Nine years ago I was standing at the funeral of a friend’s baby who died during birth, bawling my eyes out. I was absolutely inconsolable, much to my husband Russell’s dismay.
Now there was good reason to be upset. The death of a baby is pretty devastating, especially when it comes out of the blue. But my emotion was wound up in much more than that. I was so upset because I knew I was probably going to have to do that very same thing one day – lower my child into a grave. When Russell finally got some sense out of me, all I could say was, “I just don’t want to ever have to do that!”
But I just have. And you know what, it was ok. I made it. We made it. Well, over the first hurdle at least…
That’s the thing. It’s not over, this grief thing. It’s not some two month tear-fest that you come to the end of and just wring your hanky out. In fact it’s only just started. I realised that in the last week or two, getting out in the real world again – places where people are completely oblivious to what’s happened in our lives recently.
In most situations – school, kindy, wherever else – it feels like Nina didn’t even happen. Life just keeps rolling. In those environments, except for a few people I could count on one hand, there’s been no acknowledgement that anything’s changed. Perhaps they didn’t even realise I was pregnant. Perhaps they feel awkward asking what’s happened. Perhaps they just don’t know what to say.
Whatever the reason, it’s just plain odd, seeing it from the other side, as I can now. It’s a strange feeling and one that can easily make you frustrated with a world rather empty on empathy. But I can’t change people or their lack of response. I can control my reaction to it though. We all miss the mark sometimes in our attention to others and just what they might need. In fact, it’s made me realise how unfeeling or oblivious I’ve been in the past to friends going through stuff.
Of all the pain I’ve felt in the last few weeks, the invisibility of tragedy is what’s hurt the most. And it’s not a hard thing to make much easier for those hurting. I think we overthink things as adults – ‘Am I going to hurt their feelings?’ ‘Are they going to burst into tears?’ ‘I don’t know them well enough to ask’ ‘It’ll just be awkward!’ ‘Will they think I’m prying?’ Honestly, stop thinking about it and just do it.
Here’s the most profound thing someone’s said to me in the last few weeks since Nina died. Five words from a nine year old in a room full of 150 people… “I’m really sorry about Nina.” It pretty much sums up all you need to hear when you’re hurting. Somehow kids don’t skirt around the edges and worry what wrong words may fall out of their mouths
Thanks. Thank you for just acknowledging it. It’s all that needs to be said sometimes, rather than rolling back into normal conversation again with no mention of a devastating change that might have just happened in someone’s life. If you’re interested, sure, ask more questions. But honestly, just that little acknowledgement of what’s happened is all that’s needed to turn an awkward encounter into an empathetic one, I believe. You don’t need to force it, you don’t need to go out of your way to make that conversation happen – but don’t avoid it if it comes your way. That can be just so hurtful.
I tried to imagine what life might be like on the other side of death, but it’s one of those things that you just can’t explain to anyone – they only know the depth of it once they’ve been through it. And even then, everyone’s situation and emotional processing are different.
It has been a 9-month emotional marathon. Yep, probably some of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do in my lifetime (I hope!) have happened in the last few weeks. Nine years ago I was absolutely broken at the thought of it, but time, the challenges of life, and the maturity that comes with them have softened the blow big time and made it a lot easier to quit the worry and leave it to God.
This sums it up for me… "Being deeply loved gives you the strength, loving deeply gives you the courage". I am deeply loved by God (and many others, (Russ included!)), and my strength and assurance is founded on faith, and I know I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. God set the benchmark – I know the sacrifice he made, his own son to save us – so why shouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice a little of my life too?
The courage part… well, we loved that baby from the moment we knew about her – we didn’t know what would happen to her, but we knew in our hearts to press on, because that is how we should love… Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
I read this on a blog recently and how beautiful and true it is… ‘the awareness that the heart’s enormous capacity for love is matched with an equal capacity for pain, and yet we love anyway and somehow find fragments of that love even amid the ruins of loss.’
In the moments since, I have wondered whether it was all worth it, because sometimes it really doesn’t feel like it even happened. But it was worth it, and for more than just our benefit.