Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Our big girl!

Our big girl!
Growing so fast!

Kylie 1 day old

Kylie 1 day old
Curling up

Bryleigh Addison

Bryleigh Addison
Our youngest miracle


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Supporting those who grieve

In the initial days, weeks, and months after a loss of any kind, the grieiving ones find themselves surrounded with love, support, kind words, hugs, and sympathy from all over. As a year approaches, we often find that people again are sympathetic for that day or two, and then, it is dropped. After the one year mark, you are expected to be okay. You are expected to move on, to forget about the loss, to not talk about it anymore. That is of course, all of these things happen if your loss was "noticeable" to others. People are more likely to be okay with extended grieving if it's a spouse, a parent, a child that lived on this earth. People are NOT as likely to be okay with extended grieving for a pregnancy loss, or loss of a baby who did not have a chance to live on earth or who did not live a long time on this earth. Why? Because we don't want to acknowledge that people lose babies. Every day I offer myself as a source of support for grieving families and parents, and I see so many things that infuriate me and break my heart when it comes to how OTHER people handle the grieving person.

I have noticed that the longer time goes on since I lost Kylie, the less people want to talk about her, the less people want to support us in our grief, the less people want me to share her story. I have found that people have a hard time being sympathetic now that we are three years into this journey. At her one year angelversary, so many people commented on our Facebook walls, expressing their concern, sorrow, sympathy, and hurt for us. Three years? Not near so many. Three years for Chris? Almost no one acknowledged his pain as a father for the child he so dearly loves but could not protect and save. 

It made me think about things and grief and the unfair time frames we put on ourselves and on others. We have all been told in grief support groups that true heavy grieving can last on average 1-2 years, but in reality, grief lasts a life time. We will always miss our children, our loved ones. We will always have a difficult time at the holidays knowing there is a missing seat at the table. We will know in our family pictures that someone isn't there that should be. We will recognize the emptiness on family vacations, on dinners out. We will always know what other people do not see, and that is the pain of living each day without the precious child that was supposed to be there. 

I'm not saying people should dote on baby loss moms more than anyone else. But what I have come to notice is that as time goes by, we forget that moms are hurting and that families are hurting, and then we think, because we have moved on and are no longer affected by the pain that these families have, or because they don't talk about it as much anymore, that they have moved on too. And that isn't the case. We expect them to "magically" be okay in a certain amount of time, and then we down them for what we will never understand. 

My best friend lost her mother in September of this year. A month later, she lost her grandfather. In two months, she had two significant losses. As she was dealing with her mom's funeral, she had to take care of her grandfather's health and get him to a hospital, and she handled most of his health decisions and care for the next month until he passed. As I stood by her, trying to be any kind of support I could be, I noticed that for her mother's passing- people poured out love and support for the loss of her mom in those initial days and weeks. But even now, three short months later, the support and thought of her mom isn't there. We talk a lot about things I used to say (and still do) since losing Kylie, and how she understands them so much more now because it's true. It's like, everyone else moves on, and you are stuck standing still in this horrible bubble that is reality. And the hardest part for  me to watch was how few people came to support her in the loss of her grandfather compared to her mother. Not that it is a competition, but it just shows to me how people handle dealing with loss and how people view it. 

Less than a month ago, I lost my granddaddy, a man who has been a hero in my life since day one. He is a man I have always put on a pedestal, a man I have always been so fond of. From the day I was born, he was my number 1 fan, and I spent so much time with him while growing up. Every Saturday, he came to see me. When I was younger and went to the babysitter's, he would pick me up early almost every day. As I got older and could drive, I would go eat lunch with them on school holidays and during the summer, or just go visit on Saturdays. When Jaycee, Nick, Kylie, and Bryleigh all came into our lives, we spent time visiting with the kids. Granddaddy and Granny went to the NICU multiple times of Kylie's sweet little life to visit her and spend time with her. My Granddaddy was a special, special man, and every single day, I have cried. I have hurt, I have missed him, and I have wished so much that things were different. He died on my 29th birthday. For 29 years, I was blessed with the best grandfather anyone could ever have. He truly, truly, truly loved his family, and he would do anything for any of us. He was so proud of us, and he loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren more than any words could ever express. And I did have some support, and words of kindness and sorrow, but not nearly as much as I would have thought, and barely anyone checks to see how I am feeling, how my sister is feeling, how my mom and dad are feeling, or my uncles, aunts, or cousin is feeling. Each day, Jaycee tells me she misses her Granddaddy, and my heart breaks because no one is checking on HER and her pain... 

When people die at an old age, it is easy to think that people just deal with it easily and get over it more quickly, so we just don't offer much support for them because they have to go back to work so soon, have to get back into the routine of things, have to care for their children, have to do this, that, and the other. I had to go back to work just a few days after Granddaddy's passing. It's like going back to work makes it official, and people expect that you're ready to live life and move on and go on to being "normal." However, it's not that simple. Life doesn't just go back to normal. You have to find a new normal. And just because someone gets back into the daily routine because they have to pay their bills and provide for their families doesn't mean that they aren't still hurting, suffering, and sad. 

When people die suddenly, unexpectedly, young, middle-aged, or old, it is a bit easier for people to offer more support- they are shocked, too. But soon, the routines of life go back to being normal for them, and it is so easy to forget the pain and suffering that someone is going through internally. 

Do you ever wonder why people stop talking about their own grief? It's because they've been told they should stop talking about it, or they've been made to feel that talking about it isn't  healthy, or they've been told that it's time to move on. It is so easy to make a grieving person feel uncomfortable, and so many people do a good job of hurting the grievers more than helping them. By telling someone "it's time to move on," or "no one wants to hear about it anymore," "are you ever going to get over it?" "don't you have anything else to talk about?" "your mom wouldn't want you to be sad all the time" ... the list just goes on... by telling someone those things, you are hurting them. A huge way to get through dark grief is to talk about it, to talk about the person you miss, etc. 

Another problem I see comes with miscarriage. People have a hard time accepting that mothers can be and should be emotionally attached to a child they have not yet held in their arms. From the time conception occurs, a new life has formed. A true mother loves her children no matter what, and loves them from even before she conceives; seeing your baby on ultrasound, hearing a heart beat, seeing a little butter bean, they are all parts of the wonder and joy of motherhood. Knowing that you are carrying such a tiny, perfect life within your womb, a little life that you are responsible for, well, that is just such an overwhelming since of pride, responsibility, and excitement. For mothers who miscarry, guilt is overwhelming. Questions of "what did I do wrong?" "Why couldn't I carry this child?" "What happened?" "How could I have done this differently.." "What if..." "If only.." - those thoughts haunt a mother's mind who would do anything NOT to lose this baby. I have found that those who have had miscarriages get the most hurtful statements, the least understanding comments, and even fewer supporters than any other situation. Why? Because no one else could see/hear/feel what the mother (and father) felt. It is hard to understand what we do not know/see/etc. However, that doesn't meant that they do not hurt, and it doesn't mean that they will ever forget this pain. They need support, and they need to have their losses acknowledged as well. 

Something I haven't told a lot of people, is that when pregnant with Kylie, it seems that we had two babies, TWINS, which caused problems in the beginning of the pregnancy, which is why things started off rocky. It seems, from an ultrasound at my fertility doctor's office after my OB/GYN refused to do an earlier ultrasound (we were concerned about the possibility of twin pregnancy with one being in the uterus and one being in the tube from my symptoms), it seems that there was a baby behind Kylie, and was already not making it- which is called vanishing twin syndrome. The twin was basically absorbed, and though I was so sad because twins would have been amazing, I realize now that that sweet baby was giving Kylie a chance at life. Though my situation isn't the same as others, I essentially lost 2 babies, not just one, and it wouldn't matter now anyway, but the thought of a miscarriage terrified me, and is always in my mind when considering another baby and was when I was pregnant with Bryleigh. 

I say all this to say that anyone who has suffered a loss will always miss their loved one and will always hurt. Just because the person had a long life on earth, or never had the chance to be held or breathe the air on this world, does not mean that the grief is any less and that we shouldn't support our loved ones who grieve. I will always hurt for Kylie, and I will always hurt for Granddaddy. This Christmas, I will be missing both of them for the first time, and though they are together, I ache just thinking about how empty I will feel on that day with no Granddaddy to unwrap presents with. 

Remember that the holidays are difficult for anyone who is missing a loved one... and be there even if it's just to offer a hug and say "I'm always here for you."