This past January, my youngest son turned fourteen. The same day an ailing family member sadly passed away – despite having recovered from Covid-19 recently.
This day also marked one day shy of fifteen years since my pregnancy loss.
I have memories of my pregnancy loss, some faded, some vivid if I choose to recall them. Most of the time they are like photos tucked away that you never look at, but know are there. With my recent family loss bringing up buried feelings, this reflection came about.
I remember leaving the bright lights of the hospital with my husband feeling empty handed, retreating to the quiet darkness of our home in the wee hours, our toddler asleep under the care of a dear friend. She drove like the wind from out of town to help us in our time of need, our time of loss, thank God.
There’s an Italian saying, “La lingua va dove manca il dente.” The tongue goes to the missing tooth. As children we feel that empty spot with curiosity, with anticipation of it being filled in. As adults, the missing tooth symbolizes all the things, including people, we long to have back.
Pregnancy loss created a void. It eclipsed me. It was obscure. My loss was tangible, my body witness to it, but there was no funeral. No headstone. No marker except my memory.
Added to this at the time was an upended workplace and unsettled extended family matters. I wanted it deal with it by not dealing with it, all of it – personal and professional.
At times my feelings of loss and being lost were akin to a road map splayed across my steering wheel, a road map I was unable to understand on my own. I was not willing to stop and ask for help because I couldn’t control the help.
I didn’t want to be consoled for having a first-born already.
I didn’t want to be questioned, even shamed, for staying home a day.
And I didn’t want to be told that it would hit me hard later after the shock wore off.
All I wanted was someone to sweep my floor while I took a nap and closed the book on this chapter.
That was then.
More than ten years later a well-intentioned person suggested that I name my unborn child, talk about it more openly and participate in a group.
The name part I had done. I was not keen on talking though. I tried it once and it felt forced. The second time was a bit better although I kept it vague.
For me it was a logical conundrum. It was impossible to discuss what happened without the tangle of other personal matters. “To pull up the plant is to be showered in dirt.”
Around the same time, I confided in a friend about my hesitation.
She said, “You do this on your own time, how you want, if you want to.” This acknowledgement that there was no timeline or road map for expressing grief took away some of my guilt. It could take years, and that was okay. I could breathe. I could even cry for the first time since we left the hospital in 2006.
Living through a pandemic has unfortunately forced us to limit or set aside sharing our grief in person over the loss of loved ones at any age from any circumstance.
The traditional plans we made for our family member in February were changed completely to an intimate service for eight. At least we had that. The cards helped. The emails helped.
And yet it was difficult for the family. A dear family member remembered, but not quite fully honoured, not yet. No big funeral and luncheon. A death that likely will seem to many as intangible.
I tried hard to dismiss my pregnancy loss because I could. I tried hard to honour the loss of my family member when it was challenging to do so. The irony is as obvious as a headlight. It caused me to tremble. It caused me to awaken.
I remember my pregnancy loss with mixed feelings. The timing of my second pregnancy that I lost, overlaps with my third pregnancy, and birth of my youngest son.
I expect I will continue to grieve in this way – for the most part privately and hidden. Dealing with each instance of grief when it resurfaces.
And so it is.
Written by a community member of Bereaved Families of Ontario – Southwest Region with some details adjusted to support anonymity.
We hope that this members’ reflections are helpful to you, especially for those who may choose to grieve more quietly in private. You are not alone.