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To Each Her Own

By Sarah Bartels

I had a conversation the other day with a co-worker who recently lost her Mom. She told me she was doing okay, and trying to get back into ‘real life’ just a few days after. I know that feeling, not from the loss of a parent, but after the loss of my babies. I just let her talk, as sometimes for me, that was the most therapeutic. Just letting it all out. We were talking about loss and how to deal with it, and she seemed frustrated about something.

As we talked (really, as she talked and I was listening), she started telling me about the day her mom died and how she wanted to handle it in her own way and not allow anyone else to dictate what she was supposed to do. That statement really struck me.

How was she supposed to handle it? Is there a right way? Absolutely not. There is not a right way or a wrong way.

Her family, most likely not intentionally, was pushing her to handle things the same way they were. That was not what she wanted. She wanted to handle things the way she wanted to. Do what worked for her. And she made sure that what she wanted was what happened.

Everyone needs to do things in their own way. And everyone should be allowed to do things in their own way. Especially when the thing is dealing with death – whether it be the death of a parent, spouse, friend, child or even a child you have not met.

Here are some things I have learned:

There is no time limit to grieve and no defined set of rules on how to grieve. 
Some people grieve quickly. They are able to say their goodbyes and move on. They are not heartless or uncaring. It is just how they are. Just how they work. My husband is like this. With all of our losses, he moved on quickly. Yes, he is sad. Yes, he hurts. Yes, he wishes they had not happened. Yes, they have had impact on him. But, he gets back to ‘real life’ quickly. It is hard for me to understand, but I know that is how he is, how he deals, and I respect that. I know what we have been through is something he will always feel and will always be part of him.

Others grieve for a long time. There should not be a time limit placed on grieving. A day. A week. A month. A year. A lifetime. Any amount of time necessary. I lost my babies. I will never get over that completely.

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But at the same time, it is important not to dwell on how terrible it is, how painful it is and how sad I am. While grieving is very important and everyone should be allowed to take their time, that person should also remember to get up every day, pull himself/herself together and try to work toward moving forward. Sure, there were (are) lots of days I wanted to stay in my PJs and be sad. However, I tried to at least get up, take a shower and find something productive to do that day….big or small, only as much as I could handle…..because I knew that was important.

Be mindful and aware of others and allow them to handle in their own way. 
Everyone has their own way. Grieving is very personal. And a grieving person needs support from those around him/her. Always. For me the support has always been what helps clear the fog. However, when the support becomes pushing to “stop crying” or “it is time to move on,” I do not respond well. There is a fine, almost invisible line, for those who are supporting a grieving person between support and pushing. It is an easy line to cross. If you do, try to be aware of it and don’t be offended if the person you were trying to help reacts poorly. Emotions are raw, always.

I also feel myself being very particular who I surrounded myself with. Or at least being aware of who I did and did not want to be around. Early on, after each of my losses, I remember saying this many times…..I was just not ready to see people. I only wanted to be with my husband, our son, my mom (sometimes), my sister (sometimes), a close friend (sometimes). The general population was really not something I wanted to deal with. Even other members of my family were not really people I wanted to be around. It wasn’t personal, I love my family and my husband’s family. It was just too much for me to deal with too many people. And I didn’t worry about it. I knew they understood.

Listen. 
For me, telling my story is important. It helps me handle the emotion. And I have discovered it helps people who have been through this and felt alone. I don’t walk around yelling my story or pushing it in the face of those who don’t want to know or don’t need to know. But, if you have asked me and I am telling you, please listen to me. What I am telling you is the most difficult thing I have gone through. And I am telling you because I need the support you offered. Don’t talk too much – even though you are just trying to help. As I was talking to my co-worker, I discovered I had lots of advice, things I could tell her about what worked for me. But, I kept most of it to myself because I could tell, my just standing there and listening to her was just what she needed and when she needed or wanted advice, she asked.

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About Sarah Bartels

I am a wife to the most amazing husband who I love so very much.

I am Mommy to the world’s sweetest little boy who I could not imagine life without.
I am a daughter to fantastic parents who have always been there for me and my siblings, no matter what.
I have four cool siblings. Three of us see each other regularly (helps that we all live in the same city). The other two live further away, but we will always have text messaging to keep us close. 🙂
I work for a great company and love my job.
I have felt the excitement of seeing a positive pregnancy test after just a couple of months of “trying”.
I fell head over heels in love the minute my little boy was placed into my arms for the first time.
I have felt the utter disappointment of seeing month after month of negative pregnancy tests.
I have felt the jitters that come with going to see my doctor and having to talk about the fact that after so many months I am still not pregnant.
I have researched and read everything I could find on infertility.
I have experienced that moment, more than once, when the sonographer looked at me and my husband and with no exchange of words our whole world turned upside down.
I have felt the physical, mental and emotional pain of miscarriage. Four times.
I have made more than one late night panicked call to my doctor and raced to the hospital so nervous that I could barely breathe.
I have been met at the ER door by a team of people, including my doctor, early on a Sunday morning – all with a look of fear on their face. Then rushed into the OR while my family paced for three hours.
And I am still standing.  Read more from Sarah’s blog, Our Unexpected Journey.

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