I didn't discover this challenge until the day right before October 1st (the first day of PAIL awareness month) -- I took this as a sign + heart-tug to perhaps help with my healing + grieving process. I also knew this was God-sent as it has been so good for my mind, body, heart and soul these short, few days. Although the past few days and its' themes are "done" and have passed, it certainly does not mean that they've been easy and free-flowing. It has not been all joy behind my laptop and phone in finding the words to each blog or Insta post. It also has not been for attention. I took part in Carly Marie Dudley's Project Heal (#whathealsyou #projectheal + #captureyourgrief) because I knew that as hard as it would be to daily find words to each theme, I know I needed this to self help + find out where I am in my own grief, to look towards my journey with a new set of eyes and to seek/ find other resources and people who are walking down similar roads.
It's been hard + painful to live in the memories with each new theme as I tend to wander off in the "what-ifs" and "what-should-have-beens" but the writing, my writing though at times lengthy, disorganized and messy is also honest and oddly, unexplainably therapeutic.
I feel that today's theme is an area that I've always honestly been gifted in -- Empathy; being able to empathize with others, whether or not I have or personally know what it's like to endure or go through whatever journey or path others go through. Now more than ever, my heart is more open to the new and deeper way to love and feel for others. I found the few following quotes on Pinterest and thought I'd to share them with you -- whether or not you may be on the receiving side of things or are the ones finding difficulty in showing you care:
Empathy -- truly understanding and sharing the feelings of another -- is what allows for love, kindness, and generosity to flourish. And when that happens, everybody operates at their best.
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being's suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dignity. - Audrey Hepburn
Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another's world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding. - Bill Bullard
Power of Empathy: I'm in it with you. I'm not here to fix you. I'm not here to feel it for you. I'm here to feel with you and let you know you're not alone.
Don't know what to say to someone who has lost a baby? No one else does either, show up anyways. - Love & Loss Project
To me, Empathy simply means to be present. Present with me, with Paul and for us -- physically, silently, even through simple "checking up on you" texting, Haven's life and loss was a shock and life-changer for my immediate family, closest friends, husband, and I -- one that's left us all forever shaken up. Both Paul and I understand that this is why some and certain distances have been made, are awkward, silent reactions, facial expressions seen and less contact between some people and us have occurred. While some are unexpected, painful and weird, some also are healthy. We're understanding both slowly and daily, the tension and awkwardness created from the loss of a baby and how it may be interpreted by others from the outside. We know it isn't the best topic or subject to talk or gather about. From this, as much as we have so much love, prayer and support on our side and are so extremely blessed to have -- there is also a handful that have stepped back. We know why; and we also understand.
This stuff is heavy. Tough. Not spoken of. Tragic. Unimaginable. Heart-wrenching. Life-changing. Traumatic. Crippling -- just to name a few.
But as it is all the above and more, it also is very, very real. So real. Too real that it's scary. It hurts. It's hard. And it happens. And to millions more out there.
I've seen and still have yet to witness more of both the ugly and good sides to empathy. I've come to realize that sometimes in the hopes of trying to say certain, "reassuring" things, the wrong + hurtful come out instead. Some of the nasty things that have been said to me, still sting and tend to be placed on repeat in my mind. I am currently, patiently and prayerfully asking the Lord to help change this about me and to keep working inside my grieving + healing. Though still difficult, I am trying to understand and accept that this is "okay" as this topic is not a light one. These are a few things that have been said to me so far along with a few helpful tips on what to do + say and things not to do + say to grieving/ bereaved parents:
- don't tell me to go to the doctor to ask when the soonest time I can get pregnant again is
- don"t tell me that my next pregnancy/ baby(ies) will replace Haven
- don't tell me that another chance will help us get over her faster and get us to move on with our lives more quickly
- don't say we should get over "it" or "everything happens for a reason" or "you can have more children" or "it's easier to lose a baby than an older child, because you didn't get to know her" or "at least you know you can get pregnant"
- don't not talk about our child with us; please talk and ask away about her
- do listen to us and allow us to talk about her, freely
- do ask us even the hardest, awkwardest questions if you have them; though painful, we'll be glad to answer them
- do wish them a happy birthday monthly or yearly; you can do this by contacting us on that day and letting us know that you're thinking of us and our babe
- do acknowledge and never forget that we are still very much indeed parents, even without a physical child here with us
- do understand that our baby's life + loss has changed us forever, that we are not the same people because of it, and be okay with that
- do acknowledge Haven by her name
- do just show up any way and just be still if you don't know what to say or do
- do tell us and let us know if there was some place or something you saw/ read that reminded you of her
It seems only a few know this beautiful, delicate art of empathy very well. It appeared that being present the way we needed them to be, came easy and naturally. They didn't/ don't have to speak, cry, or do a certain something at any specific or given time. They just did and they just were. We didn't need to say or do or act in any particular ways but they did the "right" things anyway.
Held our hands (with or without silence).
Gave hugs, just cause.
Cried with us (whether there was a certain reason to or not).
Spoke to us about Haven and our situation or remained quiet while still by our sides.
Plainly just stayed with us (whether we needed them or asked them to or not), to make sure we were okay.
Texted or called us to check in or just cause.
Simply, empathy is just letting one know that they aren't alone (whether it is by action or done in silence). Just being present. Just being quiet. Just being still -- with and for us. This alone is more than enough and just what we need right now. You don't have to be coming from the same or a similar place - you are just there. Sometimes it's in the smallest things that the greatest empathy is shown.
I believe that there is one thing that is extremely so important for Paul and I. It is to please not be afraid or nervous to talk or ask questions about our Haven; even if they are heavy and awkward. If anything, our sweet girl is what we love to talk about -- even if that means doing so with tears, ugly crying and lots of pauses and breaths we'll be taking in between. Even though she is no longer physically here, she is always with us. We carry her in our hearts, she'll always be a part of the people we are, the parents we are and the life we have yet to keep living until we reunite with her. We want her life to be remembered, honored, celebrated and shared. Though short, it was beautiful, brilliant + brave and deserves just as much celebration as any other life. She did what most cannot do -- touch and change the lives of many. We don't want people to forget about her and not talk or think about her. She is our child. Our daughter. Our firstborn. A niece and a grandchild. A big sister to all the future siblings she will one day have. Our Haven.
My heart and hugs to anyone else on the receiving side of a painful, upsetting remark while grieving, to those struggling and unsure how to give/ show empathy to someone they know is grieving (remember, it's more than enough to just be present, quiet and still) and to the rest who are all naturally just good at it.
Love + hugs + prayer to one grieving angel mama to another,