I posted a bit about it here:
But, for this post, I would like to focus instead on how we can cope with their reactions or lack thereof. While it has been many years since we said good-bye to our Faith, Grace, and Thomas, reading your struggles has made the sting of our family's reaction fresh on my heart this morning. And, before this launches into a finger-pointing, hurt-wallowing session, let me just say that while the memories still come with a sting, I have forgiven those hurts. I now realize that they were doing the best they could. Even if some of them reacted in ways that were hurtful to us, it was done out of lack of knowledge more than malice. God provided support for us in other ways. Over the years, I have learned to lay down my expectations for family. And, sometimes I have had to re-learn this again and again as new hurts arise. Sometimes love requires laying it all down.
That being said, I realize for many of you, the wounds are too fresh for full healing...the hurt still too intense for relief. It may surprise you to know that I didn't know that I could publicly embrace the memory of my children in the early years of grief. I often felt compelled to put my feelings away to spare the discomfort of others. Sometimes I didn't want to see the expression on their faces as their eyes shifted down and they squirmed uncomfortably when I shared about my children in heaven. I didn't want to seem like the weird mother who thinks she needs to keep bringing up her dead babies, making everyone around me uncomfortable. Yeah...I know....the initial lack of openness seems pretty crazy considering God has placed a passion in my heart to serve in a ministry that honors the lives of these sweet little ones.
People gave us some ornaments the first year to honor the memory of Faith and Grace, and it seemed at first that many friends reached out. The same month they were born still, another set of twin girls was born in our family. To comfort herself, and because she was genuinely excited about filling her own arms with these grandbabies, my mother threw herself into spending time with them. She had no idea that it felt like a punch in the gut to me when I walked into her house and saw two identical baby girl dresses slung across the chair. She had no idea that I went into the other room and cried, feeling sick when I saw their pictures on her refrigerator. Not that she shouldn't have been embracing the gift of their lives...certainly for them, it was a time to rejoice. But, for me...it was agony. What made it harder is that I could never have shared that with my mom. I don't share this often, because in many ways, my mother was a great support to me in my life. But, there were things about grief she didn't get.
My mother expected me to put my grief away after a time. When a friend of mine had her baby shortly after I lost my girls, mom said: "I know what will make you feel better. We'll go to the baby department and pick up a new outfit and visit your friend."
So, she drug my grief-weary self to the baby department (a place that still brings a twinge of pain to this day), while my wounds were still gaping, and to add insult to injury...a trip to visit my friend's brand new baby...in the hospital. She even made me hold him. It was all I could do to keep the sobs in until I reached the elevator. She looked disappointed by my tears. As if she thought forcing myself to visit the OB floor and hold someone else's baby would magically make me all better.
Other family members said hurtful things, ignored us, never mentioned our children, looked uncomfortable if I did. And, still sometimes look uncomfortable, even now that we have a public ministry.
And, for years...I put it all away. Stuffing it far down. Hiding my hurt. Keeping the memories and longing to myself. Failing to mention my precious babies. I put it away because it was expected....and because I didn't want to draw attention or make others uncomfortable. It's shameful, really, but I also understand that it's hard to defend yourself in early grief. It's hard to know what you need. It's hard to take the next breath.
Here are a few ideas for survival in those early years:
You may not be strong enough to defend yourself, so find someone who loves you that is able to deflect hurtful comments and situations.
Know what triggers hurt for you, and do what is necessary to protect yourself. We cannot keep ourselves from every hurtful situation, but when we can it's more than o.k. to do so. If the baby shower is going to be too hard to attend, graciously decline.
Take time as a couple...allow laughter when you can.
Find someone who gets it. This blogging community has been so helpful...even years later...for me and for many others. It helps to know we aren't walking alone. And it helps to know in the early days of grief, that you will not feel this way forever. You will feel joy again.
Have you ever felt you had to hide your grief and put away all your memories? What are some of the things you found helpful in dealing with others who didn't get it?