Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Facebook revisited

Sometimes your message can get lost in your words.

I don't know if that's what happened with my post about Facebook -- but based on some of the comments I received -- I fear that that might be the case.

I've read over my note several times, and besides a few minor word choices, there's not much I would change. However, I do feel like a follow-up post is important.

First, I think it's important to clarify who I write for. I write for couples who have lost a baby or have struggled with infertility. I also write for others who are going through a loss of some kind and can relate to the grief I share. I also write to others who are looking for helpful ways to support those they know who are going through a pregnancy loss.

My message is intended for those particular men and women. If you find yourself reading my blog, but you haven't gone through a loss, or you aren't trying to support someone, you just might not understand my message. And that's OK. You're still welcome to read. But don't be surprised (and certainly don't judge me or my readers) if you don't find yourself in the same place.

You'll notice in my first post that I really just said two things:

1) For those who have recently suffered a loss, being on Facebook can feel like an emotional minefield.

Based on the feelings I've heard from other women, I know that this is not just my experience. But it is an experience shared by many of us women suffering through a loss. I simply want everyone to be aware that Facebook can be hard. I am not trying to place blame anywhere. Just know that what you post does affect other people.

It's like if you just lost a very dear grandma. If you constantly saw posts on your newsfeed saying  . . . "Just hung out with my grandma, God has blessed me so much to have her in my life!" Or . . "My grandma is giving me such a hard time tonight. It's so hard to take care of her, and I'm just so tired!" Or "Just found out my grandma is going to live with us! I can't wait to spend every day loving on her!"

Each of those posts might hurt. Not because you hate grandmas. Or because you are angry at your friends. And not because those posts are wrong.

But they hurt because you are bruised and hurting. You have suffered a loss, and every reminder of that loss -- no matter how innocent it is in itself -- feels like someone has just pressed in on the bruise of your loss. And it makes your soul ache with longing and regret.

That is how I feel when I see pregnancy-related posts. I am not bitter or resent babies or others' joy. I am bruised and hurting. Whether the reminder comes from a Facebook post, or a baby commercial, or a Babies R' Us catalog in the mail -- that reminder hurts. Even if the reminder is not wrong in itself.

I do my best to navigate those reminders, and avoid as many as I can, because some days I'm just not ready to have someone or something press in on my bruise and cause me pain.

Which brings me to the second point I made on my note . . .

2) If you are pregnant and are going to announce a pregnancy, and you know someone who recently suffered a loss, please let them know privately before making a public announcement. This can really help someone who is struggling with loss to be emotionally prepared for your announcement and subsequent posts.

I was not asking every pregnant woman to go through a mental rolodex and think of every single person they might offend each time before they post. I was simply asking that ONE TIME, before you make your first announcement, to give a friend that you know is struggling with loss or infertility a heads-up. This will help them to navigate those painful reminders -- whether that means they unsubscribe to your posts for a time, choose not to look at their newsfeed, or whatever they need to do to protect their heart.

Vintage Farm Girl felt that the burden should fall on those of us struggling with loss to protect ourselves on Facebook. And in part, I believe that we do need to be responsible (which is why I've stopped checking my newsfeed most days.) But your private message can help us be responsible for guarding our emotions while on Facebook.

Because I am writing to those who consider themselves support people, I wanted to give them one more tool in their tool box of ways to support someone. So often people tell those of us going through a loss, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help."

Well, I am giving a suggestion of one thing you CAN do to help. And it DOES help.

I want to reiterate what (in bold) I was NOT asking people to do:

I'm not asking everyone to stop posting about their pregnancies. I'm not even trying to complain. And I'm not saying that your FB life should revolve around sensitive people like me.

A few of the comments I received were that I was "holding people hostage in my pain." That I could not recognize the joy of others because I did not have that particular joy. And that I was criticizing others for celebrating their blessings (amongst other things . . . ).

Let me address those criticisms for a moment.

A few weeks after our loss, my sister called to very sensitively let me know that she was expecting. If I could hold anyone up as an amazing example of how to be sensitive to others going through a loss, I would hold up my wonderful sister.

Did her announcement hurt? Terribly so. But it was not because I resented her. It was not because I resented her baby. It was not because I was a bitter woman who was holding my sister hostage.

It hurt because I had always wanted to be pregnant with my sister, and we would have only been a few weeks apart. It would have been wonderful to go through each stage of pregnancy, each milestone, together. I imagined being able to call each other as our babies learned to roll over, smile, talk and start to eat. We'd be able to compare notes on nursing, sleeping (or lack thereof) and all the adventures of being a mom the second time around.

But Olivia was dead. And even if I got pregnant right away (which I couldn't), it still wouldn't be the same.

Her announcement hurt because I couldn't be the one to simply cry with tears of joy as she had done for me. Please hear me say that if I could have only wept for tears of joy, I would have done it happily and with abandon. When we announced our pregnancy with Olivia, my sister was one of the few people that was simply so happy for me that she cried in the middle of wal-mart. Her excitement meant the WORLD to me. She had given me an amazing gift with my pregnancy that I could never give back, no matter how much I wanted to.

And trust me . . . I wanted to! Because she deserves it. Because I love her with all my heart. But I just couldn't. There was pain mixed in with my joy for her, and I couldn't sift that out no matter how hard I tried. Even Ryan couldn't understand that there was pain in her news for me. Part of what hurt was simply that there was pain where there should be none, and that I couldn't ignore that.

With her news, I realized that I would now have a very tangible reminder of Olivia. As her pregnancy progresses, she will reach milestones I never will. You can call me bitter if you want (but not on this blog) -- but the truth is she has what I do not. She announced her pregnancy on Facebook, I never got that chance. She will bless my parents with their next grandchild. I will not be able to do that with Olivia. As her child grows, I will see where my baby should have been at that age.

Her baby is a miracle. He is a blessing, and will be a wonderful addition to our family. I love my new nephew. But I also deeply miss my daughter. I miss my pregnancy. I am so very sad my sister and I will not be comparing belly pictures, pregnancy aches and pains, delivery stories, and our babies' milestones. I'm devastated that our babies will not know each other and be close cousins.

My grief is real. So is my joy for my sister. Both feelings live together in the same heart, sometimes like best friends and other times like fighting siblings. Sometimes the grief feels stronger. Other times joy wins out.

My pain for Olivia and my joy for my new nephew must coexist. There is no other way.

One last thing I wanted to share . . .

Last Sunday, I woke up feeling happy and content. This is unusual for me. I questioned it at first . . . then gave in to the wonder of waking up sandwiched between Maddy and Ryan watching the rays of sunlight filter through the curtains to announce a peaceful morning. I snuggled my family, and drank in the peace that was overtaking my heart in that moment.

During church, though, I had difficulty concentrating. I wanted to hear the message, but my heart and mind were fixed on what Olivia was doing in heaven. Was she happy? Does she look down on me? Does she know I love her? While we worship here, is she singing? Is she just a little baby . . . or is she big? I couldn't get my mind off of her all morning.

Lunch was fine. On my way home, I casually browsed through my Facebook newsfeed for a few minutes. Two friends had announced pregnancies.

I knew that it was April's Fool's Day. But my own sister had announced her very real pregnancy on Facebook on April's Fool's Day two years ago. I needed to give both of these friends the benefit of the doubt, because neither seemed to me like the type to joke about a pregnancy.

For a few hours that afternoon, I wrestled with my emotions. Besides the bruise I mentioned I feel earlier, I also knew I needed to be happy for these women. But I had pain, and it was hard to feel happy. I also had to prepare myself for seeing them with belllies, seeing posts about ultrasounds, and the like.

While I wrestled to have joy for these women, I was painfully aware that I had begun spotting the day before. We were trying to conceive this month, and I was hoping to be pregnant. I was terrified of having another ectopic as I had lots of pain earlier in the week from my fallopian tube. A late period + spotting + pain in my tube + a negative pregnancy test =  the potential that I might have another ectopic.

Could I withstand another loss? If I didn't have a loss, then I was still not pregnant, which was disappointing, though not as devastating as an ectopic would be. Just dealing with the disappointment and fear surrounding my spotting would have been enough in the day to warrant a breakdown. But there was more . . .

Because it was a nice day, and because our memorial tree was finally ready, Ryan and I had decided to bury the tissue I had passed with Olivia and plant her tree. (Don't worry, I kept the tissue sanitarily.)

Before we went outside for our the burial, I checked Facebook one more time. It turns out that those pregnancy announcements were just April's Fool's jokes.

But it didn't feel funny to me. Not at all. I wrestled for hours that day to try to muster up happiness for my friends, on a very emotionally-charged day. And it was all for nothing.

It was then that I posted my note about Facebook.

I hope all this background info helps you understand my original post. And no matter how you first felt about my note, I do hope that it encourages you to still be sensitive and to know how to help your friends on Facebook struggling through loss.

And . . . if you've actually read this far, thank you. I think this has been my longest post to date. I appreciate you hanging in there with me while I hash through my intentions and background on what has been my most controversial post so far.

If you have gone through a loss, what other helpful things have your friends done to help you navigate the emotional minefield that we live in day-to-day?


  1. Thsnk you for the back story. I know you fear it went long, but I think it was one of your best posts to date.
    And to answer your question ... well, actually, I can't. At least, not without writing a book. What I can say is that my life's "mantra" has evolved into one statement: "It's just you and me, God." We are surrounds by hurting people and one person's pain will frequently trigger another's, like a dominoe effect. We have no idea how frequently - or easily - we hurt other people in our pain. Accepting that God was my only true sense of comfort has been the key to my peace. But I've had to consciously embrace Him even when it hurts. A lot of people are surprised to learn my favorite verse is Job 13:15.

    1. Thank you Jeanne. It was really thoughtful of you to comment and share!