My eyes were opened… and not gently. No, I felt like Alex DeLarge at the end of “A Clockwork Orange”. Strapped into a chair with my eyelids pried open and kept that way.
A lot of you know that I am in a therapy group. It is a trauma processing group and a lot of times there is what’s called “parallel processing” where one or more people have had similar experiences to whoever is sharing. It can be very difficult and rewarding.
A few years ago, when I was pregnant with Noah, a new group member started. She had recently suffered a miscarriage. I felt awful. I wanted to quit the group, not to be a constant reminder of what she’d lost. I loved my group though and one of the main “rules” we have, is to not “treat each other as fragile”.
As God, or fate, would have it, I lost Noah a week or two after she started. I could be wrong but I’m almost certain that within a month, she was pregnant again.
Then Natalie died.
There was so much grief, I was drowning in it and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get another full breath.
The following months that passed were brutal, for both she and I.
She was expecting her rainbow baby (a baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss) …in a way and also, not really “expecting” anything to go right, terrified she would lose another pregnancy.
I understood, and I tried to be supportive. I can’t honestly say that I was supportive, I don’t know. I hope that I was… and, that time is kind of a blur, further complicated by overwhelming jealousy and grief. I want to say I didn’t talk about the loss of Noah at the time because she had so much anxiety about the health and continuing growth of her baby that I didn’t want to add to it… but I think losing Natalie trumped Noah. Maybe it was both.
It hurt to hear her talk about the pregnancy and all that it entailed…not like a knife to the heart but like a dull, dirty, four-pronged fork.
Spring came, and baby was born. I thought I’d made it through the hard part.
I had made it through A hard part.
She took a break to recover and care for her newborn.
When she came back, she was still filled with fear that something would happen to baby and she would lose him.
More time passed, as it does, and she had friends who had miscarriages. They were triggering for her and she wanted to be there for her friends and also to have the support she needed from the group.
By now, I was getting to the point of being ultra sensitive. Even the mention of the word “baby” and I tensed up, started to zone out. I found myself irritated with this group member, she spoke excessively about her loss, her friends’ loss, her new baby… etc.
“Why am I getting so upset?” I’d ask myself. Her happiness, her grief, her joy and loss, they take nothing away from me…
Somewhere inside of me I heard or felt a voice saying, “I want to be heard too”.
“I hurt too”.
I bring all of this up to finally make my point.
Last Tuesday, I feel like I flipped out on this group member. I had very little sleep the night before. Tayla didn’t go to school, in fact, she ended up in urgent care. Work was crazy busy and we were short drivers…. I was worn out.
Even though I was trying my best to be skillful, I fell short. I said things in a way I wish I hadn’t. If I had it all to do over again, I would simply say “thank you”.
Thank you for being you. For sharing your struggles and joys and your journey. Because of you, I looked deeper into my own feelings and acknowledged that I haven’t yet grieved Noah. That I am entitled to talk about him and mourn him. Thank you for not treating me as fragile.
It has taken me nearly a week to write this and as I reflect back, one thing sticks out the most.
I know she felt attacked and unsafe. She said she wasn’t coming back. I told her if she didn’t, that would be treating us both as fragile. She said something along the lines of “that sounds manipulative” and we all laughed, except her. Maybe she wasn’t joking. Generally, when people are manipulative, it is to get something they want or for their benefit. That’s not exactly the case here. Yes, I do want her to come back… I want her to have her safe place. I want her to have support.
I want that for both of us.