So a holiday is coming up. I won’t go into the sordid history of the “relationship” between indigenous people and pilgrims but the general message we’re supposed to get out of this holiday is to be grateful for the blessings you have received and to break bread with family and friends alike. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember to be grateful for some of the things you have in your life. Especially when you feel like so many things (or just one ginormous thing) have gone wrong. Practicing being grateful and expressing gratitude can be a really helpful way of shifting your thinking to a more glass-half-full perspective rather than the glass-half-empty space you’re probably in. You can do this in the form of a gratitude journal, saying what you’re grateful for outloud (to yourself), expressing it to others and/or simply paying it forward (e.g. if you have an abundance of food in your fridge and pantry, donate some of it it food banks or a family you know that’s in need). I’m going to give you a few ways (7 to be exact ;-)) to practice your gratitude in the face of perinatal loss (or any other kind of loss) you may be experiencing.
Thank people for their time and energy with you.
I read an article or post (can’t remember which) recently about how to shift your thinking and your relationships with others. It suggests that you thank people for waiting for you when you show up late and that you thank people for accepting you in difficult moments when you may be being a jerk. It acknowledges the work of the other person while also acknowledging your roll in whatever is occurring.
Keep a gratitude journal.
People have undoubtedly been kind to you in some way around your loss. This could be something small like simply saying, “I’m sorry for your loss” or something big like spending the evening crying with you over your babies. Regardless of what it is, be grateful for the gestures of kindness of all varieties. Keeping this kind of log can really help you take stock and remind you that everything isn’t shitty all the time.
Pay it forward.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think it was Gandhi who said that…. (that’s the face I make every time I hear that quote) Though he was problematic for many reasons too, the message in the quote remains helpful. If you felt like you needed something in particular from others but didn’t get it, be the person who provides that kind of support to others. If you’ve received a kindness from someone that you found super helpful, try and offer that to someone else.
Think of what has come out of your loss.
Specifically what lessons have you learned? Has anything positive happened since? I know this is hard. Mainly, what has come out of your loss is heartache of the most challenging kind. It’s hella difficult sometimes to see or accept anything positive that has come afterwards because it’s all kind of clouded by grief. For me, I learned about my strength. Sometimes, I surely don’t feel strong but seriously, a mother who has to birth, hold and then bury or cremate her infant children AND keep on living is one of THE strongest people you will EVER encounter. Like EVER! I also had a few positive things come afterwards including this blog and a teaching opportunity. Neither of which I would have done or had the opportunity to do now had my girls been here. I’m going to keep it real with you though, I don’t always have the same level of excitement about these things as I imagine I would have, had I not had the loss first. But you know what? They’re still things that I ultimately wanted to do and things that will aide me in the future.
Thank your body for the things it has endured and continues to move through.
If you’re like me, your body has been through a hell of a lot in effort to conceive. On top of that, I’ve experienced childbirth which is an amazing thing in and of itself. The level of physical trauma and the physicality of grief itself, is a whole other level of amazingness to thank your body for enduring. People have faltered for much less than what we endured so if you’re here, you’re moving through grief, you’re leveled but not unable to rebuild… that’s a glorious thing.
Remember that even if it was only for a short time, you had a life inside of you.
You created life and there are some people who aren’t able to do that. Express gratitude for your morning (or in my case, all day) sickness, the fatigue you felt, the extra weight you gained or lost. It’s all part of creating babies for most people. I don’t know about you but even though I felt sick as a dog some days, I’d give anything to feel that now, knowing my girls were still in my belly.
Thank your baby(ies) for making you a parent.
To keep it real with y’all, I hadn’t even thought of that. I was (and sometimes still am) caught in this cycle that keeps me stuck in sadness and what I don’t have. It doesn’t always allow me to focus on what I did get out of this. Even though my girls aren’t physically here, I HAVE DAUGHTERS. I’m so grateful to them for making me a mommy and for creating the opportunity for me to create them, dream for them, house them and love on them in the short time they were here. Pretty much every time we do the ritual, I make sure to tell Jora and Aviva, “thank you for letting me be your mommy. Thank you for choosing me even though you couldn’t stay.”
Take the time to be really thoughtful about your gratitude in spite of your loss. It’s both humbling and soul enriching to do so. When you’re saying grace or going around giving thanks for that good food you’re about to eat, maybe insert a little something extra and do that soul work. Sending <3 & wishing you a happy start to this holiday season. Now go ‘head & get your grub on!