As you know by now, I talk about it a lot, mostly in regards to self-care. You could say it is a passion of mine. I can’t really let go of it because I am still healing and I am trying to help others on their healing journey. So, naturally, I talk about it.
That makes this blog post no less uncomfortable to write. Something has come up over and over again recently when I talked to other loss survivors or looked at my own strategies to try and heal. It is quite common. We all do it. But none of us would easily admit to it.
I’m talking about self-sabotage.
Ugh, yeah, that bitch.
Self-sabotage comes in many forms and some of them are quite sneaky. We all have fallen prey to it and that is ok. It is part of our grief journey and the challenges it poses when we seek healing. We try hard to feel better and the hard work often pays off, as the load seems a little lighter on some days. But there are those days where we end up blocking our own progress. This can only last a day or two. But sometimes, this blockage almost becomes chronic and we are stuck in a certain way of thinking and perceiving the world without realising what it does to our own well being and healing.
Below are five common behaviours/ ways of thinking that stop us in taking that next step to healing and how we can put them into their place.
- Don’t apologise
That’s very much a women’s thing, isn’t it? We say sorry to so many things. We respond to questions and statements by saying sorry even though an apology is not necessary, not wanted and actually out of place. It can be as simple as ‘did you do the washing today?’ and we say ‘sorry, no’. A simple No would suffice. We don’t have to apologise for everything and anything!
The same applies for our healing journey.
After our loss, we look for answers and explanations. Why did my body fail me? Why wasn’t I able to carry this pregnancy? All very common questions that we want answers for. But they are oh so tricky. They don’t provide any healing but instead, are the start of a slippery slope towards self-hatred and anger. On top of that, we start to apologise for our bodies. We take responsibility for not being able to ‘give’ our partners or families babies. We say sorry to our partners and parents because they hare not yet fathers or grandparents.
Don’t do it. You are sorry, it is obvious. But this is not your fault. Don’t apologise for something you haven’t done. You are putting yourself down and deny all of your amazing qualities that make you a unique human being.
Besides, no one asked for an apology so don’t give one. Your journey is not yet over. Don’t get stuck in apologising and feeling awful for something you don’t have to feel bad about. It brings a lot of unnecessary negativity into your journey and life.
So next time you find yourself wanting to apologise, take a step back. Acknowledge this feeling or urge of wanting to say sorry but examine how it makes you feel. Do you really feel better apologising? If not then don’t do it.
If an apology isn’t healing then there is a good chance you are making yourself feel bad and drained. Therefore, take a break from apologising and focus on yourself and what makes you feel better.
- Don’t blame yourself
Blame goes hand in hand with the need to apologise. We feel guilty for having let everyone down. We failed, right?
Losing a baby and/or a pregnancy is not a failure. It is a loss. A loss is a loss. Try not to define in any other way. I know, we all like to label things in life. Something is good, something else is bad, and a third thing is average. That is the way we think, judge things and life and make sense of the world. It provides us with safety in a world that is often crazy and down right scary.
But labels are a tricky thing for a loss. We can all agree that a loss is devastating, heartbreaking or soul destroying. We need it to leave it at that though. Don’t’ go further and think the loss happened because your ovaries are bad or your uterus is lazy or your body is bad in general. No!
Blame is not needed and not wanted.
It is another powerful way of thinking and feeling that blocks your way towards healing. The same approach here applies – acknowledge your intention to put blame on yourself and examine how it makes you feel.
Does blaming yourself help you feel better? Does it provide clarity?
If not then don’t do it. Do it less. I know, it is so hard. We as women are conditioned to blame ourselves, take responsibility for everything that goes wrong and be everyone’s punching bag.
But still – don’t do it. You deserve to talk about yourself and your loss gently. Your pain needs to show and be dealt with but just as it is – with no blame and guilt attached.
- Don’t pressure yourself
Our lives these days are very well time managed. We get up at a certain time; we rest for five minutes between tasks and shouldn’t be sick for more than a week. We don’t have time for more and we especially have very little time these days for grief and mourning. People around us definitely expect us to get ‘over it’ fairly quickly and often enough, we think that, too. We tell ourselves we are doing just fine and pretty good and that it’s all good.
To a point, we do this to protect ourselves from the pain and the sadness. No one wants to deal with that for days on end! We need a break from it so we try and tell ourselves that we are getting there. Quite often, that is exactly what is going on which is great!
For those times though where we tell ourselves things are fine because they are not, we enter self sabotage territory again. Telling ourselves we have to be fine or that we ARE fine won’t help us manage our pain any better. How can we not do this though, given everyone around us has lost interest and doesn’t want us to talk about our loss? It’s been a month so let’s all be happy again, right?
Of course not. Push that pressure away from you.
Your pain is real, it deserves to exist and be dealt with properly. There is no expiry date on your grief and you need to take all the time you need to heal.
If there are people around you who think you should be ‘done’ within a certain time frame then create some space for yourself away from them. Their pressure on you is neither fair nor appropriate. Don’t give in to it. This is your journey and you decide on the pace.
4. Don’t explain
It seems we have a lot of explaining to do after our losses. People don’t understand what happened and neither do we. Of course we are all looking for answers and it’s one of the hardest parts of our journey when we don’t find any. Or maybe we can only find some but our most pressing questions remain unanswered. So we start to explain things by ourselves – my body failed me, something is wrong with me; it’s all my fault.
It happens so easily and quickly. We want people to understand why we lost our babies but if we lack answers, we turn to self-blame quickly to give them something.
And that is just wrong. It was and is NOT your fault, nothing is wrong with you and your body hasn’t failed you or anyone else. Your body is your body. It struggles some times and other times it is doing just fine. It has gone through trauma and it needs time to regroup. A positive mindset can help with that but self-blame doesn’t.
It is such a hard road to travel on but don’t make it harder by trying to please others and giving them answers and explanations when all we can say really is ‘I miss my baby’ and ‘I am hurting’.
It should be up to others to comfort us, not make this struggle harder on us.
- Don’t listen to expectations
Expectations are a bitch, whether they are your own or others.
We all have them and most of the time that is just fine. We expect to get home ok or to receive a letter. But when it comes to having children and pregnancy, expectations are sky high, by everybody. Grandparents to be expect a grandchild and feel entitled to voice that expectation over and over again, deaf and blind to any pain that may cause their child or their child’s partner.
And once others shared their (inappropriate) expectations with us, they start to weigh heavily on our shoulders. We already have our own. We expect to have a baby and soon and we expect it to be all a-ok. That’s normal. It’s how it should be, really. In an ideal world, no family would ever lose a baby. Not a single one.
But we are not in an ideal world.
Our babies have died. Expectations have not been fulfilled.
Next thing we know, they are soaring high again. We can’t help it; it is how we are conditioned. It’s ok to have expectations. It’s NOT ok to let them wash over you though and putting you in the self blame corner again.
You deserve to heal. You deserve to take your time.
You deserve to shut out those expectations. Feel free to have some attitude, too.
No one has the right to expect anything of you after you lost your baby. There are heaps of expectations on those around you such as helping you and comforting you. But for you, there is only important thing right now – to heal and do it at your own pace. We can deal with expectations later. You are worthy of rest and recovery right now.