After losing our twins girls at 20 weeks gestation, my world has completely fallen apart. As I gingerly attempt to reintegrate my new, raw reality with the life I used to know, I often find it jarring. Relationships that used to work now feel awkward. Sometimes, words that are meant to comfort feel like sandpaper to my soul. Surprisingly, people I barely used to know have become life-long friends.
My loss has made me an outsider to many. While friends and family want to support me and my husband, they often don't know how. How do you help someone whose world has fallen apart? What do you say when your friend has just said goodbye to her first two babies? How do you come alongside someone as she tries to make her way back?
I know it’s awkward being around someone who is grieving. It's awkward for me, too. This is what I wish I could have told my friends when the pain was raw and new. The pain is familiar now, which makes it easier to breathe. I wish that no one else would ever know what pain like that feels like, but sadly I know that someone, somewhere, is probably feeling it right now.
My heart has been shattered, my world is forever changed. The me you knew is gone, and I am still discovering the new and very different me. I know I am not easy to be around right now, and I find it hard to express what I need and how I feel.
But please don’t say that…
Don’t tell me how “So-and-So” coped with grief.
Don’t tell me that you understand, or suggest how my grief journey should be. My pain is unique, and so is my journey. It may not look anything like what yours would look like.
Don’t compare my loss to losing your grandmother, your pet dog, or even your favorite teacher. Each loss is different. Comparing your experience to mine only makes me feel alienated from you.
Do not tell me, “All things work for the good,” “Everything has a purpose,” or “God let this happen for a reason.” Although all these things may be true, I am not in a place where hearing them is helpful right now. When life falls apart, well-intentioned people use these words to try to right the world again. My world is completely upside-down. Words cannot put it back the way it used to be. I have not turned my back on God; however, church is a tough place to be right now. When I'm sitting at church, I feel very alone with my pain.
Please don’t try to make me feel better by “looking on the bright side.” I would give anything to be exhausted from sleepless nights or from chasing after a screaming toddler. Having no responsibilities and a “pre-baby body" are not all they are cracked up to be.
And please, do not judge.
These things help...
Talking about my lost children is always a good thing. Don’t feel that if you bring them up, you are reminding me of my pain. I will never forget. Talking about them validates their existence; it brings back all the positive memories. When you talk about them, it gives me the freedom to talk back, and I need that.
I need to laugh — sometimes at the same time as I need to cry. Please let me do both.
I am excited for you when you are happy, even when that might involve an aspect of your life that is sensitive to me — like a new pregnancy. There are days when I won’t be able to articulate this well, but it is always true. I will always be excited for you, although sometimes my excitement might be overshadowed by my pain. Please don’t hold back your excitement because of me; it doesn’t make me feel better.
I need you right now. I don’t always say it, and I find it tough to reach out, but more than ever, I need to know I am loved and prayed for. Please don’t stop calling me, even when I don’t call you back. Do tangible things for me — don't just offer to help. Normally an offer would be enough, but right now, getting up in the morning, taking care of basic tasks, and making it through each day takes every bit of energy that I have. Even if I desperately need help, asking might be more than I can bear.
My grief will not disappear, and I will not “get better.” It will change, it will morph, but it will not go away. Sometimes, the grief is a raging monster, obvious to everyone, making it difficult to do even the simplest things like breathe. At other times, grief silently sits in the corner, biding his time. Others can’t see him, but I still know he is there — leaving a quiet, dull ache in my soul. As time goes on, there are more quiet days than not, but the grief is always there, even when you can’t see it.
I have been forever changed by grief. The “me” that used to exist has now changed. There are a few more rough edges; I am not as tidy as a package. But I am still me, and I need you to accept this new version. I did not choose this path that I am on; I would not have ever chosen it. The only choice I have left is what to do with it — and I am in the process of figuring that out. I am on a journey and need you to support me on my path.