John Legend, Chrissy Teigen gave the gift of grief, here’s what they deserve in return
OPINION: Pregnancy loss is devastating, which is why those who've experienced it deserve to do whatever they need to access healing.
The photos released by Chrissy Teigen and John Legend should be revered for the gift that they are. As celebrities, they had no choice but to make their loss public, but they didn’t simply share their loss, they gave us images that let us in on their grief, and for that we should be grateful.
Losing a pregnancy is a special kind of grief. You mourn for everything that could have been. For hopes and dreams that will never be fulfilled. While some form of pregnancy loss impacts 10-25% of all pregnancies, and many women will experience more than one loss, we still struggle to talk about it, and often judge the women who do.
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We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough. . . We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever. . . To our Jack – I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive. We will always love you. . . Thank you to everyone who has been sending us positive energy, thoughts and prayers. We feel all of your love and truly appreciate you. . . We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience. But everyday can’t be full of sunshine. On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out. But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it.
When I decided it was time to share our struggle with infertility, my husband’s greatest concern was how I would be treated as a result. How would people respond to me? Would I be judged or mistreated?
We are seeing with the #OhChrissy hashtag that his fears were valid, but I know as someone who lost a parent at a young age, how not sharing your grief can harm you, how it can destroy you. I know how burdensome it is to act like you’re OK while silently carrying your pain. I know that wouldn’t serve me and in fact, maybe sharing could help others feel less alone or broken with their grief.
When my body betrayed me last summer, and my one surviving embryo failed to turn into the child that I longed for, I felt a special kind of defeat. My body had failed to do that one thing we as women are expected to do, the most basic thing, sustain life.
It was a different kind of grief from what I experienced when I lost my mother. There is something about pregnancy loss that makes you feel somehow complicit in your own suffering. It is horrible, and when it happens, people deserve to do whatever they need to do to access healing and instead of silencing or mocking women, we need to encourage them to share their stories.
Grief makes us all a little better, a little more human, a little more empathic, so we should be grateful for those who are willing to invite us to bear witness to their pain.
For better or worse, miscarriage and pregnancy loss are a part of life. They are a part of the motherhood journey for so many women. We need to learn to apply the same comfort we have with celebrating women’s ability to sustain life, to the pain and grief they experience when they lose that life.
Grief is love, and we need to learn to hold space for the pain and devastation that comes from grief. If people can find the energy and imagination to host obscene and unnecessary gender reveal parties, now that we can’t have parties, perhaps we can shift some of that attention and energy to holding space for people’s grief when a pregnancy doesn’t work out as expected.
I know the pain of pregnancy loss and the sadness that comes when hopes go unfulfilled. I know the love one is capable of holding for a child you haven’t yet met. The physical, mental, and emotional sacrifices you’re willing to make bring that child into this world, and the grief experienced when it doesn’t work. I know the vulnerability required to hit “post” on an IG image that conveys your broken-heartedness. What I needed then, and still sometimes need now, was space to physically heal and to acknowledge all of these confusing and complicated feelings.
I needed people to tell me they loved me and to simply sit with me in my brokenness and not try to fix anything. I needed the ability to be honest about what had happened to me and my body and my husband.
I needed to exist in a world that valued me for who I was absent from my ability to successfully reproduce. I needed a world void of the stigma that so often accompanies pregnancy loss and conversations around women’s bodies. I needed kindness and compassion and grace, and I hope we can all find space in our hearts to give those things to John and Chrissy.
They gave us the gift of their grief, and I hope we can in turn give them what they deserve: love and understanding absent of any judgment or stigma.
Marisa Renee Lee is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Beacon Advisors, co-founder of Supportal, and founder of the breast cancer charity, The Pink Agenda. She lives in the DC area with her husband Matthew and dog Sadie.
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