When we lost Ginny, I knew it would be so, so important to actually process my emotions. I’ve heard horror stories of unprocessed grief leading to terrible things later in life. As much as I wanted to be happy and focus on the positive, I knew I needed to face every single yucky, painful feeling I had.
Letting yourself feel everything is hard because it hurts. It hurts really bad. And just when you think things should be getting better, another wave of grief hits and you have to face it again and again.
To add a layer of complexity to an already complex situation – after a few weeks of grieving I realized that there is productive grief and unproductive grief. It has to do with your thoughts. There are certain thoughts that would make me feel sad or angry or disappointed. I would process those feelings, feel better, and move on to the next thought. But there are some thoughts that would cause me to feel those painful emotions. I would process those feelings, and then I would feel worse, not better. I would not move on to the next thought. Instead I would dive deeper into that thought. It could become a cycle of despair, leading nowhere.
Example – thinking of all the “what ifs” that could’ve saved Ginny. What if the midwife sent us straight to labor and delivery instead of scheduling a growth scan for Monday? What if I hadn’t mistaken contractions for movement? How could we have saved her? Could we have prevented this? Why didn’t I have motherly instincts telling me something wasn’t right? This line of thinking was important to process. I needed to think through these possibilities. I needed to come to peace that there is no way to change history and what happened happened. I needed to understand that even if we had done those things, there is no way to know if the outcome would’ve been different. I needed to understand that we did what we thought was best based on the information we had. I needed to understand that I didn’t do anything wrong. I did understand those things… but then my mind would go back. I would go back to the “what ifs” again and again. It would just make me feel worse about everything. I got stuck and fell into darkness. I had to pray hard to get out of it. I had to assure myself of truths I know. I had to read the Bible. I had to control my thoughts and not let myself go to places I knew were leading nowhere.
Another example – I got caught into constantly thinking about what physically happened to Ginny. Originally Daniel and I thought it was important to find out what caused this, not because we needed know what happened with Ginny but to know what it means for future pregnancies. There was no way to change what happened to Ginny, but we could possible prevent this from happening again. After a while my thought process changed, and I felt like it was my duty as her mother to figure out what happened to Ginny. I read all the test results. I read placenta evaluation textbooks. I am no doctor, but I became somewhat obsessed with figuring out what happened. Bloodclots, cord knots, antibodies, thyroid levels, etc. etc. Was she in pain? Maybe I could find something our doctors didn’t. I have to at least try. I would feel so exhausted at the end of days of research. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I wasn’t getting anywhere. I needed to let go. I had to remind myself to change my thoughts when I get in this cycle.
Final example – Some days I feel like I have nothing going for me. I don’t have my daughter; I don’t have my career. My past self would think my current self is a loser. I focus on what I don’t have and who I am not. This thinking leads me toward darkness, not light. It is not productive. In fact, it is a lie. I have an amazing marriage, friends, family. I have so, so much love. I have a new perspective on life and new passions. I still have all the skills I had before that can be applied in new ways. I have a future. I have a lot going for me.
All these negative cycles start with a lie… You could’ve saved her. You are a bad mom. You are a loser. The enemy wants us to believe lies. But the truth will set us from from cycles of despair. When I hear the lies, I stop and tell myself, “That is a lie. What is the truth?”
Opposite of these unproductive thoughts are productive thoughts. What thoughts bring me toward light and love and truth? Now I have built a toolbox of productive thoughts I can turn to. Truths that help me progress in my grief. These include: imagining heaven, imagining being reunited with Ginny, thinking of ways to remember her, thinking of happy times during pregnancy, thinking of our future family and how Ginny will always be a part of it, thinking of labor and delivery and holding her body, writing this blog, thinking of all the love and support we’ve received, thinking of how God is using our loss for good, thinking of all I have learned through this, thinking about all our love. Some of these thoughts still make me sad and cry, but the results of processing them are love, peace, and joy. I have to process all my grief and emotions, but I am deliberate about what I let control my thoughts. I have a choice to believe the truth or lies. I choose the truth.