Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Healing My Heart Through Connection - #1000Speak



Connection

"The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued;
when they can give and receive without judgement;
and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."

Brené Brown - "The Gifts of Imperfection"

Shameful Confession: When I was in my mid-20’s, a co-worker suffered a miscarriage. No one had known she was pregnant. In fact, she had just recently returned from maternity leave. When I heard the news, I incredulously remarked to another co-worker “Are you serious? She needs to take three days off over a miscarriage??? But she JUST had a baby! What is there to be so upset about?!”

I am utterly ashamed to admit that I acted so insensitively. I’m horrified at my lack of compassion. But I was young, stupid, and clueless. In my ignorant mind, losing a pregnancy or even a baby, was like losing a jacket. If you already had another jacket, then there was nothing really to be so upset about. And if you didn’t own another jacket, you could just get a new one…Until I lost my own baby through miscarriage and suddenly I understood.

It turns out a miscarriage wasn’t just a miscarriage. Maybe for some it is, but for me it was life-shattering. It wasn’t just the loss of a pregnancy. It was the loss of my son; the loss of my dreams for that baby; the loss of my hopes of mothering that tiny bundle; the loss of my plans for the future with that child. I lost a piece of me. The loss was the deepest pain I have ever experienced and I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my life.

As the weeks went by, my friends and loved ones grew tired of my depressive state. They didn’t know what to do with me. They didn’t know what to say to make me “all better” and “back to normal”. Some thought I was seeking drama; thriving on the attention; being difficult; overreacting; not getting over it quickly enough. I felt disconnected from most of the people in my life. They simply didn’t get me.

I knew there were others out there like me. I spent countless hours, night after night, on baby loss websites and message boards where I was able to express my grief with other bereaved mothers.  But the greatest blessing of all came when I discovered Healing Hearts, a local Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group.


I called the number and left what was probably an incoherent, nervous message on an answering machine. The next day, SS called me back. She was on a trip to Arizona but she had heard my message and didn’t want to wait until she got home to call me back. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. She spent 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes talking to me – a complete stranger – asking me questions about my loss and telling me a bit of her own story and about the group.

When the next meeting date arrived, DJ and I decided to attend. The group that day was particularly small because it was the day before Thanksgiving but to me it was perfect. KM, the facilitator, was wonderful in making us feel welcome and allowing us to unload our grief on this group of strangers. The two hours flew by. We shared. We cried. We laughed. We hugged our new friends good-bye. We left feeling with a sense of renewed hope. As morbid as it may sound, it felt amazing to meet others like us. It provided us with a much-needed sense of relief to know that we were normal for feeling the way we did.

In the meetings that followed, I met new friends – JM and her husband and VM and her husband. It was unbelievable to me to feel such a profound, instant connection with complete strangers. But that is exactly what it was. (We used to say that we belonged to a club we didn’t ask to join.) These ladies were my kindred spirits, walking alongside me on their own sorrowful journey. Their feelings mirrored mine and they were the reminder I needed...I was not alone.

As we would take turns sharing our stories of loss or venting about a current issue over someone’s insensitivity or lack of compassion, I would look around the room at the faces of my fellow bereaved parents. Sometimes there were no words needed. It’s as though we could communicate with our eyes or with a simple nod of the head. There was an unspoken knowing and understanding in that room. Our presence alone was enough to convey “I see you. You matter. I’m here for you.”

What was said in that room was sacred. We could trust one another with our ugliest thoughts and emotions and we didn’t fear judgment. We knew we were safe to share and be our authentic, vulnerable selves in all of our gory, complicated grief. And just as Brené Brown states, we derived sustenance and strength from one another. I knew I could lean on these women who were living in the same hell I was in. They gave me courage, month after month, to go on.

For me, the connections that emerged from that support group had a long-lasting impact. Those women are my sisters. They held me up when I didn’t think I could stand. They gave me the words for the feelings I couldn’t express. And during my darkest hours, they showed me endless love and compassion. They were my lifeline.

What the support group taught me is that sharing your story, sharing your truth, sharing your heart…that is how you build connection and compassion.

That is what the purpose of blogging has been for me – To connect with others. 

Thanks to blogging, I’ve met so many women like me – motherless daughters, bereaved mothers, sufferers of infertility, members of the adoption constellation, victims of bullying, and people who simply share the same interests, humor, life values, beliefs, and philosophies.

I've stated this before and I will say it again: We are all more alike than different.  We are all more connected than separate.

We all want to know that we matter.

We all want to feel seen and heard.

We all want to to feel valued and accepted for who we are.

We all want to know that we are not alone. 

We all want to feel connected.
 

And to my sisters – KM, SS, JM, VM – Thank you for providing the connection I needed and for helping me heal my heart.

And to the sisters I met while facilitating the group myself - SV and KA - you forever hold a special place in my heart.


Photo by DanceLaughLuv


From the 19th to the 21st of each month, the 1000 Speak for Compassion movement is publishing blog posts on important worldwide topics. This month we are speaking out on Connection. I am so honored to be a part of this group of bloggers from all over the globe, flooding the internet once a month with kindness, compassion, wisdom, inspiration, insight, hope, and love. Please share and spread the word using the hashtag #1000Speak. 

Other 1000 Speak posts I have written.

Let Your Self-Compassion Shine

Forgiving The Bullies of St Callistus 

A Lifetime of Longing



14 comments:

  1. I also love chocolate chip cookies, especially if there is a hint of coffee in the dough. And maybe a few walnuts. The chewy kind, not the crunchy kind.

    Thank you for your post. I know this kind of grief well--I wrote on it too--and appreciate what you have to say.

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    1. Thanks Crystal for reading and commenting. I really appreciated your post as well. As I have read through several of today's posts, I'm amazed at how many wrote about topics I can relate to - just further proof of the power of connection and that we are all more alike than different.

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  2. “I see you. You matter. I’m here for you.” Jackie, you hit the nail on the head. I'm sorry for your loss. I suffered a miscarriage too and there are some things that we can't fully empathize with unless we go through it ourselves. Yet, like you said, we are all more alike than different and blogging has shown me that we all need connection to people who understand. You are a bright light. xxoo

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    1. Thank you Karen. I'm so sorry for your loss as well. And I feel the same way about you. Your posts always evoke emotion in me and make me think. Love that! XO

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  3. What a lovely post, Jackie. I know these emotions all too well and have also found such depth of connection with those in my pregnancy loss support group. Really, what we all need (no matter our space in life) is a safe place to fall, where glances and nods are universal, and outstretched hands are a familiar dialect of the heart.

    We all crave connection and belonging.
    We all do.

    Thank you for this, dear one.

    Beautifully done.

    With heart,
    Dani

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    1. Hi Dani - I'm deeply sorry for your losses but I'm so glad to hear you have a group to turn to for support. You are so right - no matter what we endure, we all need that "safe" place or person(s). Sending you big hugs.

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  4. Jackie! you've pretty much nailed a big life lesson (once again). It reminds me of a quote I love:
    "Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'" Kurt Vonnegut
    Sharing your individual joys and sorrows to connect is both brave and beautiful - and very rare. love, shan
    The joys and sorrows are what

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    1. Shannon! Thank so much for commenting and I LOVE that quote! So so good! The problem with most is that we hold in our thoughts/feelings/experiences and that is what prevents us from connecting and perpetuates the feeling of being alone. It's only after we learn to communicate and speak up that we learn that we have others who are just like us. But yes, it does take courage to state our truth. Hugs Shan!!

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  5. sorry about my wonky post. I can never get these things to work!

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    1. I'm blog-illiterate and prone to wonkiness in my comments too. haha!!

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  6. Wow Jackie - there is a lot in here.

    First on miscarriage - yours, and everyone else who has been through this - my heart goes out to any parent who loses a child this way. I never did, but I think this is an issue that really touches everyone. We have close friends here who did, I have a high school friend who lost a pregnancy very late in the game and we still send her a note every year because I know it still hurts her, my mother was suppose to have a sister in between her and her big sis and so on... I worried through the first three months of my pregnancy about losing my child, so I can't imagine what I would have felt if I had. So hugs, sincere thoughts and prayers all round to anyone who has been through it.

    On connection - you really did hit the nail on the head - it's about feeling seen, heard and valued - and finding that tribe, or even that person, who sees and hears you. It really is crucial.

    I remember a small comment at a training I went too once on active listening - and how important it is that when someone is talking to you, that you actively listen to them - and if you find people are starting to repeat themselves at you, you probably aren't doing that very well. I know it isn't quite what we're talking about here - but I always remember it when I know I have a friend or loved one who really needs to talk and know I'm listening - I try and remember how important my role in just listening - and letting them be heard is. I also have two good friends who I know will do this for me. It took me a while to find them, but they are invaluable. Knowing you are heard by another - and understood - is so important. - Louise

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    1. Hi Louise - Thank you. I can't tell you how wonderful your friend must feel that you recognize her loss every year. That is HUGE to a bereaved mother. Unfortunately, miscarriage is more common than people realize. 1 in 4 or maybe even 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage. They say that it's more likely 1 in 3 because many women either lose a pg without even knowing they were pg in the first place. I was worried all through my first trimester too. And then I passed the 12-week mark and breathed a sigh of relief, only to find out at my 16-week check-up that his heart had stopped beating. I had a 2nd Trimester Miscarriage which are supposedly not too common.

      Active listening is something we can all work on for sure. You're lucky to have found your go-to listeners. I have a couple of friends too. It really does make a world of difference to just be heard. A lot of times that's all we really need. I don't always need solutions or advice with my issues. Sometimes I just need to vent and have the other person say "Wow. I'm so sorry. That sucks." Listening is part of connecting.

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  7. This is a sad yet beautiful sharing of compassion and connection. We do all want to be seen and heard. We all want to matter and be understood. It is beyond wonderful when we find a connection where these needs of ours are met. I'm so very glad you did! Your post also serves as excellent encouragement to others who are going through similar things. Don't give up. Don't deny what you feel. Seek out and find a connection that will help you. There is help to be be found. There are people who have been through similar situations - who understand. Your post relays an excellent example and outcome. Thank you for sharing your truly sad experience and for the encouragement your words offer to others. :)

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    1. Aww...Thank you Marcia. Such nice words to say. I hope I can inspire others to seek help for whatever shameful/sad/lonely/difficult situation they are in. There is ALWAYS someone else out there going through the same thing. One of the reasons I blog and tell my life stories is to inspire others and impart hope. Life can be beautiful if we choose to see the goodness; to connect; to release our shame; and to live with courage. Thanks again for your comments. They mean a lot.

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Hello Dear Reader:

If you comment, I will buy you a cookie. Not really. But we can both pretend I gave you one. To get you started...what's your favorite kind of cookie? Mine is chocolate chip. I especially crave them when I'm PMS'ing.