If you’ve landed here because you’re looking for an encouraging, uplifting holiday blog post about how “there’s always something to be thankful for”, you are in the wrong place. Go ahead and close your browser window. This one is not for you. I’ll get it out of the way and say that, of course, there are some things I am thankful for, but that’s not what this is about. This is about how disrespectful it is for others to shove their thankful agendas down my throat.
I’ve written my fair share of “What NOT to do” pieces on this blog. I’ve often wondered why it seems to be so hard to think before you speak, or to consider your audience. Pregnancy announcements are an uncomfortable subject to broach when you’re sharing the news with a loss mom. There are good odds that a loss mom will come away from the conversation thinking it was handled poorly. Remember, I wrote this gem about sucky pregnancy announcements.
One recurring theme that I constantly come back to is time. There never seems to be enough of it, and that idea has never rang more true than when you’re talking about the loss of a child. We never know how much sand our hourglass holds until it runs out. Sometimes, after the hourglass runs out of sand, we can celebrate the time that we had with our loved ones. There’s no celebrating when a life as short as Brady John’s ends. We never imagined that Brady’s hourglass would have so little sand in it.
The first time I heard the term “secondary loss” was at a support group. I had no idea what it was, but quickly learned the term describes all the smaller losses we experience, beyond the actual death. It was hard for me to even think of secondary losses for a while, because it seemed awful to think of anything else beyond the horrible, insurmountable loss of our son. It was hard to think that other losses could even matter when compared to Brady’s death.
When you lose a child, you’re committed to a life sentence of dealing with triggers. It’s difficult for those who haven’t been through it to understand that these things come out of nowhere, and the intensity at which they hit you. I never even knew that triggers existed until we’d lost Brady. Triggers stop you in your tracks and hit you like a metaphorical traumatic brain injury.
When it comes to triggers, there are things that “make sense” to others, as in, they can understand that seeing pregnant women would trigger a woman whose pregnancy ended far too soon, and then there are plenty more that are less easily understood. An important thing to remember is that while some individuals have similar triggers, like anything else grief-related, there is no such thing as “one size fits all.”