2020 has been described in a variety of ways. Unusual. Unprecedented. Challenging. Uncertain. It has also been described using words I can’t use here. As a society, we have endured the pandemic, calls for social justice, politics, natural disasters, economic instability, and more. Thousands have experienced these issues in personal ways, too. Unfortunately, we are also aware that pregnancy loss and infant death has not stopped during this time. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the emotions of this past year.
However, as I look back, one thing that strikes me is how much I have learned from and been inspired by so many people. These people remind me of every loss parent I have had the honor to work with. They have suffered through some of the most traumatic events we can imagine. Yet, they are still here. We often hear that they carry on because that’s the only choice available. In some ways this is true. But there is something driving that survival.
I have seen resiliency, creativity, and determination. We have witnessed the generosity of our friends, families, and neighbors. I have heard many stories about finding a new perspective. This perspective has shed a brighter light on things like the appreciation for health care professionals and family support programs, the importance of quality prenatal care, and the value of diversity. Many have enjoyed the extra time with family or found new ways to connect with loved ones.
Of course, some of life’s happy moments still occurred, too. Many babies were born healthy – including rainbow babies. People were married. New jobs were started. Puppies were adopted. Love and laughter were shared.
We are all grieving. Some are grieving specific people in our lives who have been lost to the pandemic or stillbirth or many other causes. But grief does not only refer to death. We often teach that perinatal grief is about the loss of hopes and dreams and the expected outcome as much as the loss of the person we love. In that sense, we are all grieving this year. We are missing what could have been or should have been.
And consistent with grief – we will have good days and bad days. Everyone will experience it in a unique way. There is no right or wrong way to feel. There will be happy moments mixed in with the sad. And it is ok to smile even when your heart is broken.
During the holidays after my son Garrett died, I was at a place in my journey that I wanted to focus on the things I learned and gained from that experience rather that be consumed by thoughts of what I had lost. This holiday season, I find myself in a similar place. This doesn’t mean the bad doesn’t exist or that we can’t have moments of extreme sorrow. But it does mean there is happiness to be found, too.
For everyone who is grieving, I wish you peace and comfort. For those who are celebrating, I wish you health and happiness. And for everyone doing both – I wish you the courage to embrace it all, the strength to persevere, and all the best in the new year.