Pain, Joy, & Walking on Eggshells

 

Yesterday, it was pointed out that getting all gushy on Valentine’s Day could be hurtful to others who aren’t in relationships or, perhaps even more, to those who were in rocky relationships.

 

It’s a good point. And, admittedly, I was a bit chastened upon reading it since, as I’ve acknowledged before, I am one who absolutely adores the holiday and, well, I did marry Mr. Valentine.

 

Just because I delight in the holiday and feel lucky to be spoiled and adored by my guy does not mean I have to share all that info with everyone in the world. There’s no reason I can’t quietly enjoy my happy day without broadcasting it. I could definitely be better about that.

 

At the same time, as I thought about this more and more, it reminded me of an article I’d recently read about a woman struggling with infertility who was hurt by some pregnancy joke that was apparently circulating on Facebook sometime around Christmas. (I did not personally ever see this joke– thank you, friends of mine, for apparently being mature enough to skip that one!)

 

Anyway, I totally understand why she had felt hurt and I was angry for her– until she went on to say that she had been so angry that her friend would be pregnant again when she already had a seven-month-old. Further, she was beyond hurt that said friend would even consider announcing it on Facebook!

 

And that’s where she lost me.

 

Because, you see, we all have stories. We all have wounds that aren’t quite healed. Some of us bear wounds that are still open and hurting. No one is immune from having a history marred with pain.

 

Those who have lived through infertility and/or miscarriage may very well feel a stab of pain when they hear another’s pregnancy announcement– that is legitimate and understood.

 

It does NOT, however, mean that women who are flushed with excitement about their pregnancies shouldn’t be able to share that joy with their friends and family. It does NOT mean that they shouldn’t be able to announce it however they darn well please. And it does NOT take away from the fact that this is her story and she has as much right to express her delight as those who are struggling have the right to express their hurt.

 

You all know I lost a baby. In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago now that I was told the heartbeat was slowing and our child would likely die. Have all the (gazillions of) pregnancy announcements this past year been hard? Sometimes. Have I shed a few tears? Of course. Some of the most difficult for me, to be honest, were probably Mary Jo‘s pregnancy updates simply because she was due just a couple weeks after I would have been.

 

But, beyond the pain, I felt such joy for her. They were SEPARATE things. I could be sad for me and happy for her at the same time.

 

While I am absolutely cognizant of the need to be sensitive and to not deliberately make people feel bad, at what point does the eggshell tiptoeing end? At what point do we acknowledge that people who are happy are not really the cause of others being sad?

 

I don’t know. I suppose it is always good to err on the side of caution and do your best not to pour salt in any potential wounds.

 

As usual around here, I don’t have any good answers to this. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about.

 

What do you think? Should those who are joyful hold back so as not to upset others? How far should we go to ensure others don’t feel hurt?

 

 

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21 comments to Pain, Joy, & Walking on Eggshells

  • The Bible says to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I think the command goes both way. The key here is not thinking about just ourselves – but also thinking about the other person. Being happy for them – even while grieving ourselves. Grieving for them – even while our own hearts are filled with joy. It’s all about seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus instead of our own.

    PS I’m so sorry it’s been an entire year since your loss. I still have down days in December and July when I lost my two – and it’s been seven years. The pain makes us all more sensitive.

    • Scriptural perspective is always a blessing– thank you, Melinda! (And thank you also for your kind words– I’m doing okay. My husband and I were actually able to talk about it a little bit last night, which is a good thing.)

  • I think we all have times in our lives that are joyful, and on the other hand, have times in our lives that suck. I don’t think it’s fair to expect others to hold back their joy. I saw a lot of people posting about “single awareness day” yesterday. Ok, well…how do you know this isn’t the year that you will meet someone amazing and next year will be YOUR best Valentine’s ever? You don’t. I am sorry about your baby. This post jumped out at me because I lost my baby a couple weeks ago in a situation very similar to yours – but my good friend happens to be pregnant too – we were due a day apart. I am still a little sad for me, but I am SO happy for her. My loss shouldn’t take away from her excitement and joy.

  • Here’s the thing. Everything. Literally EVERY SINGLE THING I write about my family, or me, or my happiness, or something I DON’T like, my blessings. EVERYTHING I say or type could offend, hurt, or discourage someone in some way, shape, or form.

    My 5yo who insists that “Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curves away” is hilarious to me. Might be hurtful to someone battling a weight problem.

    You JUST NEVER KNOW. So… my choice then (as I see it) is to never say anything about anything and remove myself from all blogging and social media (and relationships where I talk to people) or… live my life. With consideration for others as much as possible, yes. But still. LIVE MY LIFE. Share my blessings and happiness. Be happy (or sad) for others. And carry on.

    (I’ve thought about this one some, can you tell?) ;)

    • That’s just it– the most INNOCENT statement in the world could hurt someone because, as you said, “you just never know.” I’ll even go so far to say that I’m not sure I actually think it’s any kinder to shame people for sharing joy than it is to potentially (inadvertently) hurt someone’s feelings.

  • I agree….and yet I also think it depends on how well we know someone. I happen to know people who are single and I remember those tough valentine’s days – so I sent them a not telling them how much we loved them.
    And I don’t think we need to walk on eggshells per se, but if someone confides in you, telling you how much anxiety they’re experiencing over pregnancy announcements lately and how their insomnia is at an all time high – it’s probably not the best idea to surprise them at a family Christmas party two days later with a pregnancy announcement done in the same way they did for the baby they lost. Or when you know they’ve been unable to have another baby and you complain to them how fertile you are every time you seen them. That’s just plain hurtful.

    I also think it’s important to acknowledge another person’s pain. When you do, it’s easier for them to be happy for you all the while feeling pain for their own situation. And if you don’t, you often times lose them for awhile, or the relationship remains fractured, because it’s the only way they know how to protect themselves.

    • The single people I seem to know enjoy flaunting their freedom 364 days a year… so I’m not so worried about them surviving Valentine’s Day. :) But I do hear what you’re saying.

      By all means, be sensitive and aware. PAY ATTENTION to your friends and families and endeavor to treat people kindly. I’m all on board with that. And, of course, the closer the relationship, the more sensitive I think one should likely be. For instance, I would probably be more aware of (and, thus, careful with) my sister’s or my best friend’s struggles than, I don’t know, every single person who follows me on Twitter.

      Realistically, if someone needs to back away to protect herself, I respect that. If status updates are hidden or emails not replied to, I get that. But, just as the hurting individual needs to process that hurt, others deserve to process joy. It’s tricky. It really is. I totally do not have a perfect answer. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot…

      • I really think it boils down to being a person who cares. Of course we shouldn’t hold back our own joy. And as someone who may be struggling, we should be joyful for them in their situation. Just as “if we know” someone is struggling, that we choose our words a bit more carefully.

        We need to show each other grace quite often as well. For example, a fertile myrtle friend on baby #3 was upset that her SIL (infertile) had a hard time being around her during her pregnancy. If we can show each other grace and allow for some space without taking it personally, our relationships would be much more beneficial and enjoyable.

        And this is something I deal with all the time, because of my blog and its topic. Over half the women who read what I write are dealing with infertility or loss. So I don’t mention my children in my posts and I don’t show pictures of them. A couple of years ago I decided to stop any posts that had to do with pregnancy or baby care. I struggled with sharing the news of my pregnancy and lost followers because of it. When my readers subscribe I let them know what to expect from my updates and what social media outlets I mention my family. I don’t think I’ll share of any (hopefully) future pregnancies on the blog or FB page, BECAUSE it would be hurtful to many and not just a couple. But again, that’s my unique situation. (and also a frustration of mine, that much of my life has to remain hidden)

        I also think that any anger that surfaces is usually misplaced anger…….and we need to realize that we can be mad at our situation, but that anger at another who is receiving good news is inappropriate.

        • Yes. I agree with what you’ve written here, Donielle, though I’m going to be totally honest and confess that it does make me sad that you can’t share some parts of your life (assuming that you want to, of course.) You provide SO much insight, help, and information to so many… it saddens me that all those people benefitting from that couldn’t fully embrace your good news because of their own pain. I get it– I do– and I have all the respect in the world for the (selfless, really) choice you’ve made. But it still makes me sad.

  • Susan

    Jessie,

    You know already know my preemie story. We were told because of my eclampsia that I should never have any more babies. That really hurt especially because I had wanted one more and my husband doesn’t believe in adoption. At the time we were told to not have any children, we weren’t sure that Matthew would live either. I had to get over being sad when I saw other people’s babies. Now, I’m old enough that I’m glad I don’t have to change anymore diapers!!!

    As for Valentine’s Day, this old married couple did nothing. I’m not happy or sad about it. It’s just a fact in our married life. I’m sure you have facts in your married life that won’t change. So, you don’t have to be single to have nothing happen on Valentine’s Day.

    • I think you make a fantastic point about Valentine’s Day, Susan… quite honestly, it’s not a big deal for a lot of people, in a couple or not. Around here, we do it up big, but that’s our tradition. Others have huge 4th of July parties and we grill a few burgers and call it good. It doesn’t hurt my feelings to know others have giant festivities– it’s just life.

      I am at a point where other people’s babies don’t make me sad, but pregnancy announcements can still cause my stomach to flip for a moment. I’m hoping to work through that with time and healing. :)

  • Lori

    I have had 3 miscarriages, with 2 of them, I had friends and family that found out they were expecting at the same time. It was hard, however I never resented them or their babies. I was excited for them, but I will admit I was just the tiniest bit jealous as well.

    • I am so very sorry, Lori. I can’t really imagine dealing with a pregnancy announcement within my family while healing from a loss– though I know it happens to many. I will say that my best friend’s unexpected pregnancy announcement (she had told me less than a month prior that they were “done”) was very, very hard for me to hear. But, at the same time, I’m thrilled for her. I cannot wait to meet her little girl this Spring. The hurt/jealousy/happiness/anticipation can all live simultaneously within us.

  • mlearley

    This is a tough one. I can relate on both sides. You know my miscarriage story and I too had a friend who was due a month before me. Her pregnancy was the hardest on me but yet I knew they had been trying for over a year and I was super excited for this baby! Yes, there were times when she posted on facebook that hurt b/c I should’ve been feeling the first kick, etc around the same time but when it was difficult to read, I just ignored it. No comments were necessary.

    I think the statement about sensitve and aware is the most accurate thing about this subject. My SIL told us she was pregnant while we were still grieving but she was aware that we still had pain and if she knew talking about her pregnancy hurt me, she’d stop. Also, my brother is going through a separationg so I’ve been very careful as to what I say around him as to not hurt his feelings as well.

    • I think being sensitive is critical– and I honestly believe MOST people try to be. Still, bruised hearts may feel the ache. I get that, too. Maybe our error is in this assumption that either 1) it’s wrong to share news that could hurt feelings OR 2) it’s wrong to be hurt by another’s happy news. I don’t think either is true, but I’ve heard both statements made numerous times. The truth likely lies in the middle– we can share our joy in a respectful way and we shouldn’t feel bad if our own hurting makes it hard to feel celebratory. Both are normal and ok.

  • Barbara

    I’m single and always have been. I’ve got great friends and family. Yesterday I celebrated the fact that they have love in their lives, spouses and kids. The world needs more love, not less. Why not be happy for others? We should be sharing our love for all on Valentine’s Day not being petty about being single. How is that helping anyone? I read your post and loved it yesterday. It didn’t dawn on me to feel bad about myself because of it. Keep on being yourself I say.

    • Thanks so much for adding your perspective, Barbara– I truly appreciate it. Several of my Facebook friends are friends from college who are single. None of them seemed bothered by any of my Valentine’s happenings yesterday, but reading others’ takes on the whole thing was starting to make me feel bad. I love your view of the world needing more love– I agree! I loved Valentine’s Day well before I ever had a boyfriend. :)

  • Jennie

    This is a personal blog. Therefore you will write about personal things that may or may not relate to me. That’s good. I CHOOSE to read your blog. I can CHOOSE not too as well. You are not here to protect all of us from our feelings. You are writing because you love to write and share your wisdom, questions and thought provoking ideas. I totally agree with Amy on this topic.

  • Carol Bond

    @ Jennie and Barbara: EXACTLY what I was thinking too!!

    @ Amy: That was so cute that I literally laughed out loud (and scared the dogs…lol)

    JL, don’t forget that you give hope and encouragement to many women out their with your personal stories. I totally get (and can respect) the opposite side of this, I hope you will keep on keepin’ on. :)

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