The 13th Gift: Surviving Loss

This post was inspired by The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith, memoir about how  random acts of kindness transformed her family’s bereavement and grief during the holidays. Join From Left to Write on October 28th as we discuss The 13th Gift. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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I knew when I signed up to review this book that it might be a bit hard for me to read, I think the one thing that allowed me to actually sign up was the fact that it is based on a true story, I knew there wouldn’t be some unrealistic story line or fairytale ending. That being said, this is hands down one of the best books I have read via my relationship with From Left to Write. If you are feeling a little down with the holiday season approaching, please read this!

In case you are new to the blog, From Left to Write bloggers don’t write traditional reviews, we take a piece of the book we are inspired by and write a post from that theme.

Grief is something that I unfortunately have a decent amount of experience with. My maternal grandfather passed away shortly after the new year when I was very young, and a few months after that, right around Easter, my maternal grandmother also passed. They lived in California and I was in Vermont so while I have some really great memories, I didn’t have a close relationship due to distance.

This past holiday season was incredibly hard for me, it’s no secret that I had a miscarriage last September, but while everyone was getting excited for everything holiday related, I was finding it hard to get off the couch and put up any decorations. I wandered aimlessly through the stores. I bought B any toy he pointed out that he wanted (always a bad idea). My MIL ended up coming and helping with the tree and the decorating, and I didn’t want B to ever have any memories where Christmas didn’t have this magical spirit about it.

IMG_3783I decided I needed to pull myself out of it, I needed to surround myself with loved ones and to make these wonderful memories with my family. While B wouldn’t be getting a sibling, he would be getting involved in these traditions that he could one day help me show to a sibling.

The first was participating in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap (only a few days left to sign up this year). B helped me with the baking, and both he and Nick helped with the taste-testing.

The second was creating trays of cookies for our neighbors. This is something that my neighborhood used to do every holiday season and my sister and I loved it. I knew when I was an adult I wanted to continue this tradition, so I did. Baking makes me happy, delivering delicious treats was my way of passing along that feeling!

The last thing I did was host a cookie swap at my house for my girlfriends (and their kids if they have them). This is one of my favorite holiday traditions. I started when B was 5 months old, and I hope to continue for many many years to come.

Although it seems like cookies helped me with my grief, and I will fully admit that I ate entirely to many last holiday season, there was also plenty of time spend with our families and closest friends. Closing myself into my house was not something I should’ve been doing, and I am grateful for the people who made sure I didn’t.

These things didn’t change the fact that I was sad and grieving, but it helped remind me of the important things and people in my life, that they were still here, and while the loss was incredibly hard and sad, there will always be people there for you to pick you up when you are down. Let them pick you up.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

 

What It’s Like

I feel like I HAVE to preface this with I know that some people struggle much more than we have with getting pregnant, and I am not saying any of this to make it seem like I have it worse. BUT I need an outlet for my feelings and honestly, NO ONE talks about this, hopefully this outlet will help someone.

It has been almost 4 months since the miscarriage. It feels like it was yesterday, and it feels like years ago. What no one tells you that trying to get pregnant post-miscarriage is emotionally one of the hardest things you will go through. I wish I could end this post right here and say ta-da I am pregnant, but I can’t.

It’s a hard thing to explain, but I am going to try my best. Every month that you try is exhausting. You track cycles and temperatures, days that you have tried, days that you haven’t. You pee on a stick every evening to track your body’s ovulation cycles. Then you enter the 2 week wait. The wait between when you ovulate and when you can test to see if your pregnant. You analyze every cramp and twinge. You try to not build up hope that you are pregnant, but it happens, and then you get your period. Not only do you have your normal hormone craziness, add in the disappointment of feeling like a failure because once again, you couldn’t get pregnant, and every month I get my period I feel like I cry myself to sleep, over the loss of our child and over the feelings of failure . Then you start the whole cycle over again.

On top of all of this I feel like I am expected to be my “before miscarriage” self. I’ve found that most people give you an allotted amount of time, and for every person this is different, to grieve until they expect you to be back at 100%. Now I don’t expect people to cater to me or ask about my feelings, but there are definitely things I never want to hear again, pregnant or not.

1. You must not be pregnant, you are eating or drinking xyz. TRUST ME, I would gladly give up sushi, wine, runny eggs, etc… to be pregnant.
2. Well at least you can go out for New Year’s Eve. Ditto
3. It will happen when it is supposed to/ Everything happens for a reason. Is this really supposed to make me feel better? Because it makes me feel like I am setting myself up for failure
4. You don’t know other people’s struggles, don’t get angry if they are pregnant. You’re right, sometimes I don’t, but a lot of the time, when I say these things, I do. The person who wasn’t even trying, the person who got drunk and got pregnant. I am allowed to be upset.
5. Don’t stress. Please show me someone who isn’t at all stressed around the holidays, and telling me not to stress, easier said than done.

Edit: I am adding this video because a friend shared it with me on FB after reading my post, and I think it truly explains empathy vs. sympathy in a way everyone can understand.

This sums up what I am trying to say above, I know that people aren’t, for the most part, saying these things to hurt me, but the truth is, THEY HURT. Please watch this video.

 

I know the last four months I haven’t been happy & fun Kelly, I know that a lot of people don’t want to be around me for that very reason, but I already feel very alienated when I am home with B all day, and it’s a catch-22 this time of year because the parties and events are all happy and celebratory and I feel like I have nothing to celebrate.

I have let my eating slide, extra desert, sure. I have let my gym sessions slide. It’s dark out, maybe I’m pregnant right now I should take it easy. These are all thoughts I’ve had. I don’t feel as comfortable in the gym anymore, I feel like an outsider or beginner, I feel like I don’t belong. None of this is going to make me feel better in the end, and I know that, I just can’t pull myself out of it.

My friends, where do I even start, I have a few friends that have stuck by me through all this emotion, and for you I am eternally grateful. I am sad that the friends I thought would be there have disappeared, and not for lack of trying on my part.

I am trying to be the best mom for B. Lots of time out of the house, fun and inexpensive new things to do. Mom & Son dates, playdates, but I am sad for him too. He asks for a baby brother and sister. He does so well with other kids that I know he would be an amazing older brother. I grieve for the sibling he didn’t get.

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for now they are best friends

I am forever grateful for B and Nick, they are absolutely my rocks in this situation, I would be lost without them.