I’ve spent a year in the trenches as a loss mom. In that year, I’ve learned a lot about how to navigate this difficult course, as I’ve had successful (and not so successful) interactions with others. I started this list a while ago, and slowly added on to it throughout the year. Some of them are for loss parents, some are for the general public that interacts with loss parents, and some are for both.
Anyway, here’s my collection of 5 things I’ve learned in my first year as a loss mom:
- There are no words that can take away the pain. I’ve heard some really creative condolences over this past year. And not creative in a good way. Enough time has passed now that I can recognize that these creative condolences generally come from a place of love. No one is trying to make your pain worse, they are trying to offer comfort and take away your pain. But that’s just not possible. There is no way to take away the pain that comes with losing a child. My recommendation is to stick to the script, just say “I’m sorry” or “I don’t know what to say.” Trying to get creative with lines like “you can have another”, “it’s all a part of God’s plan” or “we have to wait for God’s timing” will definitely make a loss parent want to throat punch you.
- Just unfollow. I was never a fan of unfollowing people on social media before Brady died. I think it’s because of the major FOMO I suffer from, or maybe because I thought they would somehow find me out. Now, I do it all the time. And shamelessly. You’re pregnant? Unfollow. Newborn baby? Unfollow. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and every loss mom’s triggers are different. Me? Personally, I can’t stand the women who complain about how pregnant they are. I would’ve loved the swollen feet, achy joints, and stretch marks that come with third trimester pregnancy.
- You didn’t do anything wrong. This is directed at the loss moms specifically. After hearing a lot of stories over the past year, a common thread that seems to run through them all is guilt. Loss moms constantly ask themselves what they did wrong that caused their baby to die. Unless you have a meth habit, the answer is simple. Nothing. Though I haven’t personally felt strong guilt, and have generally been able to separate the “conscious decision-making” me from the “my body did something weird” me, I still have asked my fair share of random questions trying to get to the bottom of why severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome happened to me, of all people. One of Jeff’s favorites was when I asked our perinatologist if it happened because I lifted heavy during my pregnancy. Spoiler alert: nope.
- Unapologetically take care of yourself. This one is again directed at loss parents, though I bet we all could use a little more self-care than we tend to allow ourselves. After you’ve lost a child though, it’s even more important. Without taking care of yourself, it’s easy to lose yourself entirely. Give yourself “me time” when you need it. I used to hate being alone, and now, I cherish the time I get to myself, watching trashy TV or practicing hand-lettering. This also goes for social “obligations”. Throw the idea of obligation out the window. If it doesn’t fill you up, or you’re not feeling up to it at the time, skip it.
- Don’t stress yourself out about the traditions. This last quarter of the year was full of holidays and traditions where I felt the need start traditions to keep Brady’s memory alive. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finally, the month of Brady. The first year impacts the most pressure. I felt like whatever I did that first year was something I had to keep doing year after year. Better make it good! But that’s not the case at all. If you try something and you love it, that’s great! You can do it next year too, if you want. Tried something and didn’t like it? No worries, try something new (or do nothing) next year. Think of something cool in year 2, year 5 or year 10? Awesome. It’s never too late to start a new tradition. Honoring your child doesn’t have to be one thing or another, and it doesn’t have to be anything “special” or out-of-the-ordinary. Whatever you do is the right thing to do.
That’s my list, for now. I’m sure in a year, I’ll have another 5 things, or maybe even more. I’m constantly learning on this journey, and I don’t think that will ever stop. To my fellow loss parents reading this, what would you add to the list? And to the general public that interacts with loss parents, what have you learned? Leave a comment and let me know.