Thursday, September 15, 2011


I went to a local support group for baby loss last night.

I'd been a couple of times before, and found it helpful to hear from people who were months (or years) out from their loss.  But going was hard.  It was emotionally exhausting, and I dreaded it, even though was generally a positive experience.  The woman who runs the group is lovely and kind, but I hadn't connected personally with anyone there (here's a fact about baby loss:  it happens to obnoxious and self-centered people, too). I'd found so much support online, through Glow, through the blog, that it just didn't feel necessary.  Plus there was the fact that I didn't WANT to be part of this fucking group.  I wanted my baby to be ALIVE.  I think that was my real hang up.  I hated the fact that I belonged at this meeting.

But Angie convinced me to go last night by bribing me with the chance to meet her for dinner ahead of time.  So I met her for the first time, we ate sandwiches and baked potatoes, and then went together to the meeting.

This was by far my best experience at the support group.  It was a big group last night, and yes, it's hard to hear the stories.  It scares me to hear about all the Other Ways there are to lose a baby (besides the Reasons Unknown that took Eliza).  It made me cry to see the tears of people who are just weeks out from their loss because I remember so vividly what it felt like to be there.  I cried when I talked about Eliza and my voice got all high pitched and shaky and squeaky.

But in the end, I was glad I went for three main reasons.  First of all, because this time I actually felt like I "clicked" with some of the people who were there.  Like even if we hadn't lost our babies, I'd still want to go to happy hour with these girls (and the husbands I met).  A few of us stuck around after the meeting formally adjourned (well, it's not formal at all, but you get what I mean) and there was (weirdly) a lot of laughing.  A lot of it was dark humor--like when we talked about the beautiful sunset prints that Carly does with a child's name in the sand, and a dad suggested that for baby boys, someone could start a service of peeing their names in the snow.  Maybe you had to be there, but we found this hysterical.  And we commiserated with some of those horror stories about how people have responded to (or ignored) our loss.  It's the same thing we can do through blogs and online threads, but to talk about it with people who get it, with people who have been there.  It helped.  It made me feel connected.  Best of all, these people (like so many of the people I've met online) are people I would want to know anyway, even if we didn't share this awful tragedy.  Had I met these people under other circumstances, I still would have thought they were hilarious and witty and kind.

Since I was there without David (he went with me the first two times), I raised a question that's been on my mind.  In those early days/weeks/months, David did so much to take care of me.  I wondered if he ever felt frustrated that, on top of his grief and loss, he had to go back to work AND make dinner AND go to the store AND keep the house picked up AND take care of the dogs AND answer the phone (I just quit answering our phone entirely).  And even after I was doing a little better and was back at work, by the time we both got home in the evening, I'd fall apart into a soggy, sobbing mess because I was exhausted from the effort of holding myself together all day long.  I know that hard to be hard for him (in fact, we've talked about it ourselves), but I wanted to know if other people found themselves in similar positions.

The dads who were there talked about how it felt good to be able to do something.  One guy explained that this huge terrible thing had happened and he couldn't fix it, but at least he could could take care of his wife, make sure that things got done, make phone calls, even go to work.  He said taking care of those logistics was therapeutic for his grief, that he kind of worked through it that way.  Another dad talked about how he cried in the hospital when they lost their son, but said that he hadn't had another meltdown for five months until just recently.  He'd been so busy managing all these other things that he hadn't had time.  He said that it was a relief to break down.  I know that David's grief seemed to kind of resurface just at the time when mine was getting a little easier to bear, so this made sense to me.  It helped me to hear that most couples go through similar phases of grief and find their way much like we did.  I wonder who all these couples are who break up after losing a child (or if infant loss is different somehow?) because all the couples I know have found that this tragedy has brought them closer.

The other reason I was glad to be there was because I realized that after 9 months, my grief is just as strong, but it's less demanding.  Kind of like drinking really strong coffee.  The taste doesn't change, but you just get used to it.  It's ever-present, but it doesn't weigh me down the same way it did.  The kind of weird thing is that it still hurts so much that sometimes I forget how much harder it was, back in January when I was first going back to work, for example.  So it felt good that I could speak to that issue when someone else brought it up, and I could tell her that there was some relief in going back to work, in having a distraction, in having ONE area of my life in which I felt mostly competent.  I could also advise her to go ahead and send an e-mail telling people what to do or how to respond when they see you.  Because they won't know, and they won't want to do the wrong thing, but they'll probably do just that, if you don't give them direction.

One girl was unable to tell her story to the group, and I could see how much she was hurting.  I remember what that felt like--when grief was so paralyzing I could barely function.  And now I'm at a point where I could say to the group that yes, there was a time when I didn't think I would EVER want to get off my couch and do anything again.  Honestly, I dropped out of life.  Some of my friends understood.  Some of them had a harder time with it.  But I did what I had to do to survive.

And now I've come back, at least a little bit.  I'm still out of FB, I still opt out of a lot of large social events, David and I still make a lot of "game time" decisions about getting together with people, and we are skipping the holidays entirely.  BUT I enjoy seeing my friends (even if they have to initiate that most of the time), and lately I feel energized instead of wiped out after I meet up with friends for dinner or coffee.  I went from watching endless reruns of The New Adventures of Old Christine to finding the energy to go shopping, repaint my living room, go back to yoga class.  In so many ways, and without diminishing the grief I feel, I think I'm finding my way back to my old self.  8 months ago, I would have truly believed that was impossible. So I like to think that maybe I said something that would have helped someone, because I can remember what I was afraid of, and what I needed to hear from others in those early days.

And the fourth reason I liked it is because someone there told me I look like Kristen Wiig which is like the BEST COMPLIMENT EVER, since the time last summer when a sixth grader told me I looked like Katy Perry: BEST COMPLIMENT EVER #2.

Now, if you would care to comment, I welcome all comments related to support groups experiences (good, bad, or just plain weird), and I would also like to know what celebrity people tell you that you resemble.  What's your best famous person look alike compliment ever?


  1. HI. Ive been following your blog for a bit, and have never commented. I cried when I read your post today. I lost my son Jack last February. I have not been to any support groups (beyond individual therapy) because frankly, I didnt want to hear anyone elses sad story. I was trapped in my own head. For the first time in my life I didnt want to empathize with others. MY story was THE saddest story EVER.(in my own head). Reading your post made me realize I too, am in a different place than I was last year and maybe its time for me to reach out to others also. I loved your analogy on the strong coffee. It really is like that...grief never goes away, but it does change over time. Thank you for having the strength to post here. Oh, and SOME have said I look like Jennifer Jason Leigh. :)My Goddaughter told me last month I looked JUST like Carried Underwood (Bless her little heart!!!) But sadly, I own a mirror, and know that isnt the truth! HA! LYnn

  2. This post brought tears to my eyes throughout the whole thing. Your descriptions brought be right back to where I was in January when I lost Love, and it hurts me to realize that others are newer in their grief and are feeling that way now. I have not been to a support group, as I don't think there are any up in this area. I would have to drive to Vancouver for that I think. So, I take comfort in the blogging community and it really has helped. I'm so glad that you went, and that you were able to connect with some great (grieving) parents. That is hilarious that you point out that baby loss happens to annoying self-centered people too! I laughed out loud at that one.
    And even though I love the blog community, one of the side effects of it is that I too have grown so affraid of the "Other Ways" there are to lose a baby. I know that the two ways I have lost two pregnancies won't happen again, but there are like 1000000 other things that could go wrong. For a while I was almost paralysed with fear about the whole thing. But, I am loosening up a little bit now, with time.
    As for who I look like, my friend Jen's mom used to always say I looked like Sela Ward (but younger!), and my friend Corey's mom just always thought I looked like "a movie star", just in general. I liked that compliment the best!!
    And, having

  3. Even though its so hard and sad to see new people and losses, they are a reminder of how far you've come. And your voice was totally not squeaky. And I'm sure you did help them, you help so many people just through your blog, but there, too. And I have always found it helps me to help others that are newer to this sucky group, too.

    Also I have to agree with the 6th grader! I felt like you looked like someone familiar (and not just from here), and now that you mention the Katy Perry thing, yep! I will have to google Kristin Wiggs, not sure which one she is.

    Anyway, I am glad you are glad you went. And meeting you finally was fantastic!

  4. One of the group home kids told me I looked like the white witch from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when I didn't have make up on. I don't think it was a compliment. *sigh*

  5. I have too much to say about my support group experiences, so I won't comment on that but will blog about it someday I'm sure. However, I will say I am in 100% agreement on the work front and will say I actually LOVE going to work because it is the ONLY place where I feel I am competent. My students frequently tell me I look like KATY PERRY too! I had black hair for a while (dyed it darker than I wanted to on accident)...And when I went lighter, I thought, "They will finally stop calling me Katy." But no. They haven't stopped. They still do it. All the time. It's a compliment, I suppose, but I find her to be mostly annoying. And whenever I hear her name, I think of girls who pretend to be bi just to impress their boyfriends or get attention in bars, and it pretty much makes me want to punch her in the face.

  6. I got a good chuckle out of the peeing in the snow comment.

    I haven't been to a group - for some of the reasons you mentioned - I feel I somewhat do that online and initially it was that I just didn't want to!

    I've been told Natalie Portman and Dominique Mociano whose last name I probably butchered, but she was a little gymnast in the Keri Strugg era in the mid 90's

  7. Caroline DOES look like Natalie Portman (but not annoying, like NP is with her LIVING BABY BOY).

    You do look like Kristen Wiig- and I heart her (and you too).

    I'm sticking with Reese for me. Though I've also been told 7 of 9 from Star Trek something or other.

    I lol'd at the pee in the snow, that's an excellent point!

    I couldn't do the in-person thing, not yet. Not brave enough. Good for you, though!! :)

  8. I've only been to one support group meeting and it was at 7 weeks out (when my ass was super glued to the couch) and it wasn't really for me. I was able to tell my story, but only just. I was that new, very broken person. I think it would be different to go back now, but I'm just not sure I can. I probably *should* though. Oh who knows. I still wish there was a babyloss rule book, as there is no way of knowing what the *right* thing to do is.
    Interesting stuff you said about your husband. I think mine was the same. He was interviewed for an article about this topic on a popular Australian blog. You can read about it here:
    Also, I could relate to what you were saying about opting out of events, making game time decisions and boycotting holidays. We did exactly the same thing. It does get easier though and I sometimes surprise myself how much I have slipped back in to my old way of life. For so long, the simplest things were so hard. But I am of course, forever changed. And you will be too.
    Well my husband's nanna did think I looked like Meg Ryan for a while there. I don't think so. It was just a haircut I was sporting there for a while!

  9. Funny we went to support group on the same night and then both blogged about it the next day. :)

    I find so much of the same beauty in what you wrote. The dark humor is definitely a part of our group. It's like we can all laugh without wondering if people will think we're "doing better" or "moving on." There isn't any guilt about laughing, because we have all been through it. It's like we all collectively sigh in relief, and then laugh our broken asses off.

    And, yes, what you said about being able to see your grief evolve over the months. I like how you put it - "it's less demanding." I find this so true after 6 months. Every time we go, I have a different story to tell...the same story of course, but in a different way. And though I cry every time, there is something about my grief that has evolved. And then seeing new people, and the desperate pain they are in, causes me to remember how far I've come.

    And I know what you mean about hearing the stories at support group. It's like, god damn, how many more ways can babies die?

    Anyway, lots of peace to you today. I'm not sure I've ever been told I look like anyone famous, so I guess I'll have to pass on this one. Based on my wife's love for certain actors, I wish I looked like Ryan Gosling or James Franco. :)


  10. I have been going to my grief group since about a month after Liam passed away. We meet about every 2 weeks and haven't missed one yet. I really like my group, losses range from pregnancy loss through older child loss, and everyone is really understanding. I am not close to anyone there. We chat at group, but I haven't asked to chat or meet up with anyone outside of the group setting. When I first started there was only one other mom there who lost her baby 12 hours after birth, and I felt like I couldn't relate much to everyone else. Now there have been a few others that have had pregnancy losses since Liam and it is nice to have more people to talk to about our losses. It sucks though knowing another baby has died when someone new joins and it brings me back to when I first came and the grief was so raw. I can share with them some of the things I went through, like what you said about going back to work and such. I cry everytime I hear a new story though. So fricken sad.
    I have had one weird experience in group though, maybe multiples you could say. A girl joined our group a couple months ago who lost her 3 year old. I felt so bad for her at first but then it seemed like she was trying to one up all of our stories. One time I was talking about infertility issues then wouldn't you know it she had a very simliar story. The screwed up part is how she had said at an earlier meeting that she got pregnant accidentally when her and her boyfriend weren't even dating for very long. Huh, but you say you were trying for a year with him to get pregnant, right! Liar! Kind of annoying but if that's what she has to do to make herself feel better. Why would you lie about that stuff though, her stories just never add up.
    Anyway glad your meeting went well.

    Someone once told me they thought I looked like Julia Stiles, I don't see it.

  11. Glad you took the plunge! We started attending a support group about a month after Katie's stillbirth. We attended regularly as clients for a year, & then started facilitating ourselves. We did it for 10 years (!) before deciding we'd had enough.

    I would say that 97% of the people we met were wonderful. We made some great friends through the group that we're still in touch with. There were a few cases, though, where I did feel like I was in over my head (very complex situations, people who were semi-suicidal, etc.), & a very small number who made me grind my teeth. For whatever reason, it seemed like there were a few more of those toward the end -- or maybe we were just losing our patience with them -- & that was one reason we decided it was time to step down.

    For the most part, though, it was a wonderful experience, & I would highly recommend it for all the reasons you've given. I had online support too (although blogs weren't around then), & that was my daily lifeline, but I loved being able to meet & talk with "real life" people in a similar situation too. Oh yes, & we often found ourselves laughing over stuff that i'm sure non-bereaved parents would have found totally inappropriate, really black humour stuff. I guess you have to be in our shoes.

    Someone once told me they thought I looked like Ashley Judd. I told them they need new glasses, lol. But I was hugely flattered. Maybe if Ashley gained 50 or 60 pounds. :p

  12. I read this post the other day and left it in my reader. I just didn't have what I needed to post-- so many others wrote such thoughtful comments and I knew it needed my devoted attention and not just the 2 minutes I had left while scarfing down some carrot sticks at lunch.

    I'm so glad you found people that are great at the support group. Sometimes I wonder if I'm really compatible with people or just because I need them in the moment of loss. There is no doubt it creates a bond no one else on earth can understand but in our circumstance of particular loss. I think it's particularly lovely that you addressed the men in the room. I've discussed the same topic with Elliot as I apologized profusely in the beginning days of grief for not even being able to change my socks. It really is a numbing time. Elliot voiced his thankfulness that he could provide help in one way or another since I had dealt with so much (physically-- as neither of us were spared emotionally). And I agree that I know very few of this statistic people speak of in relation to baby-loss and divorce. I can only name 2 people in the entire circle of BLMs on the web that I am aware of that have been down that road. That's hardly the alarming statistic doctors warn about. If anything, this has absolutely brought E & myself together. I NEED him.

    Also, I LOVE Kristen Wiig and find Katy Perry to be quite beautiful. Quite the compliments! :)

    No support group experiences here and people used to tell me I looked like someone on CSI and also Sarah Michelle Gellar. I never saw the resemblances.

  13. I am so glad to read that you had a positive experience at the group (that no parent EVER wants to be a part of) and that you are finding your way back to your self again. I won't claim to know your pain. I lost twins when I was 9 weeks pregnant, but I understand that pregnancy loss is very different from infant loss. What I did that was the same was the t.v. show thing. I remember that the day after my d&e I watched the entire series of Nurse Jackie. It was the perfect distraction. Something that could take my mind off of the pain, and didn't require any effort on my part was exactly what I needed. I also avoided the phone but it was nice to know that people were calling. I tend to grieve on my own. I curl up in a blanket and prefer to be left alone. But the card and the calls and all of those things brought comfort, on my own terms.

    Thanks for sharing. Lots of love to you.