Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Knowing and the Helpless

I think there was a point in my early grieving process where I actually believed that once I had dug myself out of the hole I was in, I was going to know so much about grief that I would be able to be such a wise, loving resource to anyone else caught in the throes of life's most merciless moments.
And I realize now how wrong I was. How is it that still I know not where to begin with each person I talk to? With each new person who calls me, or crosses my path, I still don't feel like I can find the words to help. Of course, in my heart of hearts, I know this is because when your baby dies, you really can't be helped. You have to heal yourself, and all you can be is supported. So I suppose I do try to do that, to hold people gently, and to try not to talk too much (my biggest fear) and to listen thoughtfully, and not to assume anything.
But I want to help! This helplessness makes me feel dizzy, and I want to do something, to make a difference. I feel addicted to the idea that I might be able to smooth someone's path just a little bit, and I wish I knew an exact, and gentle, and perfect way to do it every time.
This comes from the news of three very dear friends, first my friend Aimee who miscarried last Friday after losing Sophie in January, and now my friends A. and B. who just miscarried on Friday. Their daughter died last March, on my daughter Aoife's first birthday. I held the phone and talked A. through meeting her tiny, beautiful, miniature daughter as I mixed the batter for my miracle daughter's cake, my salty tears mixing into the batter as I imagined how her pain came on the day that had brought me such great joy.
And only that year earlier, on the very day of Aoife's birth, Katie and Jon came to the hospital to deliver Nicholas, still and without a cry at 32 weeks. We left our newborn Aoife with my parents in our hospital room and limped down the hall to sit with Katie and Jon. Jon held his beautiful, still son, and I thought of my warm, wrinkled daughter all wrapped in her burrito blankets down the hall in my mother's arms and again I felt helpless and like I couldn't find the words yet my heart knew all that I wanted to say to them.
That's the real thing, you see. I know what it is I want to say, and it's just that in my heart, I can feel the sadness, and I know how the hurt pulses through your veins, and travels up to your brain and then reverberates down to all your body systems. I know how you can't see three feet in front of you for the tears that flood your eyes, and how there really is no future, just the today that you can't seem to see the end of.
I know all these things, I feel them and have walked them and still can, at will, surface all these emotions and feel them, and I want to say, I am aware. I am aware that there is pain, and it is yours, not mine. It will do to you what it does, and it might be different from what mine did. But still I know, and my heart, and my ears, and my arms are here to hold you, and to try to give you what I can while you are working your way back to a comfortable spot.
So today I struggle with the thoughts of A. and B., only about 4 miles away but I don't know how to reach them, struggling with the loss of another baby (and their beloved cat the next day, to pour salt on the wound), struggling with the thought of whether another baby will ever work its way into their family, struggling with their own sadness and their older two girls and the way that their grief affects their mothering.... and I wonder, does it help to know that someone is just wondering how they can help you, even if they aren't doing anything to help?
Can I really know what they feel, when I have only lost one baby myself?
Have I ever really felt such hopelessness? Does it matter that I have not?
Is it okay to just know that my heart is in the right place?


C. said...

I say it over and over and I really, wholeheartedly believe it: Understanding IS everything. I am comforted by the knowledge that many women have suffered the loss of a baby just as I have. When they offer this information up and just say they are sorry, I feel infinitely better. That they can simply understand the place that I am coming from is enough for me. I am so sorry about your friends' recent loss.

Birdie said...


You really know how to get it all out in words. I question really knowing and being there for A & B. How can I really know, when all that I have lost is one child. I agree with C though, we are simply coming from a place of understanding...we have been there in our own way. So then we can offer a tender heart, open arms and gentle support.

MamaKat said...

You said it already: You Know. However you think you come across, or the words you think you want to say or do or don't say, it doesn't matter. When you approach people, they know that you Know, and that is all that is needed. All the rest is icing on the cake of support that you offer. Understanding and open heart are all we grieving mamas are looking for and you provide that in spades. If we can just look into the eyes of another who has lost as we have, we see that understanding and can just be quiet with it, if words aren't forthcoming right then.