Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All pregnancy loss is valid but can't be compared

The other day a friend shared a link and I ended up reading various posts on Birth Faith. I began reading her post Very Early Miscarriage. She related some experiences where she felt she was miscarrying even though she had never taken a positive pregnancy test. She communicated her frustration for the lack of sensitivity, emotional support, or acknowledgment for these losses.

I feel like anyone on the spectrum of pregnancy loss, even those that experience loss in the form on not being able to conceive, should be validated. I feel like others sometimes make comments that imply that they feel like their sorrows are not justified compared to mine because they lost their baby so early while I lost mine at full term. This "my loss is nothing compared to yours" attitude, in my opinion, isn't right.

Loss is loss. No matter if it occurs at 4 weeks or 40 weeks, it is a loss and its accompanying grief is real. I agree with the author of Gone to Soon who says, "To judge a the gravity of the loss by weeks of gestation is unfair."

I feel like so many of the emotions that may be experienced by mothers (or fathers) of loss can be similar -- sadness, questioning, heartbreak for the unrealized dreams of a future hoped for and even planned on (among many others). The feelings you experience with loss can't and shouldn't be denied and don't need to be minimized if you were earlier in your pregnancy. Nor can others who have carried their babies longer feel like their loss is greater (which I did initially) it is just different. It's not right to try to compare your grief or your loss. It is painful to each of us and the degree of pain and grief felt is determined by the individual not the weeks of gestation. 

Though the pain and feelings experienced may be similar or even the same or the circumstances regarding the loss might be similar, it is not right to even assume that you know what it's like for someone else. Everyone's experience is different and I don't think they can be compared. 

At the end of the blog post by this woman who experienced very early miscarriages,  I read the words "I have known the loss you feel." When I read those words I wanted to tell her:

"No you don't! You don't know the loss I feel. You don't know what it's like to give birth to your baby that has already died. You don't know what it's like to spend your initial post-partum recovery planning a funeral, selecting a burial site, and picking out your child's clothes for burial. You don't know what it's like to hold your baby in your arms with no life in him. You don't know what it's like to watch someone close a casket lid for you to never see your child again. You don't know what it's like to have to call your mother on the phone to tell her you're about to go deliver your baby that has died. You don't know what it's like to try to determine what you're going to say at a funeral or if you should even have a funeral. You don't know what it's like to visit the cemetery where you see your own name on a headstone because your baby is buried there. You don't know." 

As I continue to read over her words I don't think she really means, "I have known the loss you feel."  I think the point she is trying to make by saying those words is that thee feelings associated with loss are universal and can be experienced by anyone who goes through any type of loss. And I agree, full-heartedly, that the feelings of loss may be similar and are just as real at any stage in pregnancy. Yet each individuals' experiences are so different and cannot be compared. You cannot assume you know how anyone feels about their loss. So for her to just say, "I have known the loss you feel," is infuriating. Because she can't. She doesn't. Nor does anyone else. 

Only our all-knowing Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, could make that claim. They are the only ones that truly know how I feel. They are the only ones who understand my feelings that sometimes I can't even articulate or understand. Yes, having a community of others who have experienced loss is helpful, because sometimes we can understand and relate to each other's experiences, but only a relationship with a loving Father in Heaven can allow you to be truly and completely understood. He hears prayers that aren't spoken and understands feelings not shared. He knows every detail and emotion and is intimately concerned about each of us, His children. When we chose to turn to Him and pray to Him we can learn for ourselves of His love and perfect understanding that can only come from Him.

Update: I received a nice message from the author of Birth Faith. She apologized for her writing being infuriating to me and acknowledged that she doesn't know the loss that I have felt. I believe that I misconstrued her intended meaning of those words and am sorry for that; however, I can't deny the thought process that they caused me to have.


  1. So well put, Shelley. I agree with your sentiments. Until I had my miscarriage, I thought I could come close to understanding what the loss of a child was like. When it actually happened, I realized how untrue that was. I think another way of interpreting that person's words, "I have known the loss you feel" is "We all have had loss change us. That experience allows us a unique understanding of mortality, the Atonement, and the Eternal Plan of our Heavenly Father. In that sense, we share a bond unknown to others." I feel empathy for every woman with whom I connect who has experienced loss and I ache for her. I'm so grateful that you are turning your grief into a blessing in my life and others'. Love you.

  2. I have always felt this, on every level - we can never judge others or assume we know what they're going through or why they do the things they do, because there's no way for us to know whether we are correct or not. And most likely, we're not.

    This was a heartbreaking post, but thank you so much for it.

  3. Everyone grieves differently for their own, unique circumstances. There aren't a lot of people who have had to go through what you did with Luke. Your experience is unique in many ways. But I agree that it is wonderful that we have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who do know what we are going through on such a personal and individual level.

  4. As a woman who has never experienced a stillbirth but who has experienced 3 miscarriages, I really loved this post and I'm really glad you wrote it. I wish more people understood that our trials cannot be ranked or put down as "better" or "worse" or "harder" or "easier". They are just DIFFERENT. With pregnancy loss, we cannot make a determination on how sad we should be based on number of weeks. Losses at different times come with their own difficulties. Even losses at the same gestational age can vary widely on how they occurred. No matter what, you are losing your child. And more than that, you are losing their potential. That experience of getting to know who they are, of raising them, of nursing them and changing their diapers, of witnessing their first steps, of hearing them call you "Mama" for the first time. You are losing all of that too. And it hurts.

    I read this initially when you posted it, then I was thinking about it today and felt prompted to re-read it, and it really spoke to my soul today. Thank you, Shelley, you are amazing!!