Just after our darling Bella left us we had the opportunity to meet with an amazing couple who had lost their daughter just 10 days after Bella died, 9 days after she had turned 1 years old.
It was really amazing to connect with people that are having the same experience as us at the same time. We have connected with a few people who have also lost children but generally they have been further down their grief journey than we have been.
To meet with people that have survived what you are currently so deeply entrenched in gives you faith and knowledge that you will get through this time, that you will start to piece your life together. That you will be forever altered and changed but that you will survive. But to meet with people who are in an incredibly similar situation to us, at the same time is somehow just different and very powerful.
In the build up to our I will admit that I was somewhat nervous. I was looking forward to it in one way but also apprehensive about it in another. I guess they had been able to get some insight into where we were in our process through our blog, but I didn't know what space they were in. When you are so fragile, you only want to surround yourself with people that will make you feel better about things, not worse; people that give you energy and don't sap you of energy. And I was worried that they may be bitter, angry or resentful and that this would bring me down and shatter the tiny semblance of strength I have managed to pull together. I needn't have worried. What wonderful, warm, kind, heartfelt people.
We immediately connected and felt comfortable. K walked down the stairs into our home, and we just hugged and hugged each other. As 2 mothers who had both lost a child we didn't need to say a single word to each other, we just knew. And tears were okay, in fact welcome. You didn't need to feel funny about crying in front of strangers, apologise or explain. Because these people were not strangers even though we had just met them. They knew and understood the deepest pain you will ever experience, and were doing everything possible to just survive every day, as we were.
What was wonderful to chat about and see is how they have also experienced the wonderful power of community, of people reaching out and wrapping you in cotton wool. Of strangers or people you barely know helping you completely selflessly, just because they can. And being reminded every day of the inherent good in people. And of the power of letting people help you, succumbing to your own vulnerability and weakness and accepting the hand that is reaching out to pull you along when you can't do it yourself. Just as we have been completely carried through this time by our friends, family and community, so have they. Out of everything bad comes something good, and this is certainly one of the very very good things!
We could chat to them so completely openly about things.
We could chat to them so completely openly about things – not that we haven't been able to with others – but just that they could give the most personal and real response and share because they knew and are going through it, living it, every day.
They understand the tug on your heart strings when you see a stranger with a baby who would have been a similar age to your little one. They understand why weddings are difficult because as that beautiful bride walks down the aisle you are hit with a physical punch in the stomach with the reality that that will never be your daughter. They understand why social gatherings and too many people is so difficult and overwhelming, that following a conversation can be so so hard. Apparently when something like this happens your brain only functions at 5-10% of its normal capacity for at least 6 months after and I can fully believe that!
They understand that people not acknowledging the thing that consumes your thought every moment of every day is so hard. They understand the fear of being in a situation where you have to tell someone that your child has died, how hard saying those words really is. How you practice and practice in your head what to say, but when it comes down to it, it's just almost impossible. They understand those memories that creep up on your when you least expect it, and how actually physically debilitating that can be. They understand the trudge of just getting through each and every day.
They understand how hard it can be as a couple, in every way. Its hard when you both feel weak, it's hard when one feels strong and the other weak because you don't want to bring the strong one down. It's hard to be kind to each other all the time when you are crying inside and sometimes outside. But it's one of the most important things you can do – to be kind to each other. Because you each deal with your grief in a different way, at a different pace, and that's okay and needs to be respected.
They understand about your thoughts as to whether you will stay in your house or whether you will move. They understand about "pretending" that your child isn't gone forever, about forgetting every now and then, and then being reminded with a punch in the gut, and feeling the pain all over again. They understand about the guilt you feel when you "forget" for even just a minute and sing along to a song on the radio or just zone out while exercising, and actually feel a little less emotionally heavy, and then you feel guilty because you are "carrying on" without your most precious little bundle, your life is moving on and they aren't with you.
They understand about your thoughts around having more children and the huge fears that come along with that.
They understand about needing to leave everything exactly as it was. Leaving the bottles, toys, clothes, their bedroom, exactly as they were, not being able to pack away anything, because that would be a final acknowledgement that your darling child is gone from your life, and that none of us have the physical or emotional strength to deal with that right now. They understand about your thoughts around having more children and the huge fears that come along with that. They truly understand about what a blessing life is. They understand about the decision around where and how to scatter your child's ashes, the only physical thing that now remains of them. They understand that somehow you just know that your child is safe and being taken care of and the immense amount of comfort and peace that knowledge gives you. As a mother particularly, you just need to know that you child is safe.
They just understand.
We are all wanting to do something to make a difference, to challenge ourselves and to ensure our darling daughters' memory and legacy lives on. To make something good out of something bad! And we all individually and as couples are figuring out ways to do this, places to focus our energy and how to help others.
We are so sorry that we are part of this club, a club we would never willingly invite any other parent into, but seeing as we are here, how wonderful that we can share together and hopefully give each other just a little bit of comfort.