03 May 2016

Letter To A Reader: Healing After Miscarriage


(By Danny)

To anyone experiencing miscarriage or loss...

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My Dear Friend,

I can't tell you how sorry I am to hear this. As soon as I read your email my mind immediately went to the night we went out for dinner and first heard the news you were pregnant.

Believe me, I know how much excitement and joy can be wrapped up in the idea of a coming child. And for you, it was certainly much more than just an idea, it was actually there, with all the signs that your body was giving, with growth and life.

I suppose in this moment of transition, the best advice I can give you is to let you know that sorrow, grief, and pain are not what you would be "fighting" against. I know that in our Choose Happiness class, when we discussed the ideas of virtues being the root of happiness, and non-virtues being the root of "dis-ease", we encouraged you to learn how to choose virtue.

In moments of great sadness and loss, some people feel like they are failing every day that they aren't "happy", and I don't think that is the right way to look at it. For me, I've come to learn that sorrow and grief are neutral in this whole virtue/non-virtue thing. The real question is, where do we allow our sorrow and grief to take us?

For some, they will allow the sorrow and grief that comes from moments like this to move them towards Love for those around who support them, Gratitude in this case for the beautiful children you do have, Compassion for others who have similarly suffered, Forgiveness for either a body or a fetus that wasn't capable in this moment of going all the way, Patience with process of healing, Vulnerability and the willingness to connect with other human beings to receive Love and Kindness from them, rather than closing yourself off to husband or children or family and friends.

For others, grief and sorrow will move them towards Anger....Anger at life and the unfairness of it all, or Anger towards God or the Universe. Fear about the possibility of future pain that will come if they try again, Hatred or Bitterness towards a body that may have some difficulty in carrying pregnancy all the way through, and a Lack of Vulnerability or desire to connect with others, shutting themselves off from the healing process and those who love and support them.

So, I don't want you to think that your sorrow or grief is a bad thing. I don't want you to worry that by feeling something like that, you are not "happy".

In our retreats we discuss how "happiness" in this modern century has taken on a very different meaning then the Happiness spoken of in religion and philosophy, and that it's essentially tied to all the marketing schemes that suggest happiness is something that comes from the outside-in (how else can they convince you that you need what they are selling?), that happiness is found in ideal circumstances, or kind and loving behavior of others. But if you go back, happiness would have been characterized more like how we would now use the word Contentment. Contentment suggests that there will be plenty of things that are not going just the way we want and hoped...and yet there is an abiding peace and contentment towards life and all the imperfect relationships around us. And that contentment would have been conditional upon the cultivation of Virtue (Aristotle said "Happiness is an activity of the Soul, in accordance with Virtue.")

If you take comfort in religious teachings, and in the message that Jesus tried to offer, you may find a verse helpful that I've thought of countless times before. John 14:27 - "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." Jesus says this the night before his own trial and crucifixion, he says it to a group of disciples who are about to be persecuted and hated. He says it knowing full well that He and they will not have peace in the way that the world would offer it. Their peace will not come because of good circumstance, or from growing old with loved ones, or from the respect and admiration of peers and society. And yet he says Peace is still available, still accessible, Peace that comes from the inside-out, instead of the outside-in.

You are now experiencing, and will likely continue to experience, sorrow and grief. I hope you will allow that sorrow and grief to direct you towards virtue, towards Love, Hope, Compassion, Patience, Forgiveness, etc. And that from that place of virtue and connection with your deepest and truest self, and with your belief in God, you will find the peace that comes in spite of the troubles of life.

I know it is there. I have experienced that myself. Many times. I had great amounts of sorrow that occupied me during my divorce, and I had it while feeling and experiencing Peace at the exact same time. I've had sorrow when I've watched loved ones throw so much life and love away, watched them struggle and fight with addictions and despair, or seen people reject the idea that they are worthy of love and consequently pursue unhealthy ways to fill that void. So there is sorrow, and there always will be. But in those moments, I've tried to always choose to allow that sorrow to turn my heart to Love, to Kindness, to Forgiveness, and to Healing. And so, while everything seems to be crashing around, I've felt a wholeness and a peace that didn't match what life was dishing out. As a result, I've never gone back. That process has proven to improve the very relationships where I am experiencing the grief.

The same thing happened the first time Mara and I had a failed IVF. I know it is possible. I know it is real. And it has happened so many other times.

So my advice to you....try to allow your heart to willfully move toward Virtue. Start with Gratitude. Gratitude for the children you have, gratitude for a loving husband, gratitude for life itself. Try even expressing gratitude for the really hard stuff that you don't feel grateful for right now. Gratitude for your body, trust that it proceeded in wisdom and in response to what was best for you and the baby. Gratitude for even the loss, that it provides an opportunity and experience to learn just how deep healing can go, and what pains and sorrows it can touch and repair.

Do anything to allow yourself to step into virtue as your response. Don't expect the sorrow to go away. Like I said, it is neutral, neither "good" nor "bad". It is neither healthy nor unhealthy...it just is. Sorrow and joy and love and peace can be felt simultaneously.

I just want you to know that WE LOVE YOU. I mean that. I wish Mara and I could wrap our arms around you, look you in the eyes, and tell you that we love and admire you, just the way you are. I'm so grateful that you reached out to us. That you did extend yourself somewhere where you felt safe. I hope my words have been helpful. I hope our prayers and our outstretched hearts will help you in the coming days. I want you to know that I will spend some time today in prayer and meditation, doing my best to send support, love, and friendship to you. And I will be calling upon God, and upon His Peace and all those in your life who minister it, that they will be there to help in the healing process.

With great love,

Danny and Mara

(Photography by the talented Melissa Hope)

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10 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this! It was something I needed to hear today! You are such a beautiful writer and I could really feel the love ❤️

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    1. I'm delighted the sincerity came across. Thank you for sharing your appreciation.

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  2. Dear Danny,

    I want to start this comment by thanking you for acknowledging that grief is natural and necessary for healing after any loss or trauma. There's still a lot of pushback in society about grieving as it is seen as a weakness or selfish act. So thank you for openly acknowledging that it is important.

    But I am concerned about your view on anger. That somehow this is a destructive emotion. I agree that anger can lead toward negative actions that hurt others and distance ourselves from loved ones. But anger is actually a healthy emotion and critical part of the grief process. To suppress anger can actually prevent healing and can lead to depression and anxiety. None of that is healthy.

    Last week was National Infertility Awareness Week. The theme for this year was #StartAsking (http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/home-page.html). One thing that was encouraged time and again was the importance of asking for support as one is grieving loss and facing this terrible disease. Part of that support means allowing loved ones to be angry and to help them work through that anger. Not suppressing it as has been preached so long.

    Again, I do appreciate the intention of this post. I think your message for embracing love is a good one. But part of that process means allowing for the negative and undesirable emotions to come through and be acknowledged. All completely healthy. Without it, one can't heal.

    Love and light to you and Mara.

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    1. First I want to thank you for your comment and for your compassion for those who are suffering and looking to heal. I think that is a beautiful thing...and we likely share more in common about our beliefs on this subject than the way we choose to use our words might suggest.

      I completely and 100% agree with you that anger should not be repressed. Ever. I also don't think suppressing anger is healthy, and it can result in worse long term results. That, to me, is the equivalent of holding your hand over the fire and keeping it there, pretending that it doesn't hurt. It's not good.

      I wrote a much more extensive post on anger where I elaborate more on the way I prefer to look at it. You can find it here - http://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2015/03/isnt-anger-healthy.html - and it might offer you deeper insight into my position and what I'm trying to advocate, and soften some areas where you now perceive disagreement.

      If I were to sum up my thoughts on that post in this comment, it would be that: Anger isn't healthy, but dealing with it is. Much like infections aren't healthy, but dealing with them, treating them, preventing them, and eliminating infectious material is healthy.

      If anger is what a person feels as a result of some kind of Loss, I'm the last person to suggest to them they should suppress it. But I will suggest ways to deal with, treat, prevent in the future, and eliminate it the anger. And admittedly that can be a process, and may take time.

      One thing I've never felt compelled to do, however, is suggest to them that it is a necessary part of their healing. I will not claim to always be capable of doing this...but upon learning the principles and applying them in my life, there are moments where I've suffered loss of some kind or another, and using the tools I've learned, skipped right past anger and moved on to connection, healthy vulnerability, and healing. Many others report the same.

      Of course, there's other times where I wasn't ready for that, and anger was my reaction, and was something I needed to work through (not suppress).

      So, while I admit Anger is OFTEN a normal part of the process of healing (because who doesn't on occasion get angry and therefore have to deal with it on the road to wholeness), but it doesn't have to be. And if you can prevent it, instead of treat it, that would be the most ideal circumstance to me.

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    2. Thank you Danny for the response to my comment. Though I don't agree with you about anger not being a healthy emotion (I think it is healthy and necessary one), I think you and I do have a common outlook on why anger needs to be addressed, particularly in the context of healing.

      I view anger as part of the wound healing response. Just as there is sadness, there is anger. Similarly, just as there are white blood cells, there are B cells and T cells. Also necessary to the response.

      Where I view infection coming in is with bitterness and resentment. Hatred and depression. These are not good for anyone and need to be treated.

      Pixar released a film that really touched on this. "Inside Out" focused on Sadness and why it is necessary, but it also brought in Anger and Disgust, similar to Joy. We need all these emotions, but the trick is having healthy outlets for them.

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    3. I just read this post and was thinking this same thing, although you put it much more eloquently than I could have. Anger was very much a part of my grieving, especially when it came to infertility. I don't/didn't want to live in the anger, but I do think its presence is a normal part of the grief. It may not be true for everyone, but for me and the women in my support group, anger (and even fear) show up on a regular basis.

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  3. i am so inspired by this post, and by the love that you and mara share with us. thank you.

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  4. Thank you Catherine. And it is true, we do have love for you and for anyone, especially those trying to figure out what healing means when they've been dealt a thought blow.

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  5. Thank you Danny for this powerful post. I want to thank you for reminding me of these truths. As you know, this helped me tremendously when my daughter was so sick. Thanks to you and Mara, I was able to grasp these ideas so easily AND was able to apply them during that frightening time. I am forever grateful to you both for that gift. Today, I've decided to give myself some credit also. I feel like I'm always "working" on myself, my family and my friendships; often without much success. But thankfully, when I needed this mindset the most, I was able to harness the power of it. It's nice to look back at myself and see growth, increased knowledge and that I have the ability to keep my heart open! Many thanks, much love and hugs to you and Mara!

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  6. Thank you for your eloquent and beautiful words, Danny. I needed this today and would probably do well to read it every day. :)

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