If I Came With A Disclaimer

It's so strange, living in this new reality where the world hasn't stopped just because my pregnancy has. When you lose someone, you feel like the galaxy should just shut down, at least for a day, to acknowledge the death of something/someone huge. For example, I think mail shouldn't be delivered and computers should stop working. We all should sit inside for a few minutes, thinking about the enormity of the loss of life. We should all communally grieve because we've been there or will be there one day. Of course, this would be impossible. With so many deaths we'd never get anything done. And I think it's a good thing the world keeps spinning. But I can't help but feel it is strange the way "life goes on".

I take a lot more time, now, looking at people and theorizing about their situations. As a therapist, I did this before, and now as a professor, I let the stories come to me as I sit here in my office. But other people, in many ways, seem so foreign to me. Like I'm an alien examining a different life force entirely. How happy they seem. Or how self-involved. How interesting, how they tend to their children. My lens is now filtered from the perspective of grief and once-familiar situations have assumed shades of something new.

I wish, when people saw me now, I came with some kind of disclaimer so that they wouldn't be put off by my staring, or my overall state. As time goes on, I expect new disclaimers to pop up and perhaps old ones to fade. In the meantime, from the beginning of my loss until now, I've thought of a few:

Earlier Grief Disclaimers

  • Look on me with kindness. Ignore my disorganized state of dress and the extra physical weight I carry. My first child has died, and I can't keep it together. I can't cook a meal, choose a beverage other than Coke, fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, or go a day yet without dissolving. So if I look like a mess it's because I AM one.
  • I was once naive, expecting my pregnancy to end with a pink, healthy, crying child. I don't believe any ensuing pregnancy will be filled with that kid of joy.
  • Please don't judge me if I run out of this restaurant crying. I can't bear to encounter anyone with a new baby without wondering why I was robbed of that chance.
  • If I look distracted, it's because I can't stop thinking about my son. What he would look like, how it would have been to parent him, who he would have become.
  • My body is not the same. Sleep is inconsistent, my memory is impaired, and I'm functioning on a lower level than before. My entire body feels this loss.
Grief Disclaimers a Few Months Out*
  • I'm counting how many more days I have to wait until I can try again to have a baby. I pray my child will be healthy.
  • I am deeply jealous of other pregnant women, though I am ashamed to admit it and I don't know their stories. Please understand that I never got past 5 months and I'm wondering what it would have felt like to be so big and swollen. As my son's estimated due date approaches, this comes up more and more.
  • I am working on being happy but I am different now. I can identify happy moments and try to revel in them. But still, I am changed. 
  • I am still grieving. For me, grief is a process. Sometimes it feels cyclical, and other times more linear. But very little time has passed for me since my loss. Nothing has been "resolved" and I'm not "over it". I am back at work, accomplishing tasks...but I haven't forgotten. 
  • Please ask me about my son and don't be alarmed if I cry. I want to talk about him, even if it's painful. If you acknowledge him with me, it reinforces that he was real and he was alive. I'm devastated that I never got to meet him, but I revel in the opportunity to say his name. Darby.  
*Grief disclaimers from the early period still apply a few months out!!

I'm sure I'll think of more when they come. It would be a relief, in my opinion, if these disclaimers just popped up every now and then, reminding others of my grief without me having to bring it up or defend it. Feel free to add to my list.

About the Author
Dr. Erica G. Hyatt is currently an assistant professor of psychology at a small college north of Philadelphia. She completed her doctoral degree in social work at the University of Pennsylvania and has experience working as a clinician, administrator, and researcher. Dr. Hyatt has always been fascinated with the area of end of life care, death and dying, and bereavement. She became, unfortunately, all too familiar with grief when her first child was diagnosed with a rare and deadly congenital birth defect at 5 months’ gestation. She lives with her husband and their 3 dogs, 2 cats, rats, finches, and fish.
I'm Grieving, Now What?