Sometimes, you have to protect yourself first.
My friend shouted to me over the phone. I knew this was happy news for her and her family; she had been trying to get pregnant or a while.
A normal reaction to a great friend’s good news is to have your heart swell with happiness for them. I should have exclaimed my excitement for her – shouting back in the same happy tone she shared with me, but I had a much different reaction.
I felt my stomach drop.
My face got hot.
My heart started pumping faster and harder.
I was devastated.
I calmly congratulated her and apologised for needing to get off the phone so quickly. I knew I should walk the line between protecting my heart and not hurting her feelings, but I know in this situation, I crossed the line and put myself first. I was abrupt, cold, and I am sure I hurt her feelings.
I hung up the phone and immediately started crying. I was a puddle on the floor, a strange reaction to what should be a good news. My hand moved down to my stomach, shaking, and my husband held me with no words needing to be said.
A few days before this, I had received another phone call with a very different tone, but ended with the same heart pounding, puddle-on-the-floor reaction.
My doctor had called to speak to my husband and me. We were expecting as well, our to-be third baby that we also had been trying to conceive for a while. We had just passed the first trimester, but instead of calling my friends with the great news that we were going to be parents again, I was talking to my doctor who informed us that, unfortunately, our baby had passed away.
I had another miscarriage.
My body was still holding onto the tiny body with no heartbeat and while we waited to decide where to go from there, whether to wait for my body to labor on its own or not, my friend called me.
To her credit, she didn’t know that I was carrying a baby too, but that mine had no heartbeat. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone and I was trying to hold on to the hope that the tests my doctor ordered were wrong. They weren’t.
Our babies were the same age, but mine was no longer going to age. She was able to see her stomach swell, to feel her baby kick, and carry her healthy, gorgeous baby to term. I went into the hospital, trimesters early, and didn’t experience any of the same milestones.
I was grieving and while I wanted to be happy for my friend, I couldn’t. It may sound selfish to you, if you’ve not been through miscarriage and loss, but I had to protect my heart. I had to think of my own health and healing and needed to distance myself from my very great friend, who was expecting her own little miracle.
I felt awful. I felt selfish because she had been there for me in the past when I was expecting and now, when it was her turn to feel my support, I wasn’t able to give it. I didn’t want her to feel like I was abandoning her in her time of joy, but after experiencing miscarriages in the past, I knew that trying to force down my feelings and pretend I was fine when I was around her had the potential to destroy our friendship – for me and for her.
And so I made a tough choice. I had the difficult conversation, explaining that it wasn’t her, it was me – but that her pregnancy meant we had to put our friendship on hold for the time being.
I was honest with her, even though it was hard, because I knew it was important. I told her about my miscarriage, and that I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through the grief if I was very involved in her pregnancy. I apologized for needing to be selfish and she told me she understood – that she knew why and she didn’t feel as if I was letting her down.
We hugged, we cried, and she promised to love me through it all (even if from a distance), and to reach out if there was anything she could do. And so, I stayed away.
A few weeks after her baby was born, I called to congratulate her and ask if I could come to meet her new baby. I hadn’t spoken to her in months, and I was nervous about how that time off would affect our relationship, as well as worried about how my body would react to holding her precious newborn.
I felt the weight of her newborn girl in my arms and I felt the weight lift off my shoulders.
After that visit, I understood why my friend was going to be in my life forever – she didn’t take my need for space personally. I was given the much-needed space to grieve for my loss without her feeling as if I didn’t celebrate hers. I did, just not until I was ready.
And it was only because I took the time to reflect, to heal, and to honor my lost child that I was able to love her and her child with a full heart – with no resentment or unsaid feelings. She knew the best way to support me through grief was to allow our friendship to be placed on hold and then opened her arms again when I reached out.
If you’re grieving a miscarriage, it’s important for you to take that space, to be a little selfish and not see that as a failing. Being around a pregnant woman after your own loss can be a huge trigger for many women, and there’s a certain extra sting when that pregnant person is someone close to you – a sister or a friend – who is given the joy of experiencing a healthy pregnancy.
To heal through grief, you need time, you need love, and you need to be honest about those feelings. It’s okay to say that you need space, and it’s better to voice it than to just quietly drift away.
If your friend really loves and trusts you, they will understand and they will love you from afar, until you find the strength to come back.
This post originally appeared on Babble.com and has been republished here with full permission.
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