Since joining the world of baby loss parents, I’ve met many, many moms and dads who have had similar experiences. While no two losses are exactly the same, there are some common factors. As a therapist, I tend to pay more attention to the grieving process and the common factors that may stand in the way of finding healing.
Negative, defeating, discouraging thoughts will always come. Often, they come as seeds planted by others’ words, or the experiences we have. After a loss, they may come in the form of statements such as, “You need to just move on,” or “Don’t cry,” or “aren’t you over that yet?”
I’m sure you’ve heard your share of well-intentioned but hurtful comments. People often say hurtful things, simply because they just don’t know what TO say and end up with a foot in the mouth.
While you may know some of the things others say, or the things you say to yourself aren’t helpful, and usually aren’t even true, it’s easy to fall into the trap of treating yourself as if they are true and dwelling on them. Its easy to do, surrounded and weakened by a fog of grief, but it doesn’t allow for healing.
What often happens if there are such barriers to healing, is that it goes beyond typical grief and can develop into long-lasting depression and anxiety, characterized by guilt and anger. The grief process naturally lasts a long time, and I believe it would be safe to say it leaves a scar that never fully goes away. With that said, the barriers can be like glass in the wound that keeps it from healing properly. It may not always be obvious, but if it gets bumped in some way, it’s like it’s still very well raw and fresh.
Today, I want to ask you if you have glass in your wounds. What unhelpful thoughts keep you from finding that peaceful healing. Are you thoughts leaving you feeling guilty? Angry? Bitter/resentful? What is standing in the way between you and finding peace? Are there lies you are telling yourself that maybe you would never tell another parent here? For example, “I should be over it by now.” “If I had only….” “I shouldn’t have/If I hadn’t ______then this wouldn’t have happened…”
One of the best ways descriptions I could possibly give for working through your grief would be to find a purpose and peace in your experiences. This isn’t possible, though, if you focus only on the unhelpful, guilty, resentful, negative thoughts. It’s not possible if you continue to focus on blame. It’s not possible if you don’t give yourself permission to experience the grief and feel what you feel. It’s okay to admit if your heart is broken, or if you miss your children. It’s okay to admit that you are grieving, even if it has been what others may consider “too long.” It’s not about them. It’s about you and your journey to finding peace with your loss.
Most importantly in your journey to finding peace, it’s important to focus on what is helpful and healing. For me, personally, I have found peace by focusing on the fact that I fully believe that God loves us, that He’s not selfish, and doesn’t allow painful things to happen to us for our own amusement. Scripture tells us that He is Love, and describes in a very detailed way what Love really is. I believe that, and believing that helps me find peace. I believe, as scripture also says, that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us – to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13). So if God loves us, love isn’t selfish, and He has plans for us, there must be a loving purpose in my daughter not being with me. Because I believe this, I can honestly say that I would still rather have had my daughter with anencephaly than not at all. She has touched the lives of many and will continue to do so through our non-profit, founded in her name. God had a purpose for her, even though her life here was short. A final thought that has helped me find peace is that I believe fully that Heaven is for real, and I will live my life in such a way that I will be with her again.
I’d like to leave you with a verse that helps me keep my focus:
New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.