When we have losses, whether it's a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal, infant, child, etc, it's said in support groups that loss is loss. I'm going to take an unpopular stance and say that no, loss isn't loss. I'm sure you're starting to grasp your pearls at reading that. Let me explain.
I will preface this by saying that I have miscarried, twice, in addition to having my daughter pass away. When I had my second miscarriage, I held that little tiny person in my hand and actually had a specimen cup in which to place the tissue in in order to bring it in to the doctor. The experience was terrible. I grieved for a long while over that loss. First one, it didn't really phase me (and that's ok). That baby, I had a whopping eleven weeks with it. I didn't know if it was a boy or girl, so I chose a unisex name. I was so adamant that I refused a D&C! I had to labor and birth my baby myself at home. So, on to my next points now that you know part of my back story.
When I lost Mary Beth, women told me they understood because they had miscarried. I drew on my experience and let me tell you, the experiences didn't compare. I carried my daughter for 36 1/2 weeks, labored, and gave birth to a living child who (supposedly) was healthy. My miscarriage was nothing like what I went through with her, not by a long shot. In groups, women with miscarriages were considered as being in the same camp as those of us who lost our (actual) babies. Let me tell you, you have not gone through what I have. I can commiserate with you, but you are not like me when it comes to losing my daughter.
Got your attention now, don't I? As much as I identify as a grieving mother, my loss with Mary doesn't compare to the people I've seen lose their children. It doesn't. My mother had a special needs child that passed away at 6.5 years old. She had so much time with my sister and add in the medical needs, I can only relate to my mom as fellow loss moms (which is a blessing and curse). Back in August, I wrapped my arms around the mother of one of my child's friends and told her she wasn't alone. Her son was 14 and died at his own hands. She had 14 YEARS and has to live with the decision her child made. Her grief and life aren't even fathomable to me. Last night, I held a mom who was watching her son die from cancer in hospice. He lost his battle today at 21 years of age. I knew her son as a lively, artistic, and eccentric young man. Her grief and what she has been going through, my loss is NOTHING compared to that.
This realization hit me last night. Loss groups are out there telling us there is no hierarchy in grief or loss, but there really is. Yes, some of us didn't know a gender or a personality or memories and that in itself does hurt. But, some people have their child for years only to have them ripped away. They have nothing but memories from years together. I have no problem telling my friends that they have it worse than I do, I can't even wrap my mind around what some of them have endured. I've buried my child and cannot imagine what it would be like to lose an older child. I hope I never have to find out.
I'm going to be honest and say that I feel like I got off easy. My daughter passed away a few hours after she was born. I didn't have the time with her to learn anything or create memories and that will always haunt me. I was shorted with missing out on memories these other women have to draw on. If I listed the moms I've known and/or encountered, who lost children after 2, 5, 6, 8, 14, and 21 years, perhaps you could see your loss from another perspective too. Right now, I admit, what these other moms have went through is so much worse than what I have.
We need to openly admit that there really is a hierarchy on grief within this loss community. Some, they really do have it worse than we do. As much as we all want to see ourselves as being on someone else's level, we're not and never will be. We have some similarities, but, they're still not enough to say we're the same or going through the same thing. Yes, futures are cut short so there are what-ifs, missed memories, and we all have to learn how to get through various milestones, but that really is as far as it goes. Perhaps instead of using the term hierarchy, I should say that our losses are vastly different though similar, though I still believe burying an hours old baby is almost preferable to watching your 21 year old child die from cancer.
Let me end with reiterating the fact that, no matter what happened, we all go to bed with various regrets and heartaches. On holidays, we're all going to see/feel that empty space where our child should be. On birthdays, we're going to feel that heartbreak. On death anniversaries, we're going to remember that day wondering if we could have done something different to change the outcome. We're still hurting and wanting our child here with us.
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