Sunday, October 31, 2010

A not so subtle illustration

I have been asked so many times over the past six years (gosh, can it be almost 7 since Ellanor left us?!), what "should" people do or say around their loved one whose baby has died. It's a tricky question to answer, because it's not as simple as any finite hard and fast rule. Commonsense, I would like to think, plays a decent part in anyone's approach as to how best they can work their way through with their friend/loved one.

But I will give an example (below), which - oh what a surprise! - is an excerpt from my book, and hopefully illustrates just one of the ideal ways that I was shown the space with grace (as I put it) to simply *be* in any given moment. Only a very few special people are able to do this, unfortunately, from all accounts I've come across in my time, listening to others' stories of loss and a desire to not have their situation waved or hugged or talked away. I'd like to think that by sharing this, there might blossom even more of those graceful angels amongst us:

     One of my oldest, dearest friends was having her 30th birthday celebrations at a restaurant in the city. I had been looking forward to the outing ever since we had received the invitation. Stacey and I had lost touch for a few years – different schools and then different neighbours and work commitments had caused us to drift apart – but we had reconnected just days after Ella died, when Stacey called me out of the blue. It was a moment of pure uplifting joy for my soul as she entrusted to me the secret that she was in the early stages of her own precarious, uncertain pregnancy after already suffering two miscarriages. I could hear in Stacey’s voice the hesitant mixture of hope and anticipation with fear and nervousness about the baby’s survival and I identified with it instantly.
     Stacey went on to deliver a healthy, strong boy into the world. I finally mustered the nerve to meet up with them when the little bloke was about thirteen weeks old. I cried with joy for my friend but felt a tugging at my heart that I assumed would always happen now when I met any friends’ children for the first time. I was not wrong, as it turns out.
     Stacey was so lovely the day I met her son. While I was taking all this in, her pace and conversation slowed to match mine. Nothing was said in an attempt to gloss over my obvious pain. There was no rush to comfort me, no outstretched arms that made me feel awkward and obliged to accept a hug I didn’t want, no gestures that led me to believe I was being inappropriate. I quietly wept as I held her son and Stacey just sat with me, very focused and still. It felt so good. Gradually, we began to talk and I thanked her profusely for being so, well, normal towards my reaction! This was how I had hoped it could be and if one person, just one decent person in my life, could deliver me this space with her graceful presence, then I considered myself extremely fortunate.

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