March 21, 2019 | By Catherine McNulty | General
I remember being VERY apprehensive at my first Empty Cradle meeting. It was only a few days after my loss and all I wanted to do was sit at home and cry. My social worker told me that it would be good for me to go and because I wanted the pain to stop, I decided to go and see what it was all about. I was apprehensive because I didn’t know what it would be like. The idea that I had lost a baby was foreign to me and going to a meeting was an admission that I had lost my baby. I wasn’t ready to move on. I didn’t want to move on. I wanted to be with my little boy.
Every mother has a hard time walking into that first Empty Cradle meeting. We are already fragile beyond belief and it takes a lot of courage to step into the unknown, yet again. It doesn’t help that we look awful, with our red eyes and puffy faces that still have a constant stream of tears falling. Furthermore, our energy level is low from the emotional and physical exhaustion created over the last days or weeks.
I introduce Empty Cradle, how it was formed, and share why I choose to volunteer. It’s cathartic to me to revisit my story each month. It is a reminder of why I’m compelled to help others who are new to the grief that I’ve spent 8 years processing.
I begin each meeting by looking each new mother or father in the eye and saying,
“I want you to know that you are going to be okay. You will get through this. It feels awful now, but it won’t be this way forever. We are here to help. We are here to remind you that because we survived our loss, we know that you can too. You are not alone. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
We each share our stories, talk about what is most challenging and focus on how we can play an active role in our healing. We talk about grief and what to expect as we embark on our own personal grief journey. We talk about the differences between men and women and how we grieve differently. We talk about the well-meaning people in our lives who have an unbelievable ability to say the wrong thing at the right time. We focus on what to say to our friends and family, how to deal with colleagues at work, and what to do when everyone else has forgotten our loss and moved on.
As a facilitator, it is miraculous to see both the pain and the strength in the faces before me and to watch as the meeting progresses, how the stiffness in their bodies begins to soften as they start to relax and they feel connected to the other moms and dads around them. There is a comradery that quickly develops as they see the similarities in their stories and know for the first time since their loss that they don’t have to grieve alone. There are other people who understand, who get it, and who can sit in the pain with you without trying to fix it or give you advice.
As the meeting ends after an hour and a half, we all look up at the clock in disbelief that the time has gone so fast, and that we’ve connected so quickly with total strangers. We all give each other hugs as we say our goodbyes and we discuss the next monthly meeting. We are not sure if we will ever meet again but knowing that we can sit with people who get it each and every month provides both comfort and hope that we will each survive our own personal loss.
Catherine McNulty is the current support meeting facilitator at our Carlsbad meeting. She also serves as our Community Outreach Coordinator.