By Katie and Ryan
Early pregnancy loss can be an especially isolating experience. Society tells us not to share that we’re pregnant until the end of the first trimester, as if it is some magical threshold after which nothing bad can happen. (For the record, Empty Arms is full of grieving parents who can tell you that’s not the case.) But for those of us who have had something bad happen during the first trimester, it becomes that much harder to share the news of our loss, often leaving us to mourn in silence.
When we said goodbye to “our little Chocolate Chip” nine weeks into our pregnancy, two days before Christmas 2014, we were devastated. We weren’t ready to leave the house, let alone celebrate anything, but we also weren’t ready for all the questions that would invariably come our way if we just cancelled. We didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s holidays either, so we told only our siblings (to help us deflect attention when conversations turned in our direction) and slogged through all the scheduled celebrations. Neither of us remembers much of those celebrations. Still in shock and unable to fully grasp the reality of our loss, it felt like we were sleepwalking.
A month later, we attended our first local (Connecticut) support group meeting for people who had lost a child. This group was full of compassionate, supportive people who had also suffered loss, but at times it was painful to listen to others talk about how something like a picture of their child, a memory of their son, or one of their daughter’s possessions would trigger them. It hurt because we didn’t have any of these things. We didn’t have any objects to hold onto, no pictures of our child.
After hearing all of their gut-wrenching stories, we felt overwhelmed. Even as we witnessed their grief, we felt envious of the time they’d had with their children. We felt inadequate to explain the depth of our own loss. We felt resentful that we felt we had to explain that our loss was just as real.
After a couple meetings we decided to look for a support group with a more specific focus. Even though we live an hour’s drive from Northampton, we made the trip to our first Empty Arms meeting in March. The Miscarriage Support Group was exactly what we needed. These were people who fully understood that our loss can seem invisible to the outside world. Our loss was full of hypothetical moments — watching her grow, celebrating birthdays, helping her learn her ABCs, taking her for rides in a running stroller, making Halloween costumes, driving lessons, prom, college graduation, her wedding day — a whole life with our child. We were mourning the loss of our very real child. We were mourning the future we pictured with her.
For the first time since our loss, we left that evening with our hearts feeling a little lighter. We felt heard. We had found people who truly understood our loss and could help us on our grief journey. We no longer felt alone. We’ve been back every month since.
The Empty Arms community understands that grief is an ever-changing journey that doesn’t always look like sadness. There are plenty of tears, and anger, and depression, but there are also times of lightness, with smiles and laughter. There is time to hold our children in our hearts.
They hear and understand where we are in our grief journey because they’re right there with us now, or they’ve been there at some point during their own experiences. They don’t judge us. They don’t try to fix us, or minimize our pain. They don’t say things like “You can just try again,” “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’s probably for the best.” And we can be there for other bereaved parents as they share their experiences.
Although we don’t live in the area, we very much feel a part of this community and are glad to have found them.