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Among the emails I receive daily are suicide notes.

Some women just write to express their fears about having thoughts of suicide. Others are in full-blown distress, ready to give up on this world.

When I first began receiving emails like this, I felt panicked. I was not trained in even the most basic psychology. I had no experience with women who were reaching out. I had no idea what I could do or say to make a difference.

But when that first one arrived, I had little I could do but respond, and fast. I actually DID call a suicide hotline and asked them what to say and do. I learned some very important things, and I share those as well as ideas that are specific to us–the mothers of lost babies.

First, there are two categories of thoughts about suicide: passive and active.

Passive thoughts include just wishing for death, considering how others will handle your suicide, and feeling the need to ease the intensity of your emotional and sometimes physical pain. You might research suicide on the Internet or look over books about it. You are just thinking about dying. These are normal and happen to everyone in times of depression or distress.

Active thoughts include considering what method of suicide you might use, counting pills, locating a gun in the house, or making any sort of plans. This is a stage where you actually DO things. If you get this far–then it’s time to get help NOW. The quickest and simplest is to stop everything, pick up your phone, and call 1-800-SUICIDE.

I think it is fine to reach out to anyone who will listen when your thoughts are passive. Most of the women who write me are frustrated with family and friends who are not understanding. I know now that all they need from me is validation that their feelings are real and serious and difficult, that their baby was wonderful and the loss is impossibly hard, and that it’s a long road to recovery, not the three or so days others believe it should last. You can find this sort of help at a pregnancy loss group, on bulletin boards on the Internet, or even among your friends who have had miscarriages that you didn’t know about.

When you get to the active stage, however, you simply cannot rely on friends and family anymore. They may not get it. They might not see. Their failure to take this seriously or to listen will compound your depression and can even trigger you to act. It’s critical you find someone, anyone, who can guide you to professional help.

When I wrote Tina’s suicide attempt into the book, I tried to show how passive thoughts can morph into active ones. Most of the time we can see the shift, as long as we know ahead of time that there is a difference. For Tina, though, it happened too fast. The post-pregnancy hormone changes don’t help, making every system in your body less able to cope.

Here is her segment of the novel. 

On that day she came home from the hospital, all Tina knew was that her baby was dead, her boyfriend gone, and she’d soon be booted back to the horror of public school. Leaning over the sink in her bathroom, she washed her face and hands and the gleam of water on her white wrists seemed too pristine, too pearl. The razors lay neatly in the chest of art supplies and she stopped thinking, stopped rationalizing anything at all. The act wasn’t about killing herself, not in that moment, or about escaping, it was about marring the perfection of her arms. She was tainted, her baby had died, she was unloved and unwanted. She felt she should be marked by this–that her physical body should bear the scars of the death of her happiness.

She leaned her pale arm against the sink and didn’t hesitate once. 

The main thing I wanted to get across today to those of you who have googled miscarriage and suicide, or miscarriage and wanting to die, which are very common combinations that bring you to this blog, is there is an important difference between thoughts of dying and thoughts of how to do it. If you are still in the first category, keep reading, keep reaching out, keep healing. You will get there. If you start to shift, if you sense your thoughts moving toward plans or funerals or even revenge–ACT. Act NOW.

Email me.
Join my forums where others have been where you are.
Or call 1-800-SUICIDE.

But do something. Life the way it is now is not the way it will be a year from now. I once contemplated taking my car off a cliff and into the fog about two weeks after my baby died. We had found out the genetic testing had failed, our marriage was falling apart, and we were fighting like we never had.

I didn’t know then that less than twelve months later I would give birth to a healthy little girl and a few years later to a second. I’m glad I hung around to find out.

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Most every day I will receive two to five emails from women who have lost a baby. I try to always respond.

Many just want to share their story–to tell anyone and let it pour out. I always imagine it is like poison, or snake venom, and you simply have to purge it from your body in order to survive. I’ve heard most every situation that can be told after eight years, and I can handle anything laid in my inbox.

The beta readers who are going over Baby Dust right now also email me, mentioning moments in various characters that they feel reflect me. Stella, certainly, in her unabashed devotion to the group for a decade, often will say things I write in my emails to women–encouragement or concern or a reminder that the future will look very different that the landscape currently in view. I too once thought I would never have children, only loss after loss. I probably hit my lowest low when I was pregnant for the second time and my doctor called me to say my screenings with this new baby were abnormal.

“It will happen again,” I thought, my belly already fat enough that I had to lean forward to rest my head on the work desk. “It will happen over and over again until I can’t take it anymore.”

And that was when I formed a resolution I still repeat to women who feel their losses will recur and they can’t face it. “Can you make it through one more?” I ask them. “Not two more or five more or an endless stream of them. But just one more?”

When you say yes, you know you can make it through one more loss, you are ready to try again. Because your last loss may indeed have been your last loss.

I think all of us find ourselves riddled with self-doubt at times. Sometimes I wonder if I am any sort of spokesperson on this issue. Regularly I fear I’ve gone too far, or not far enough. I examine the outline of the book, review the situations, struggle with whether or not I covered everything. If I got things right.

Conceiving an idea is such great fun. There is so much joy in it, such hope. You can believe in something when the concept is broad and bright and entirely in the future. The execution of it is all together different. There are potholes, gaps, chasms, gorges between your dream and its fruition. You wonder if you fail, how many people will watch you go down.

Baby Dust is with six readers right now from various demographics. Women who’ve lost babies, women who haven’t. Doctors and editors and just writer friends who have no idea what darkness I’ve laid in their hands. I will listen to what they have to say about it, make my adjustments where need be.

For the people who read it who’ve never been through a miscarriage, I find they don’t believe some of it. “Of course you have to go to the hospital!” they say, and refuse to accept that this might not be the best course.

“No one would say that!” they exclaim when they see what comments are made to women fresh from their losses. They can’t imagine they might be told “It wasn’t really a baby anyway,” or “Just try again and you’ll be fine.” Or our favorite, “It was all in God’s plan.”

Initially I think–exactly, and that’s why you need to read this book. And learn. Then I think, what if they still don’t believe it? What if these scenarios do more harm than good? What if people think it’s gratuitous? Or disingenuous? Or manipulative? Or just bad?

Today I grapple with both anxiety and hope, much like we do when we learn we are pregnant again after a loss. Yes, it could turn terrible, and we might face awful devastation. But it could also be wonderful.

I take solace in Winston Churchill.

You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.

I sure do hope he’s right.