On December 16, 2018, Erin Mills (@erin.mills) lost her unborn daughter, Opal Claire. She took to Instagram and shared her experience, and in the process met up with Alison Valsamis (@braidedandblonde), who had also lost her unborn daughter, Sevasti. To help others recover from pregnancy loss and grief overall, the two hairstylists decided to join forces to host an Instagram Live Grief Support Group on Monday, January 21 at 9 P.M. Eastern. They will discuss their roads to recovery and encourage others to understand that grief is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it something to hide. We reached out to both of them to answer some questions and get the conversation surrounding loss and grief started.
Beauty Launchpad: Erin, please tell us about the Live and what you hope to accomplish.
Erin Mills: I decided that I want to interview people about their stories of loss, trauma and survival to learn about their different stages of grief, how they felt, who they lost and, most importantly, how they’ve healed. There needs to be a bigger conversation about grief and how crippling it truly is. About how people need to reach out, and that purpose will get you through the pain. I tell myself daily, “You have to get through the pain to get to the healing.” When others join the conversation, we have the ability to unite together to create change for other people who might experience the same pain in their lifetime. I want them to know they CAN get through it, and that there are many of us who will be there for them.
BL: How did you choose to work with Alison Valsamis?
EM: Alison reached out to me a day after I lost my daughter. I was in total despair, and she played a big part in giving me hope that one day I would find joy again. She has continued to reach out, and we shared an almost immediate bond. I feel as though we were connected even though we have never officially met in person. She is a survivor, and more than that, she is brave and kind. She has prevailed despite her loss. I credit Alison for giving me the courage to speak my truth. She has encouraged me every step of the way, and even offered to talk live with me.
BL: Alison, why is this Live important to you?
Alison Valsamis: It’s important to me for so many reasons, but mostly because when I lost my daughter, my whole world collapsed. It was incredibly painful, isolating, dark and debilitating—physically and emotionally. It’s been over 3 years and it took me a long time to heal because I tried to do it on my own and I tried to push it away. Worse, I didn’t know how to ask people to support me and I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. When I learned the statistics on pregnancy and infant loss I couldn’t believe how common it was. If it was that common, then why had I felt so alone? Why didn’t I talk about all the ugly, angry, sad, guilty or strange stages of my grief? This Live is important to me because I want to share this information. It is important that people know the normalcy of the grieving process and I want to empower people to heal in a healthy way. And to celebrate the children they are so afraid no one will remember.
BL: What has been your biggest learning moment about this journey so far?
AV: I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a little over a year after her death. I was sitting on my couch, sleep deprived, sad, completely shut down. I had a very clear realization. I had 2 options.... I could literally continue on in my darkness, not showing up for my boys, not showing up for my husband... I could resign to have died that day with her. Or I could take all the energy my grief took and use it to heal properly and make sure my daughter hadn’t died in vain. And that’s the lesson. We can choose to empower ourselves and each to do the work it takes to heal in a healthy way. It was a now or never moment for me.
BL: Should someone who hasn’t experienced a miscarriage or other loss tune in? Why?
EM: Absolutely! The one thing I have learned through talking to people who’ve lost someone is that loss is loss. Grief is the same. It is a wave of suffocation mixed with a few escaping breaths. It is sadness so deep, you think you will never again be able to find joy. My job is to talk about that, and most importantly, to give people the story of how others healed and even grew despite their losses.
AV: I think everyone will benefit from this conversation in some way. Part of what makes this experience so isolating is most times the people that love you don’t know how to help you. They don’t know what to say or do. I think supporting someone who is grieving in ways that help them go through the process and the emotions is life changing. And the bigger message is that we have all lost SOMETHING. Grief is grief. The stages psychologically play out the same. And that human experience is something we all have to get back to.
BL: If you had one goal with this, what would it be?
EM: I want to let those grieving know that they are not alone. You are not alone! Everyone I have talked to so far has felt the same loneliness, as I did, because people around them just didn’t know what to say so they just didn’t say anything. Or, they stop reaching out after the initial loss. I also want them to know that it WILL get easier, that you will again feel happiness. I want more people to talk about their grief honestly, so we will all be more prepared to handle it, or to help someone we know who losses someone.
BL: What is next after this Live?
EM: After this Live with Alison, I am going to continue to interview others on their losses and their healing. I have talked to people who have lost their children, husbands, parents and best friends. I feel so honored to help them share their stories. Alison and I will be doing a monthly Live Support Group! We believe that we were guided to each other to help others because of our daughters. We want to continue by giving monthly live support with question and answer topics, and tips on healing from our personal journeys.
Photo: Courtesy of @erin.mills