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Accept that conflicting emotions are normal

December 5, 2012

One morning you wake up, jump out of bed, get dressed, have a shower, eat your breakfast, and feel as happy as a lark. Then, suddenly, you remember that you’ve forgotten you should be depressed, because your baby died.

That moment happens to all of us, although probably in different set of circumstances.

In that moment, you will feel guilty about feeling happy.

Or maybe, when you found out you were pregnant it was news that couldn’t have come at a worse time – financially, or because of your job, or because of your age, or whatever the circumstance might have been. Then, when your baby died, you felt relief, and then guilt at feeling that relief.

Or, maybe your baby had been diagnosed with some abnormality, and when s/he died, you felt relief at not having to deal with the pressures that come with raising a baby with an abnormality. Then you feel guilt at feeling relief.

Or, maybe you just feel (irrationally) guilty that somehow you caused your baby’s death, and then feel anger towards the medical team, or the hospital, that they must have caused the death.

Or, maybe you wanted a boy, but your baby was a girl (or vice versa), and then she died.

Conflicting emotions are normal. Everyone gets them. While they’re not pleasant to experience, they are perfectly normal.

Conflicting emotions are not rational. Having said that, telling yourself they’re not rational doesn’t really help you to stop feeling them.

Rather, the best way to deal with them is to accept them for what they are – grief emotions – and express them in a safe manner (see a previous post about expressing your emotions). Don’t beat yourself up about them – berating yourself isn’t helpful and often only makes you feel worse – like there’s something wrong with you, which there isn’t.

It’s perfectly normal and natural to have wildly conflicting emotions. It’s OK to feel these different and contradictory emotions. Be gentle with yourself as you do – you can’t help what you feel, but you can help how you choose to react to your emotions.

In the next post we look at the final grief task: deciding where to spend your energy.

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