Friday, December 30, 2005

The Journey to Healing

I was thinking last night, of all the things I have done over the years, to work through my grief. Therapy, writing articles & poetry, journaling, support groups. I read every book I could find on miscarriage and pregnancy loss. I wrote a baby memory book for miscarried babies. Which I often donated at Christmas-time to women experiencing loss in the past year.

I created and was the editor of a successful miscarriage newsletter for several years. I attended conferences, lead seminars. I met several of my favourite authors through my work, over the years. Some fairly famous, some not so well-known. I joined in a march for Pregnancy Loss Awareness in Washington, DC, nursing my 18 month old son on the steps of Capitol Hill.

The support group that sticks out most in my mind is Parents Experiencing Perinatal Death. Lead by a wonderful woman named Gail. It took me five miscarriages before I realized that I couldn't keep stuffing down my grief. I had to begin this journey to healing.

The PEPD group left the strongest impression on me. There was the couple whose baby was born with Spina Bifida. Who lived just over a year, only to die of viral pneumonia. A second couple who had a full-term birth, but the baby was stillborn. A third couple miscarried at 5 months, their tiny baby boy dying in their arms just one hour later. The stories of grief, sorrow and pain went on and on...

The first meeting was almost more than I could bear. I told Gail I wouldn't be coming back. I came home that night with a horrible migraine. It was just too overwhelming to me. Even as I wrote in my journal that night, the thought of all their losses filled me with nausea.

Knowing others had suffered did not make me feel better. It made me feel worse. So much pain, so much loss, such great sorrow. It was beyond my understanding.

I didn't see how I could compare my early losses to such great losses. My five miscarriages seemed so small, compared to their stories. Gail, who had experienced 2 stillbirths herself, told me my babies were important too. My losses were great too. She said many had been shocked I could have survived 5 losses. Amazed I could find the strength to keep trying.

So I kept going. I learned to find comfort in expressing my grief for the first time. But still I felt so alone in this group of couples. Who held and comforted each other. I had never had anyone to share my grief with. No-one to cry with. No-one, not family, not friends knew how many losses I had suffered. I just stopped telling them after the second one.

This group was no FF - no "baby dust" and "I know it will work" pats on the back. No cyber hugs here. There was only raw pain, unmitigated sorrow, and deep anger. We ranted, we wept, we hurt. We shared...

I continued to listen to their stories. The mid-40's couple whose baby had a trisomy that left him incompatible with life. They had a 25% chance of it happening again. The late 30's couple who had experienced two second trimester losses, who were so bitter and angry. The lost 15 year old girl who miscarried her baby at 5 months, and no-one even cared. I think I hurt for her the most.

I was the only one of 10-15 couples to graduate the preggy side of the group. The only one to have a subsequent successful birth. Gail and I got together each month I was allowed off bedrest. To celebrate another successful month of pregnancy. But it was a sad celebration. Thinking of all those who were still waiting, still hoping.

The group taught me some important things about losing a child. You will never "get over" it. Each new loss in your life can bring back that pain & grief as strongly & as fresh as the first time it happened. Most of the world will never understand how much it hurts to lose a child. Or how strong your grief is when you lose a child, again and again.

And, as Gail said to me one day, those who continue to trample all over your broken heart and belittle your pain can "Go to hell!"

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2 comments:

Cricket said...

Thank you so much for sharing your writing, Catherine. It is so powerful. I'm sorry for all you went through.

I was wondering about the dynamics with the group. With regards to Gail and PEPD, how much guilt did you have over your success with 3 pregnancies? Could they celebrate with you? How did you manage a balance between the two worlds and still support them?

So many people probably learned (and are still learning) so much from you. Thanks again.

Catherine said...

I was thinking about that, but my writing was getting so long today, I left it out.

As best as I can remember, Gail & I were the only ones with children. She had two children since her last loss.

When I first came to the group & introduced myself, I mentioned my older sons, but I don't think we ever discussed children again. The focus was on the children we lost.

However, I do remember feeling uncomfortable & guilty as the only single mom, the only one with living children other than Gail. Thank goodness for her!

I continued going to the loss part of the group until I was about 4 months pregnant, I think. But each month got harder and harder, almost feeling I needed to protect my growing abdomen, feeling like I no longer "belonged".

Once I moved over to the preggy side of the group, I never saw any of the others again. No-one but Gail celebrated with me, other than when I mentioned during a session that I was pregnant.