Grief, the shape-shifter

Have you ever experienced loss before? In any way {and there are many}?

Then you will have no doubt met Grief.

I don't know about you, but my journey with grief has been a turbulent roller coaster, zig-zagging and diving in different directions - often with no warning as to new twists and turns that would appear.

The first time I met grief due to pregnancy loss was in 2006. I forcibly pushed it into the tiniest little box and wrapped it with so many layers of inadequate (and harmful) substitutes. I was in a place in my life, with a person in my life, where expression of grief was not an option. In fact, I don't even think my ex-husband acknowledged grieving over an early pregnancy loss as a 'real thing'. So, grief and I never got acquainted, and years later I feel like that was not honouring my little babe (or myself for that matter) and not acknowledging how much the loss truly altered me as a person.

Fast forward to just over a year ago, I became pregnant with Anahera. And in a month's time, it will be the anniversary of when Anahera was surgically removed from my body, after they couldn't find a heartbeat.

After nearly a year with this particular grief, after the loss of Anahera, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought, I know grief's ins and outs now, I can almost pre-empt triggers and upsets and I have strategies in place to help me navigate those extra little surprises along the way.

But, grief, it seems, had me fooled.

Only because grief didn't tell me that every time we met, it would look different.

I wasn't prepared for this new feeling that came after my 3rd pregnancy loss over Christmas 2017. Everything felt so different this time. When previously I had so many words and an overwhelming desire to express all that was happening inside my heart and my head, this time - I felt so empty that I had no well of words to dive into.  I had no way to truly express what I was experiencing, and so I fell silent and withdrew from the world.

I wanted so desperately to connect with my people, to feel like they cared and like they felt this pain with me, but some absences spoke volumes to my broken heart and my emptiness and frustrations with life ended up pushing me further and further away from the support I needed. I ended up feeling like I was just a burden and that I needed to hide my pain away because surely nobody else wanted to see this rerun of Rachel's encounters with grief.

Healthy? Definitely not! (This is another blog post in itself watch for my reflections on this later).

So. What now?

Now that I've met with this new form of grief? One that I don't recognise and haven't already mastered?

I start from the beginning again.

This is a different loss. Squishy was a different baby. So therefore, the grief will be different too. I take account of what things worked last time, I try them now to see if they are still effective, and if not - I adapt. I seek new resources and new outlets for my pain, search for new support groups and new perspectives on healing, I pray and I figure out how to walk through this manifestation of grief.

One emotion that has been present both times (and now retrospectively, 3 times) is guilt.

Guilt that I don't have the 'right' to be so upset about this. Others lose their babies later in pregnancy or after their birth, or others have 4, 5, 6 or even more losses - my loss is insignificant compared to theirs. Guilt that, again, my body betrayed my heart and failed another much wanted and much loved baby. Guilt that I can't give my husband a living child, when he has to watch so many others around him exude that radiant joy that often comes with welcoming a healthy newborn, knowing that he wants this just as much as I do. And guilt that I haven't been a good enough friend and therefore somehow deserve this feeling of isolation now.

Guilt DEFINITELY needs to be something I work through as part of my dealings with grief.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting over the different times in my life when grief and loss have been a part of the story. As with everyone, there have been many, many times throughout my 34 years. Loss is a part of life. Unfortunately.

I think back to when I was 8 and my beloved Gran passed away. I remember feeling that I had been robbed of all the memories that should've come with more precious moments shared with her. That I had been given the least amount of time with her, and for some reason - that meant that it was worse for me than my sisters (both older than me). Now, I am in no way saying that is true. My eldest sister could have argued the opposite because she had the most time with Gran, she had more opportunities to bond with her and so therefore had more reason to be devastated than I did.

But see, this is where it all goes wrong. When comparison kicks in and feeds that guilt. The guilt then makes our relationship with grief construed and disingenuous.

Grief is grief. Loss is loss. Hard is hard.

The truth is, all 3 of us girls lost our Gran that day. And all 3 of us had different relationships with her. And all 3 of us had the 'right' to grieve and truly feel her loss - whatever that loss meant for us.

To me, this experience relates so closely to the guilt that comes with acknowledging our pain when we lose a baby - at any stage of pregnancy or life. I may have 'only' been in the first trimester when I lost each of my babies, but each time - I was still 100% pregnant. I loved each baby as soon as I saw those positive results on the tests. I had already imagined how life would change when they came, and yes - I had definitely already created the most perfect (and beautifully styled, I might add) nurseries in my mind. I didn't have as much time with each baby as other loss mamas have, but that doesn't minimise their worth. It doesn't mean their life was less significant. It doesn't mean their loss was less devastating.

For me, even though I've been through many hardships, losing my 3 little ones is by far the hardest thing I have had to endure. And that is real. For me. Whatever the hardest thing you've had to endure is, that is real for you. Your response to that experience is valid. End of.

I have spoken to many amazing loss mamas through my platform with The Anahera Project. Some have been through different types of loss. And many of those who have had to endure the unbelievable pain of having to give birth to their baby, knowing they will not be able to take them home (one that I do not claim to know because I have never experienced that), can still acknowledge the significance of losing a baby in early pregnancy and the range of emotions that emerge from never feeling their baby kick, not knowing their baby's gender, possibly never knowing why they died, the feelings of guilt and that similar sense of loss of a future with their baby.

Grief is grief. Loss is loss. Hard is hard.

To work through our relationship with grief, we need to successfully tackle this feeling of guilt. It is not helpful. In ANY way. And usually, these feelings of guilt are just lies!

To help combat some of these lies, a person needs their tribe. Their 'people'. Not isolation. Not silence. Not judgment (silent or spoken) on whether they should still be grieving or comparison to another person's story.

In her book "A Deeper Shade of Blue", (as shared on Postpartum Progress by Katherine Stone) Dr. Ruta Nonacs states that the "process of grieving requires time, patience and the support of others".

{But more on this in my next post.}


For now, I am taking time to focus on my well being - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I am trying to fiercely resist any notion of guilt that I am wrong for doing so.

I will not push grief into that tiny little box like I did so many years ago. The ramifications of that have been so detrimental, in ways that I never expected.

I will live this grief fearlessly. I will get to know it, intimately, in this new form - or whatever form it chooses to take in the future. I will learn how to weave its pain and its beauty in to the fabric of my life. The tapestry is already so full of colours, some bright and fluorescent, some dark and stormy.

Eventually the threads will come together to reveal a rich and intricate picture of my life. I want to have really lived every single tiny detail of it.

And that, I am sure, is going to take immense courage.

{Image from the amazing Morgan Harper Nichols}


In what ways have you met, and learned to live with, your grief?

What have you found helpful when walking through grief in your life?