This is a story about unexpected surprises, resilience, and 6 ways to be a victor, not a victim. Buckle your seatbelts…
I just spent time at the most beautiful beach in the world—the Emerald Coast on the Florida Panhandle. It’s been my happy place for more than 20 years. This year, family members gathered from far and wide and there was laughter—a lot of laughter—goofiness, and great food. Gorgeous water. Hot sun. Fabulous.
Until this happened.
This was not in the plan. At the beach. Huh. #nothappy What to do?
We’ll be resilient, I said. We’ll find the absurdity in distress. We’ll laugh some more. Well, some of us more than others, I have to admit. So we began to experiment with different types of transportation.
Then demented race-scooting at the Walmart.
And then this happened.
“Hey, Sonster. Let’s do this.”
The theme to “Star Wars” came into my mind.
So we explored our fears of this moment. Well my fears, anyway:
Will I freak out on the helicopter?
Will it go down in the Gulf of Mexico, drowning us in beautiful surroundings?
And the big one, will I live through his? (I took out some insurance on this one by putting on my best underwear. For the ER or the coroner. You know, right?)
And then the moment approached. I hope we live…I hope we live…I hope we live. And then we’re flying.
And it was G-R-E-A-T.
So, the bottom line about resilience is, you have to decide whether you will be a victor or a victim. Here are my 6 tips for resilience:
1) Breathe for 20 seconds before you say a word. Do the Breath of Victory. (See my previous blog post Breathe a Quick Reset.) Start by exhaling slowly and deeply, with a slight constriction in your throat. In your ears and brain, you will sound either like Darth Vader or the ocean. Then inhale deeply and slowly. It is inevitable that your thoughts will lighten to some degree.
2) Laugh your butt off. I learned this from my Aunt Claire who once jumped in a lake while wearing an evening gown. I’m not kidding. Dark humor gets us through almost anything. My clients know that even in difficult times, humor gets us through the next five minutes.
3) Keep going. I mean it. You can get stuck in the negativity of the moment. Example, how do you get to the beach on crutches? Well, you crawl. The water awaits you.
4) Lose the shame and embarrassment. Shame and embarrassment are internal and make you feel miserable. It’s like carrying around a bag of boulders. Put them down and walk away. Hold your head up high and act like a king or queen. Others may question you, but you just pageant wave and smile.
5) Be grateful for anything you can find in the moment. Your life. The lives of others you love. The love of God. Sunshine. The ocean. Chocolate. You get the idea.
6) Know that this crummy moment will pass. Do some cognitive shifting. Example, “I’m on crutches but I can wear my awesome new shoe on my good foot.” Take a positive neutral position, like “A month from now, things will be different.” If you feel traumatized, I understand how powerful that can be. Treat it with EMDR, a wonderful thing I do with clients as part of their therapy. It’s like brain bleach. Want to know more? Ask me!
The bottom line is that resilience is within you. You can be a victor or a victim. Find your own victory. I know you can. How have you been resilient in your own life? Where could you be more resilient?
It’s Father’s Day and many men will be celebrated. How about the fathers of a stillborn baby or after a miscarriage? In my office, I tell many a man, “You are still a father after pregnancy loss.” It doesn’t matter that others have not met the baby or didn’t know that you and your partner (or a gestational surrogate) had a miscarriage. You are still a father after a stillbirth or miscarriage. I see you. I know.
The Star Legacy Foundation and Face2FaceTwin Cities stillbirth support groups have merged. Groups start tomorrow, 6/9/15, at Partners in Healing of Minneapolis. All groups are free and are offered on Tuesday evenings. Support group facilitators are Joann O’Leary, PhD, MPH, and Debbie Fischer.
Pregnancy After Loss Support Group – Losing your baby was the most awful experience of your life. Now, facing a subsequent pregnancy is filled with hope but also great anxiety and concern. Learn to nourish your pregnancy while honoring your grief. Talk with professionals who can support you through this journey; meet other expectant Mothers who are on your path but also those who have been through pregnancies subsequent to their own losses.This group meets weekly on each Tuesday of the month from 5:30 pm to 6:45 pm at Partners In Healing, 10505 Wayzata Boulevard, #200 Minnetonka, MN 55305. Enter on the west side of the building.
Bereaved parents – regardless of how long ago the loss occurred. We welcome parents of baby who died to stillbirth or neonatal loss (within the first 30 days of life). This group meets twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm at Partners In Healing, 10505 Wayzata Boulevard, #200 Minnetonka, MN 55305. Enter on the west side of the building.
Grandparents, extended family & friends – those individuals that surround bereaved parents have a unique grief of their own with special challenges. They are caught between their own grief and wanting to support parents in the very best way possible. Talk with others who have met those challenges head on and others who are just beginning this journey. This group meets monthly on the 1st Tuesday of each month from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm at Partners In Healing, 10505 Wayzata Boulevard, #200 Minnetonka, MN 55305. Enter on the west side of the building.
I wrote this blog post for Pregnancy After Loss Support, a wonderful website where women who have suffered the birth of a stillborn child can grieve, health, and find hope again. Will you please share it with others?
Five Essential Ways Doctors Can Help After
Dear Doctors of the World:
We want you to know that we respect you and your knowledge. But all the good stuff that you bring to your practice on a daily basis is not so helpful to us after a stillbirth. Please take these suggestions to heart, for us and your other patients who have suffered a stillbirth.
1) Please refer us to therapy and support groups.
We are lost. Our baby has died and we have no idea how we are, who we are, and how we will ever survive this. We could never have imagined that our pregnancy would end in a stillbirth. Please let us grieve with you. Please show us empathy. Please refer us for therapy and support groups, to let us know that we are not the only ones who are going through this horrible pain. We do not feel strong enough to do this by ourselves. We should not have to do this by ourselves.
2) Please flag our pregnancy loss in the chart so you and your staff do not ask us how our baby is doing.
We are fragile and so vulnerable. Many of us have PTSD and every time we walk into your office we have flashbacks and re-experience our grief. We are not “over it”. Please know that we are not trying to be difficult or dramatic. We are often just trying to get through the day. We can be triggered very easily back to our traumatic loss. Please know that we grieve every day for our baby who has died. Please let us talk about him or her by name. We are hopeful that we will have a rainbow child AND we cannot and will not forget about our child who died. He or she is always with us in mind and spirit.
2) Help Us to Plan For a Subsequent Pregnancy.
We are scared to death about the next pregnancy. Please meet with us and develop a detailed plan that will help us find the courage to try again. Help us to understand what happened. “These things just happen” will not suffice. Read the autopsy report with us and explain it, please. Please don’t give us false reassurances. We are too scared to hear them. We are still learning to trust our bodies—and you. We count time by every 15 minutes, every half-hour, every hour, and every day. The idea of a pregnancy that lasts almost 40 weeks freaks us out. Please tell us the truth. Give us the facts. If there is a way to do this safely, give us the plan. We don’t want to muddle through this. A subsequent pregnancy may not feel high-risk to you but it does feel high risk to us. Tell us that you will be willing to consult with perinatology (i.e., the high risk OBs). If we should not have another pregnancy, please say so. We don’t need any sugarcoating.
3) Don’t tell us that everything will be okay.
We are not okay. Anticipate that we will be hysterical during our next pregnancy. Normalize it. We will need superhuman strength to get through a subsequent pregnancy. It may be difficult for us to get excited about it while we are pregnant. Every day is unknown for all of us but a previous loss amplifies our fear of the unknown. Help us to be okay—for that hour or that day. Know that we will not really be okay until a baby is warm and squawking in our arms. For us this will be a “prove it” pregnancy. Do tell us that you will do anything and everything to work with us to ensure a successful pregnancy. Work with us collaboratively.Here is the most important thing for you to know: LISTEN TO US. We have lived in our bodies. You have not.
4) We need data for reassurance, not words.
Offer to give us more tests and scans when we ask for them. We will pay for them. When you tell us that insurance will not cover them, we will tell you again that we will pay for them. We need data, faith, and hope and we need you to have data, faith, and hope for us and with us. Remember: It’s about us, not you. If you cannot or will not meet us in the middle, we will have to find other care.
5) Show us your human side.
Talk to us as fellow travelers, not cases. Be our champion. So many people have played down the pain and trauma of our stillbirth, we cannot bear for you to be another. Please tell your partners and your nurses about the plan for this pregnancy, so we do not receive conflicting opinions or plans when you are not there. Give us a hug or hold our hand. Literally. We need everything you’ve got to get through this.
So, in conclusion, dear Doctors of the World, please work with us. We will do our best. Please do your best, too. It is through our connection and collaboration that something good can come out of our pain and loss.
Mother’s Day is so difficult when infertility, miscarriage, or stillbirth are part of your life. When you are not sure that you can go on, just open your heart to possibility. Even bleeding hearts are open…