Grief is as unique as your fingerprints.
Image: Davide Guglielmo (Via FreeImages)
I personally speak to hundreds and hundreds of people each week who are going through grief....without fail, every person feels different to one another!
I have lost five babies and each time I lost a child my grief was different. Let me briefly describe the primary feelings I experienced.
My first loss was shocking...it was submerged with a host of other feelings, mostly denial. I didn't want to be that one in four who lost a baby; I felt I could almost pretend I hadn't lost a baby, and that would erase the miscarriage. It was painful, frightening, fast and it left me confused. We named this longed for baby Coby.
Loss 2: Felt like the end of the world. It was all consuming and no denial was even possible. It was a missed miscarriage, so I had, had quite a few scans, and we had delighted in watching our little girl Darcy grow and develop...Then one day she died. The pain was gut wrenching, black and it felt unrecoverable. It changed my world and I knew nothing would ever be, or feel the same again.
Loss 3: Was soon after losing Darcy, so denial played a part again. I found I could cry, but also felt somewhat numb to the similar feelings that were fighting for space in my brain. I was able to rationalise with myself and my feelings, but was plagued with the reality that maybe I would never have a child to raise. I felt I could not deal with another loss and thought the best way to prevent this pain was to just have no more children. The grief was intense and life felt very hopeless. We named our child Bailey.
Image: Bobbi Dombrowski (Via FreeImages)
We then fell pregnant...and this time we went full term and were blessed with our little girl Esme Emilia. Esme made the world a better place...The sun now shined more brightly and the birds sang much louder than ever before.
We had only planned on having one child, but soon after Esme was born we knew we wanted more children. As Esme was born safe and well, we presumed loss would never again haunt us. We were wrong.
Loss 4: Was very similar to losing Darcy in terms of it being all consuming. It was another missed miscarriage, so during many scans we had seen our little boy Samuel growing. We were told he had died during a doctor's appointment. As soon as we saw the scan we knew, his little heart was no longer beating on the screen and all was still. The bottom dropped from our world yet again. The grief was of course different. We had our daughter with us, so we weren't grieving the fact we may not ever be parents, but we had a new type of grief. We were now grieving a baby we had lost and a brother for our daughter. We kept imagining Esme and Samuel playing together, yet we were faced with the possibility of Esme being an only child. We didn't have the luxury of just being able to sit for weeks sobbing; we had to carry on, we had to make life normal for Esme, as well as take time to grieve, it was such a tricky balancing act. The grief was intense, dark, shocking and surreal.
Loss 5: Was our daughter Bronte's twin Isabella. The relief that one of our children was ok overshadowed the ability to fully grieve the baby we lost. We denied ourselves the chance to properly mourn, as we had a baby safely growing inside; surely that should be our only focus? To allow ourselves to fall apart would surely tell the world we were ungrateful for the child I still carried? So we put the grief on hold and allowed ourselves little time to face the loss. Once Bronte was in our arms, we became acutely aware that her sister Isabella was missing and we were forced to grieve and say goodbye to the little one we had lost. Delaying the grief did not make it worse and it followed a very similar pattern to grief in the moment. During this loss we learnt that grief is patient and it will wait for you to be ready to process it.
So why is it important to share this?
Because I want people to know grief is unique.
Grief is individual, not only to the person, but also to each loss. Just because you have grieved one way during one loss, does not mean you will respond the same way to other losses.
There is no normal.
The stepping stones are pretty standard and the process of grieving is pretty universal, but your grief will be as unique as your fingerprints.
Be gentle with yourself.
Let others show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as during your darkest days it can feel hopeless.
Be aware that grief is like the ocean. The sadness and feelings of loss are like the waves...Some days the sea is almost still, but on other days the waves are like a tsunami.
Image: Guillaume Riesen (Via FreeImages)
Be patient. There is no time limit, grief is a process that cannot be fast forwarded and you can't jump steps, but if you go with the flow, it makes it a lot less painful as you aren't fighting yourself.
Know you are not alone. Right now there are millions of people grieving and even though you may feel isolated and lost, there are people who truly understand.
Try not to be scared of the feelings and emotions you are experiencing. Yes they may be overwhelming and they may feel alien to you, but they will pass.
Image: Peter Huys (Via FreeImages)
Zoe Clark-Coates is one of the founders and CEO's of the Mariposa Trust. The Saying Goodbye division offers support and national remembrance services for anyone who has lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy, at birth or in early years.
Website: www.mariposatrust.org & sayinggoodbye.org