My first day at my new school was filled with sadness, emptiness, and the demonstrable primal need for human kindness and empathy.
I had a lot to learn.
Lesson 1. There are very good people out there.
Friends and family, those who have experienced similar and those who have not. A bunch of flowers arrived for me. Beautiful, just like my daughter. Such a thoughtful gift from some wonderful friends. I loved them, but this bunch of flowers was almost like an initiation into this new world I found myself in. People continued to message me and call to check up on me but life goes on. The world keeps spinning, even though yours has ground to an almighty halt.
Lesson 2. You don’t ‘just move on’, as much as society would lead you to believe.
You grieve. You cry out loud. You sob uncontrollably. You desperately reach out for human compassion and touch. This little child of yours was safely nestled inside you, but now she’s gone. The little child who you would sing to everyday and tell her about her new family and how much everyone will love her. The little child who you were going to see smile for the first time, take her first steps, take her first tumble followed closely by you kissing her better like only a mother would do. The little child who you would send off to school with her packed lunch box, uncombed hair because you’ve been rushing as usual, the shoes which have been buckled into the wrong holes, a bit of porridge on her jumper. Imperfectly perfect.
The child who has her heart broken for the first time and she needs her mummy for the first time since she became a teenager, suddenly all babylike in your arms again. The child who you would hold back the hair of while she experienced the effects of her first alcoholic drink. The child who would come and visit you with a family of her own, grandchildren jumping up onto your old arthritic knees.
Society, how could you be so terribly wrong?
Lesson 3. You may find a voice.
For all of those people who are too scared to be heard. I found my voice. I wanted to speak for everyone. Stop the taboo and educate the ignorant. Facebook and Instagram were my immediate choices, though they bring their own problems (see lesson 5). I joined several babyloss groups. My favourite being the one for atheists as there is no talk of angels and heaven (a story I profoundly do not believe in). I wanted to share their words of wisdom with my own Facebook community and was met with a huge amount of encouragement and support. Not only from friends, but from friends of friends – complete strangers thanking me for bringing this painful subject to the fore.
I won’t lie, It helped me tremendously. Made me feel good. Like I was doing something for womankind. The more encouragement I received, the more I shared. I was doing the right thing…right?
One day someone suggested I write a blog as they enjoyed reading my words. So I did.
Lesson 4. Not everyone will be there for you, despite how you would behave in their shoes.
My biggest learning curve.
I was raised with the idea that “one should do as they would be done by”. I soon discovered that this is false. I expected everyone to be kind, empathetic, and compassionate because that is the type of person I am. That is the type of person I have always surrounded myself with, my entire life. It is all I know. Unbeknownst to me at the time, certain people were becoming irritated with me. I soon discovered that my grief was no longer acceptable or welcome to these people. I was expected to ‘get over it’. To hide my pain away and participate in other people’s joy – the joy that should have been mine. Forcing their opinions onto me, like a knife in my very raw wound. Twisting, and tearing.
I spent a several months coming to terms with their opinions and harsh forthrightness. I began to ignore it, leave them to it. Not let it beat me down. Rise above it and carry on, soldiering through my journey, step by step.
But it kept coming. My new school had a bully. Name calling, pushing me into the mud, stealing my lunch money, kicking me when I wasn’t looking.
Still I rose. Still I soldiered on, a bit more worn down, a bit weaker, and slower, slower and slower until I almost came to a stop.
But I couldn’t stop, I had to keep going, so I spoke to someone, a stranger who taught me great things about dealing with bullies and unasked for opinions. Now when I’m feeling beaten and low I say to myself; “Molly, how is that working out for you?”
See, bullies are not bad people. They are simply uneducated. They don’t know how they are making you feel. They cannot see how badly they are hurting you and that is because they have learnt about feelings in a different way to you. Just because they don’t have empathy, does not mean they are bad people. They just need educating.
Lesson 5. Facebook is the work of the devil
Yup you heard me. An atheist talking about the devil.
You see, Facebook was my tool. My sounding board. My community is there, listening and encouraging me to be loud and proud.
My ‘Echo chamber’
I had so much encouragement and support from people who had lost babies, people who hadn’t, people who were pregnant, people who had just given birth, people who had friends who had lost babies. All kinds. So I was blind to the fact that there was a small minority of people out there who did not like what I wrote and what I campaigned about. People have complained about me. Saying I make them feel uncomfortable. Not to my face, but through someone else. This is enough to make me stop and think that Facebook can no longer be my sounding board. As much as it is the best way to spread the word, it does not make me happy to know that people do not like what I’ve written. This hurts a lot. I had no idea that my voice was upsetting people. I genuinely thought I was helping.
Lesson 6. Your relationship will be tested more than you will ever know
My second biggest learning curve.
Back to the ‘Do as you would be done by’ quote. This experience has stunned me. It has been the catalyst, not only for my relationship, but life-changing perspective. I immediately related to women who suffered baby loss. I also realised that true personality reveals itself during harrowing circumstances and that, unfortunately, there is no litmus test for compassion. And, of course, successful relationships are made up of far more than romantic love. Along with a multitude of other qualities, relationships are about knowing someone will be there for you, and you for them, in our deepest, most vulnerable moments. I can honestly say that this is by far the hardest part to grief. The prospect of, not only losing your child, but the love of your life. A double grief whammy.
In order not to lose your relationship as well as your babies, don’t have any expectations. My biggest mistake was to assume he will be there for me all the time, hold me at every given opportunity. Why should he? He lost his babies too. Be there for one another. Support each other through your grief journeys, no matter how each of you choose to go about them. And above all, TALK, without judgement.
Lesson 7. People will judge you and be apathetic.
Another lesson I was nowhere near prepared for. Mostly for social media posts I have shared and advice I have sought. People have even gone as far as to say that they don’t know how my partner has managed to put up with me, that they’d have been long gone by now. Again, not through any fault of their own. They are not bad people, they are just uneducated, and have not experienced the true pain of losing a child.
Lesson 8. Baby loss needs more voices, or does it?
You see, now I’ve discovered this dark side to babyloss, I have realised why people are so scared to talk about their experience. You think you are doing good things for humanity, but you cannot please everyone and there will always be someone who does not agree with you. They may even force their opinion onto you, even when you are in the depths of pain. It is up to you if you can manage the cynics and options hurled in your direction because it will happen.
I, for one, thought I could handle it. Thought the good outweighed the bad. But it has now got to a point where is has affected my relationship. He has gone from loving my social media posts to feeling ashamed of them. That is a big enough push to make me stop. So I will be sticking to my blog from now on which leads me onto my next lesson…
Lesson 9. Stay in your safe space
To truly begin to move forward, you need to stick with those who love you. Those who stick by you through thick and thin. Despite all the harshness, you will always have your friends who want you to get better. They will hold you hand through your entire journey without question, and without judgement. Hold onto these people tightly, they are your lucky stars.