If it were common – would it hurt less?

*** Trigger warning: This post discusses child loss, grief and miscarriage ***

Grief. Loss. Pain. Sadness. These are universal emotions. If all the feelings of the world were placed on a scale, I daresay the darker side would draw lower. Yet, that’s not what we see. Not what we are taught. Happiness is to be prized and paraded. Sadness is to be swallowed and hidden away.

I’ve thought a lot about this since Xavier’s death. The reactions to child loss, and to loss in a broader sense. What is acceptable in grief and what is not. You are told there is no guide book. But believe me, there are a host of unwritten rules.

Right now I am reading one of Phillipa Gregory’s novels about the Tudors – this one focusing on Queen Margaret. She had six children. Two of them were born still. Three of them died as babies. It wasn’t an unusual scenario in the Tudor court. While I am busy punishing myself with my choice of novel, I’m also binge watching The Handmaid’s Tale. A speculative version of the future where getting pregnant is nigh impossible. For those that do, there is a one in five chance of a health baby.

When Xavier died, suddenly and unexpectedly at two weeks old, it was a shocking and unbelievable thing. The chances of it happening so remote that it would seem impossible. We reeled. Those around us reeled. We grieved hard and were given space to do so. Everything imploded.

In the weeks and months that followed, I struggled to understand. Anything. I wondered if it would be easier if more people could identify with what I was going through. Was the loss of a child easier to bear in the days when it was more commonplace? My current reading and viewing material has caused me to think on that again.

Would a commonality of experience illicit more empathy? Would it offer a deep network of support and understanding? Or would it render something heart-breakingly painful “normal”. A terrible, but foreseeable, cross to bear?

The families who have walked a similar path to ours gave me so much hope. A safety net. A place to plant my shaking feet. Within their embrace I was no longer “other”. It was a relief from pity. Seeing my experience and feelings mirrored by others was so validating.

But I wonder if that experience was due to the fact of still birth and SIDS being, thankfully, relatively rare. Support systems tend to be built around the extraordinary. As though pain moves in direction measure to the rarity of its source.

I think of my dear friends who have experienced miscarriages. The pain that each of them experienced. Isolating and real. Miscarriage is relatively common. The experience of it shared by so many women. I saw no evidence of that fact giving my friends any comfort. Rather, an allocated grief period and an expectation that they would “get on with it”. “At least you know you can get pregnant.” “Miscarriages occur quite often in the early stages of pregnancy”. A pause on the road to a baby — with little recognition of the baby that would have been. If you’ve had a miscarriage or are close to someone who has, I’m sure you’ve heard them all.

Why can’t we allow ourselves sadness? When the saddest of things happen? Why does something being more common contract the time allowed to grieve?

I am not a masochist – no matter what my reading/watching choices might suggest. But I will honour feelings of sadness and grief. I will not chase them away. Or expect that of others.

Do you feel like you have to be happy all the time, no matter what? Do you think that we are expected to experience less pain when something is more common?

 

Linking up with Kylie Purtell – Capturing Life and IBOT

 

22 thoughts on “If it were common – would it hurt less?

  1. Sarah says:

    I felt so very at ease reading this and nodded the whole way through. Some of the things said to me after our two miscarriages were of a bygone era but said by my own generation. I still feel the hurt. Especially as due dates passed. Through little Lu’s pregnancy I was an anxious mess to be honest. Every twinge or spotting was inevitably going to have a catastrophic consequence. I kept these feelings to myself. We really felt we couldn’t share them after having one person say, “well you guys keep getting pregnant.” As though our pain was our fault as we wanted this baby so much and kept trying. It’s been a very isolating experience and I’ve very much felt like an island since. I have hesitated to look into the Handmaid’s Take so thank you for shedding some light. Look forward to seeing you and giving you a big hug this week xxx

    • Robyna says:

      I have an idea of how hard that would have been. Experience is a very strong teacher. And I think when people don’t know what to say, they shouldn’t say anything.

  2. Kristy Andronov says:

    I have several takes on this subject. Given that I experienced 5 miscarriages prior to giving birth the first time I understand all feelings of loss and how it is a terribly lonely time. I began to share my story simply and without sensationalising hoping that perhaps someone going through this too might not feel so alone and be able to talk to me and in doing so help them through the heart break. I was discussing this just recently with a Russian relative who was intrigued that I would share such a painful experience and I explained that it helped ME to talk about it and i hoped it might help others to know my story. Through this loss and through the loss of yours, my dear dear friend, it brought me to talk to my Grandmother, who had also experienced infant loss. She was not encouraged to talk about it, there was no counselling or support groups. Her GP encouraged her to have another child asap and ever since had ‘gotten on with things’ as she was prescribed to do. From our conversations I do not believe this was particularly helpful but it was what women did. There was no other option. We all have our own journeys through grief and I feel it’s comforting if someone who can appreciate and understand your grief to hold your hand through it.

    • Robyna says:

      I feel terribly for the hidden grief that mothers (and fathers) were forced to submerge historically. I think this was done under the guise of helping but really just made the people around them feel more comfortable.

  3. hugzilla says:

    Sadness and grief really are the hardest emotions to process, and seem to be the ones most likely to elicit discomfort in others and attempts to diminish it. I don’t know why this is but our culture is terrible at it. We’re expected to pick up and keep going, almost as if grief is something we can shove into a handbag and keep going. I think it’s because we are deeply uncomfortable with the idea that some grief lasts forever.

  4. Tracy says:

    Perhaps there is a different mindset when infant mortality is high. Maybe it has something to do with that mental place where there are no guarantees? I don’t know. What I do know is that our culture does not handle grief well. We avoid it. We do not allow ourselves to sit in and and with it. We don’t allow ourselves to feel the emotions associated with it. We think if we’re sad for too long (whatever that is?) we’re “depressed”. We feel isolated, yet others have walked the path many times before us and will walk it after.
    My mother-in-law gave me the best advice once: allow yourself time to be sad and feel all the emotions, just don’t wallow there. After you’ve had time with all the sadness and emotions, plan to move on.
    I think that’s good advice. A healthy balance of sitting with the pain, but planning not to stay there beyond what is healthy and necessary.
    Tracy recently posted…The Strangest School Holidays EverMy Profile

  5. Nicole @ The Builder's Wife says:

    Grief is such a personal journey I don’t know how it could ever be defined. Time, space and understanding are of the utmost importance for moving through the journey. I feel sadness is a healthy, normal part of life. While I would love to feel happy all day every day, it’s just not possible within the complexity of a normal life. (for me anyway)
    Nicole @ The Builder’s Wife recently posted…I Took A ‘Me’ Day And Learned Something About MyselfMy Profile

  6. Vanessa says:

    I can’t speak to this specific topic, but yes, I have felt the pressure in recent years to be happier than I am when struggling with health conditions. And I say to them, so don’t be my friend. It’s black and white; you don’t have to understand (we can’t all understand everything we’re all going through and I would never expect anyone to), but some basic respect and compassion goes far.
    Vanessa recently posted…Let Me Be Sarcastic!My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Yes – isn’t it strange how other people seem to think they have a right to determine your reaction to your own personal set of circumstances. And in doing so, phrase it as a “favour” – “just trying to help”. Bleuggh.

  7. Amy @ HandbagMafia says:

    Grief, for me, has been something that literally changed my world. I am sure your grief was the same for you in that regard. It alters the fabric of who we are. Even if it’s a common experience, it changes us all in different ways. The way I miss my mother is bound to be different to the way you yearn for your gorgeous baby. Grief is almost like an umbrella term to label the unique and often terrible way we change in the face of loss.
    Amy @ HandbagMafia recently posted…Self-Consciousness and What It Means at 35My Profile

  8. Kez @ Awesomely Unprepared says:

    Such an amazing blog post. Thank you for speaking on what you’ve been through. I think that we need to talk about the hard stuff more. Not just so people who are sharing similar experiences feel less alone, but so that those who haven’t experienced it may begin to better understand how to support them. And we need to stop thinking that just because something ‘happens all the time’ it should be taken with a pinch of salt.
    Kez @ Awesomely Unprepared recently posted…Taking Stock: July 2017My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Definitely – pain is not eased by how common something is. Nor does someone else’s, apparently “larger” pain, ease suffering. Someone with a broken arm doesn’t receive pain relief by seeing someone with two broken legs.

  9. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says:

    I’ve been thinking about this all day. I think we as a culture/society a) really don’t know how to deal with grief and b) it makes us feel so uncomfortable. It’s a bit of a chicken and an egg thing. There’s no timeline for grief and neither is it finite. I think grief is something we have to own because that loss is part of us. There’s no formula for grief, it’s going to be different for everyone. I don’t think there’s any correlation between less pain and a loss that’s more common, a loss is a loss. That hole in your heart, it’s for keeps.
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted…7 Tips For Coping With a Cancer DiagnosisMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      We really don’t do it well – which is terrible because it’s inevitable that we will all feel it. Forui something so universal to be so isolating is quite strange.

  10. Collette says:

    After all my miscarriages and the loss of my Mum, I am completely puzzled (and saddened) by a collective pursuit to smother and deny grief. I actually think that my grief was prolonged because I felt that, generally, people didn’t understand the pain of loss, nor wanted to understand it. I did become stuck and it was like a ball of wool that kept growing and tying itself in knots. It’s been 13 years since my first miscarriage and five years since my sixth and final, but I continue to talk openly about my losses. It’s part of me, and no doubt you feel an element of that with losing Xavier. I think it’s important not to deny the parts of ourselves that make us who we are today, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others feel. xxx

    • Robyna says:

      It really does seem like the Western world is intent on denying grief. Which is very strange for something that every single person will experience within their lifetime. I definitely found that I had to go THROUGH it, not deny it or try to ignore it. It was only the other side that I felt something close to peace.

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