DEAR AMY: My miscarriage was 10 years ago. I still grieve for my lost “Grace.” It took many years to come to terms with this loss, and there is still one thing I struggle with: We conceived our daughter “Clara” when I should have been seven months pregnant with Grace. Clara was born a preemie (a year to the day of Grace’s death). It was a long, exhausting journey with the happiest of results! Without Grace’s death, we would not have our beautiful, kind-hearted daughter, so when I grieve and feel sad for losing Grace, I feel guilty that I am somehow not being grateful enough for the daughter I do have. My husband reinforces the guilt by saying I need to get over Grace and appreciate the daughter we have. When I celebrate Clara, I feel guilty that I am diminishing the loss of Grace. I love both my children and would love to freely grieve and celebrate without the guilt. I would appreciate your insight.
DEAR LOST: It is unrealistic to think that you will stop grieving for the loss you feel so deeply. However, many people find that their grief recedes as time goes on. This is not forgetting a loved one, but it is time’s way of letting joy back into your life.
One reason some couples wait a year after a miscarriage to try to conceive again, is that it gives them time to mark the various milestones of a pregnancy and miscarriage. Your second pregnancy is entwined with your first. And the coincidence of the birth and death date means that these two events are forever linked.
I would especially worry about the impact on your child. If you feel guilty, imagine what your tenderhearted daughter might be feeling about this loss and her true place in the family. Describing her as a placeholder or replacement to the pregnancy you lost — or conveying that your other child’s death resulted in this child’s life — is not a good message for her to hear.
So yes, you should deal with this in a way where your feelings are more in balance, and where you understand that every person in your circle — you, your husband, your parents, your child — will feel differently.
Your husband should not tell you to “get over” this loss, but he is probably trying to urge you toward light and life. Your ongoing grief makes him feel guilty because he doesn’t feel the same way you do. Your outward expression — the planter of flowers on the table — reminds other people of the intensity of your feelings, but of course they don’t feel the same way, and so your sadness sits next to you during holidays.
I think it might really help you and your husband to visit a therapist to talk about this together. I have a feeling that if your husband could share this with you intimately, instead of telling you to get over it, it might help you to heal. A support group might also be helpful to you. A shared ritual for your family might help all of you to put this loss in perspective.
DEAR AMY: A very close friend died recently. He had no family, just a couple of distant cousins, as far as I know. My family “adopted” our deceased friend and will be sending a wreath to the funeral home. Will it be appropriate to send a sealed card addressed to the decedent with the wreath?
DEAR MOURNING: You are writing and addressing this card to your deceased friend. I think that’s fine, as long as you are comfortable with the idea that someone else (a relative or someone at the funeral home) will likely open and read it.
I hope you will keep a copy of this note for yourselves as a remembrance of your friend and your feelings about him.
DEAR AMY: I’m responding to “Ashamed,” who was wondering if she should reach out to a friend who was sexually assaulted in college, many years ago. I was that friend in college. I wish my friends who knew about it then would reach out now and let me know they remember how much pain I was in. Now that campus sexual assault is in the news so often, it brings back those terrible memories. I could use the support.
DEAR GRATEFUL: I’m so sorry. I hope your story inspires others to reach out.