, becomes exhausting if carried for too long and can turn destructive. No body failed you and no-one stole from you. There is no alternate life existing without you and no right or wrong way to grieve. Learn to recognise when a feeling stops serving a purpose. Learn to forgive. Forgiveness releases the heavy clouds of anger.
Of course you think the real cure for grief is the arrival of the longed-for “rainbow baby”. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, and grief doesn’t step aside for a new arrival. Besides, I should probably tell you now that your story gets a little more complicated.
That’s not to say give up hope. Quite the opposite. Hope fills your lungs with air. Hope places one foot in front of the other. Hope disperses the clouds and splashes the sky with colour.
Have hope, always.
For more from Jade, see – collectedthinks.com