I’ve had some friends and family reach out to me this past week after the airing of Return to Zero. “I didn’t realize,” they said. “We didn’t know,” they explained. They told me that watching this movie gave them a better understanding of what we experienced. They went on to say how they admired our strength and courage to stay together, carry on and try again, and our willingness to be a voice. I was floored. Not only did they take the time to watch a painful movie, but they stopped to reflect on it, and reach out to Double A and me to share their thoughts.
It’s no secret that miscarriage, stillbirth and baby loss are hard, to say the least. Of course they’re devastating to the parents, but family and friends are affected in different ways too. We watched our parents’ devastation not only in the losses of their Grand-babies, but also in having to see their children go through so much pain and suffering (I’ll be sharing some posts from the Grandparents’ perspective soon). We saw some family and friends go above and beyond, and others who disappeared. And we have made some of the best friends we wish we never knew through support groups, while losing others along the way.
Our relationships have changed over the past six years. To this day, there are still some family members who have never acknowledged our losses, even when they resulted in the burying of our children. In some instances, I’ve confronted them with a “you need to know what happened, and what we went through” conversation. Other times, I’ve looked the other way and buried the hurt feelings.
The thing is, Double A and I realize that this is hard on others because people don’t know what to say or do. In talking with a friend of mine about the challenges of friendships after loss, I had mentioned something to the effect of, “If they don’t understand…” and she jumped in to say, “Erin, none of us understand. We didn’t live through it.” That’s when it hit me: Understanding often comes from experience, and if you haven’t lived this horror, you probably don’t know what it is like. I realized then, that what it really comes down to is respect. As baby loss parents, we can’t expect people to understand what we have gone, or are going through. But what we can expect though, is respect.
Respect of our needs. Respect of our thoughts. And respect for our grieving in a way that works for each of us. I’ve talked before about being selfish in going through the grief process. I’m a firm believer in doing what you need to do to get through (as long as you’re not doing harm to yourself or others, of course). This selfishness has nothing to do with others. It isn’t personal, and it isn’t something being done to spite them. We do what we need to do to survive in the moment. Sometimes understanding means respecting something you don’t actually understand because it’s for someone you love. Over time, I have found that I need to surround myself with those who understand my need for that respect. It’s been painful. It’s been eye-opening. And it’s been a lesson in letting go.
How have your relationships changed after loss? What advice would you give to family and friends on ways to support someone who has experienced loss?