Jealousy is one of those things that we don’t want to admit to – not in it’s true sense anyway. “So jealous!” might be something we exclaim in response to someone’s good fortune or exciting news, but how comfortable are we in really connecting with the real felt experience of jealousy? Society encourages us to say that we are not a ‘jealous person’. In many ways, it is demonised. And yet jealousy is a normal emotion. It is how we respond to and interact with that emotion that counts.
In this letter, Anna is compassionate towards her own experience of this emotion, but empowered to take back the control. She says:
“I wrote this letter because jealousy has a horrible habit of creeping into the parts of life which should be the most joyful (baby announcements, family events, and holidays, to name a few). It’s not often spoken about, and is considered deeply unattractive, yet we all experience it and often suffer the effects in silence. 19 months after the death of my daughter, I needed to redress the balance.”
Anna is mummy of Amelia (in our hearts) and Beatrice (in our arms) and can be found on Instagram @love_from_mummy
A wise man once said:
“Comparison is the thief of joy” [Theodore Roosevelt]
It was only after the death of my daughter that I truly began to understand what those words meant.
Life “before” was simple. I worked hard and got good grades. I went to Cambridge and read Law. I married my childhood sweetheart. I wore an ivory dress with 7 layers of tulle and we had a cake with iced flowers. We bought a small, terraced house. I worked some more. I ate brunch and owned matching underwear.
Next, I was pregnant. I was anxious and sick, but joyful beyond measure. Her heart beat below mine and we danced as one for 6 months.
Then everything changed.
As the snowflakes swirled outside the hospital window and the radio filled the silence, our baby girl arrived. Amelia was born too soon. And she was perfect. And she died.
That day, my life (like my broken heart) split in two.
Until that day, you and I were mere acquaintances. You were a fleeting feeling; you were the shiny images in a magazine; you were the smell of expensive, new shoes in tissue paper; you were the sight of students celebrating the end of theirexams from inside the library.
That was “before”.
“After”, you weren’t just fleeting anymore. You were the constant shadow, the uninvited guest.
You became the reason for declining invitations to parties with children. Or bumps. Or happiness.
You became the compulsion to scan every photo on social media for evidence of pregnancies in order to ensure that my heart didn’t have to endure any unexpected announcements.
You even became the tears that stung at the simple sight of a cheerful stranger on the tube. You planted the irrational thought that those people could never have experienced true sadness. And you made me wish that I could feel that way.
If it is possible to be jealous of a previous version of yourself, that is what I became. Suddenly, I was deeply envious of the girl who smiled on the bus, who felt alive in the rain and who didn’t know the utter tragedy of losing a child. I was her. And then I wasn’t.
I don’t need to return to the person I was; I would choose my baby every time, even knowing how cruelly she would be snatched away. But I am ready to regain control.
Fear of comparison will not force me to watch my own life from backstage. The grief that comes from missing my daughter will not prevent me from immersing myself in joy and celebration. You will allow me to be thankful that others do not know grief, not resentful that I do.
And the longing for what I can never have will no longer overshadow my gratitude for what I do have.