There Is No Timetable

March 31, 2008 at 5:32 pm 12 comments

How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 4

Grief is not necessarily linear. You can read the Wikipedia entry as easily as I can about the stages of grief, and even there you will find that “normal grief” doesn’t always progress in a certain order.

There are grief cycle theories all over the place, I’m sure. That’s not my area of expertise, so if that’s something you want to explore further on your own, I would encourage you to, but know that just because it can be explained in a book doesn’t mean that’s exactly how it will work itself out in the life of a real person.

Your friend might seem to have it together just fine in public. She’s not always walking around with mascara streaks and constantly beating her breast, so that must mean she’s fine, right? She may have just had moments or hours of intense grief in her personal time, and somehow, by the grace of God, managed to make herself presentable enough to go to church and not be a blubbering mess. Respect that—it’s a major accomplishment for her.

And if she doesn’t make it to church or playgroup or the moms’ group for a month or more, don’t freak out. It’s difficult to reenter life as you once knew it, feeling like a completely altered being. I remember wondering,

“How do I fit in with my single gal friends in their early twenties? I feel even less like them now than I did before.”

“Am I allowed to go into a group of acquaintances who are having a lighthearted conversation and just be a part of it like I used to be, or is that weird?”

“Am I betraying the memory of my child—am I letting her disappear—if I go to work today and have work-related conversations?”

(As a side note, my single gal friends in their early twenties have been some of the most remarkable supporters.)

For a couple months after losing Felicity, I was in perpetual motion when I was in public and even in private sometimes. There always seemed to be plans and people that kept life going. And though I was feeling extremely sad sometimes, the reality of our loss did not hit me for some time.

There may be a relative calm before the storm. At first you’re dealing with empty arms, your milk coming in then drying up, stitches healing, your dark line down the middle of your once-full belly disappearing—those are acute grief experiences. As time goes on, however, there are all kinds of realities that your friend will have to face. As the finality of the loss begins to sink in over time, grief can actually become more devastating than it was at the beginning. For me, that was sometime in mid-January, almost 4 months after Felicity’s death. Another friend from church who experienced a stillbirth 20+ years ago recalled to me that months 4-9 were just awful for her.

I’m not saying that this is the formula—months 4-9 will definitely be awful. I’m saying that you need to be in tune to and vigilant for your friend, even if a couple months have passed and she seems to be okay. Her private moments probably contain a lot of agony. And when the acute grieving experiences are past, chances are it’s just the beginning.

(Read other posts in this series.)

Entry filed under: Grief. Tags: .

She’s a Scatterbrain She May Explode (But Probably Not)

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. guinever  |  March 31, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    (((HUGS))) to you, my sister in Christ. I have a daughter in the arms of Jesus as well. We just passed the third anniversary of her death. I read your 4 parts to grieving articles. I agree that there aren’t a defined set of stages. You go in and out of them…Losing our daughters isn’t something that we’ll get over; it’s something that we live through, get through one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time. For me, as time has passed, the grief doesn’t lessen, but the grieving doesn’t happen as often. Does that make sense? you can read my blog at http://grievingwithguinever.wordpress.com/ (my name clicks to my website about pregnancy and birth)

    Reply
  • 2. jennapants  |  March 31, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    1. I saw that there’s another “jenna”. So, I upgraded to “jennapants”. If another “jennapants” appears, I might be forced to become “jennalicious” and we don’t want that to happen.

    2. Have I commented on the grieving series yet? I’m so grateful for this series.

    3. This post reminds me of a memorable moment in grief: This past August, at the all-campus service up north, I saw a friend. I was holding Jillian. And she was holding her baby (a few months older). Something triggered tears and I knew that she was crying for the baby she had lost before the one she was holding. She said, “I love this baby so much. But, I want them *both*.” We just stood there in the midst of a thousand people and wept for the baby she’d lost as her arms were full of the baby present. It’s not clean, cut, linear, easy, logical, done, forgotten or ever ‘all better’.

    4. Two questions that you don’t have to be obligated to answer…ever. First, Do you have a response to the wondering of a person who thinks, “She’s having a good moment. Maybe I shouldn’t mention Felicity.”
    Second, I often think of your Thanksgiving post when you said that you felt like talking about Felicity all that day. It stuck with me because I wished so much that I could hear you talk about her. What holds you back from talking about her if/when you do hold back? Again, you don’t have to answer these questions.

    Reply
  • 3. Jen (Mom to Quadruplets)  |  March 31, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I’m coming out of “strangerland” right away! I found you through Desiring God (about 5 clicks later). My name is Jen and I’m the wife of 1 and Mama to 4 boys, in the form of QUADRUPLETS! They just turned one. Life is busy but FULL of laughter. I blog about our adventures quite often.
    I’m really benefitting from this series as I have had many around me experience such loss, especially now that I’m close to many through the NICU and multiples families who loose children due to complications of prematurity. Thanks for this personal resource.
    I also am a SLP! =)

    Reply
  • 4. Marsel  |  April 1, 2008 at 7:07 am

    This series has already been such a blessing to me. Thank you so much for opening your heart. If you don’t mind, I would like to link to this series from my blog, and ask my family and friends to read it…it says so much that I have wanted to say but haven’t been able to put into concise thoughts.

    Praying that God will wrap you in His comfort today…

    Reply
  • 5. Dana Cordell  |  April 1, 2008 at 10:06 am

    your words are so full, Molly. I feel like i can see your eyes and your quivering lips as i read your post… Sister, my heart still aches as i think about your precious girl. I love her… I love you and am grieving with you from miles away. Your honesty and humility will be used in so many other women who are walking this road with you. I am here for you for the long haul, i have no timetable!
    dana lynn

    Reply
  • 6. Jessica  |  April 1, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you for this series.
    I posted a link on my blog. Is that ok?
    Your words ring true and really I do relate…

    Reply
  • 7. jennifer  |  April 2, 2008 at 5:07 am

    Thank you for your insights. I have a friend at church who is grieving the loss of her newborn. She posted a link to your blog on hers. I have had questions for her about what she needs from others and your comments have put things into great perspective for me, someone who can’t relate to her on this level. Thank you for your honesty.

    Reply
  • 8. ashley  |  April 2, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I am fighting the urge to say something about not knowing you, but I’ll refrain (thanks). Thank you for this series, I wold love to post a link to it if you don’t mind. I appreciate the reassurance that there isn’t a time table and there isn’t a formula or right way to expect things to go. I so much would love to share this insight with others, not that they have done anything wrong, but maybe so that they may better understand and help others who are grieving.

    Reply
  • 9. Melanie  |  April 2, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Molly – I’ve been reading your blog since I found out from Shawnda K. that you lost Felicity. I had 6 weeks left to go with my second pregnancy and ached for you greatly, especially after my son was born.

    My cousin lost her daughter, very similar to you losing Felicity, almost 2 years ago, when I was only 7 weeks pregnant with my first child (a daughter, whose middle name is that of her precious 2nd cousin). My cousin’s grief came in fazes, like yours. But, she really liked talking about Brooke. She wanted to share her with friends and family, but friends and family rarely asked to “see” Brooke because they didn’t know how she would take it. What about you? Do you like sharing your daughter’s mementos? Would it help my friends if I asked to hear and “see” her lost child?

    My cousin has poured herself into an Infant Loss Support group in Winston-Salem, NC called Heartstrings. I actually photographed their annual walk of 2007 (one of their primary fundraisers). Here is their website (http://www.heartstringssupport.org). You might be a good advocate for something like this up in Minneapolis. I know that this group has grown so much since it’s beginnings.

    Anyway, I’ve decided not to lurk anymore and comment. :-) I enjoy reading your blog immensely. Blessings to you.

    Reply
  • 10. Stacey  |  April 2, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Hey Molly, just a heads up….I gave your blog link and Abers link to a girl that lives in Erie. I read her blog and she reciprocates. She is not from Erie, but lives in Erie while her hubby goes to LECOM. She was talking on her blog yesterday about a book she was reading by Aber’s dad. I left a comment stating, how weird (not weird she was reading the book), but just weird how people somehow get connected through other things. Anyway…gave her your blog and Aber’s to take a look at. Hope today is a good day. Good reading your grieving series. I am sure just writing this has helped. Now I am like Danielle………ugh, this should have been an email or telephone call. Jiminy Christmas! Did you make your cookies yet? I might as well keep going since I have written thus much hehehehehe. Tell Horison that Maxwell says HI. Everytime we go for a walk, there is a house down the street that has their garage door open and there is a little tykes car in there and he thinks that is Horison’s house. LOL……Love ya!

    Reply
  • 11. shawnda  |  April 3, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for the post, sister. Thinking of you and praying for you!

    LOVE YOU!

    Reply
  • 12. Leslie Camp  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I’m sitting here weeping at my computer almost a month past my son’s would-be 7th birthday. Ethan was stillborn on June 24th, 2001. Even now, seven years, two early miscarriages, and three wonderful, beautiful live births later, I want to hold Ethan so bad. Of course, I am not this blubbering mess all the time, but I still have moments!

    My husband and I have not made a big deal out of Ethan’s birthday every year, but this year it seemed appropriate. We went to his grave site, where we left flowers and our other kids left toys. We had a good long cry and reminisced about the pregnancy and the day Ethan was born, etc. We shared some of our memories with friends and family via e-mail. We have been encouraged to keep this written record of our memories, because as your husbands recent post stated so well, it is so easy to forget.

    Reply

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