Loss before gain: How to grieve during pregnancy

On a recent Sunday evening, my fiancee’s mother passed away.

Mrs. Robinson — who I will sometimes refer to as my mother-in-law, since I already call my fiancee “wife” on a regular basis — had been dealing with a series of health issues since beating breast cancer years ago. As many people have unfortunately learned from witnessing it up-close, the cancer treatment can ravage the body as much as the cancer itself.

So while her loss was not a complete surprise, it was still sudden and unexpected when it happened. Mrs. Robinson passed the day before she was going to have a stent procedure to improve her heart health.

The day Taylisha (my fiancee) lost her mother was the same day she reached the 30-week milestone of twin pregnancy.

The day of the funeral service is the same day Taylisha has one of her twice-a-week non-stress tests to monitor the twins as the third trimester winds down.

Taylisha is going through the grief process — the wholly unique experience of losing a mother that people will only go through once — about two months shy of our anticipated delivery date.

How can you properly and healthily mourn a loss so close to bringing new life into the world?

Due to the circumstances of the day, I knew about Mrs. Robinson’s passing before Taylisha found out. I had to give her the phone so her father and brother could give her the bad news.

As I heard her voice begin to crack in disbelief and saw her eyes begin to water, my gaze turned to her pregnant stomach. As much as I was worried for my fiancee, I was worried for our babies.

I could tell from Taylisha’s reaction that how she processed the news was also linked to the babies. If she wasn’t pregnant, I believe she may have been open to allowing herself to fall apart in grief. Because she is pregnant, I’ve watched her try to keep herself calm in times when it would be difficult for anyone to stay calm.

She doesn’t want to do anything to upset the babies. I don’t want her to do anything to upset the babies. Almost all of the family and friends I’ve heard Taylisha talk to have said something along the lines of “don’t stress yourself out.” Meanwhile, I haven’t heard anyone advise her to “let it out.”

Are we all being negligent to someone who is dealing with a one-of-a-kind personal loss? Are we all hoping she suppresses some very raw emotions because it’s not good for others?

Or is this the first truly tough example of a parent needing to put the well-being of their children above their own?

It’s already been decided that we won’t fly to Nevada for the funeral. That decision was made before our OBGYN advised against traveling this late into the pregnancy. (None of this had anything to do with COVID-19 travel restrictions or concerns.)

Fortunately, my fiancee is a mental health professional who is very in-tune with her emotions and well-versed in the grieving process. She is also surrounded by a lot of friends who work in the same field. I trust her to at least have a knowledge base for what she’s going through, whereas someone like me may not be able to identify the how and the why for the feelings rising inside me.

It’s still early. The news is still fresh. There have been moments of deep pain and sorrow, and moments of ease and laughter. Things have been normal — except for when they’re not normal.

All I’ve really learned so far is there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

A recurring theme has been regret.

Regret that my mother-in-law won’t be there to meet her daughter’s first-born children. That she won’t be there to watch the infants grow into toddlers and eventually into teenagers. That she won’t be there for our wedding, or to step into her daughter’s first house.

From my end, there is regret that my sons won’t be able to meet their grandmother on their mother’s side. Regret that my fiancee won’t be able to share the mother-daughter bonding moments with her mother that I’ve witnessed my sister and my mother have had surrounding my sister’s children.

There’s also regret that I’m not encouraging my fiancee to mourn her loss as fully as she needs to. But I, and she, and we, and everyone else, has to think about the babies.

Because one thing I have heard almost everyone say to my fiancee is something along the lines of, “That’s what your mother would want.”

So that’s what we do.

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