She sat next to me on the cement retaining wall of the hospital’s courtyard garden. I sat in a wheelchair like an invalid, broken in spirit, the morning after sending my sweet tiny baby boy to the morgue. He was being refrigerated like a steak until the funeral home came calling.
I wanted to go outside. Even if only for a few minutes, I wanted fresh air to fill my lungs and rinse me clean of the grey grief that was heavy through my entire being. So she wheeled me outside and we sat in the pale but warming sunshine of early November.
The silence was soft. Thoughts would bubble up through my guts and I would spit them out. She would respond in kind and then the silence would wash back. She didn’t understand my situation, she couldn’t possibly. She didn’t need to. What do you say to someone who has lost their baby before he was even born?
You say nothing because there is nothing that can be said that is right. And that’s ok. Don’t talk. Listen.
If you find yourself having to comfort someone who is experiencing the loss of a child, know this. IT IS OK TO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT WORDS. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable and awkward. Embrace the awkward. Your friend or family member needs you. Some people treat grief like it’s a contagious disease, as though if they are around someone experiencing it, they too will become burdened and sad. But don’t misunderstand me. Saying nothing and doing nothing are very different things. In doing nothing, you effectively abandoned those who are hurting.
So show up. Just bring food and a box of tissues and show up. Start with “I’m so sorry this happened. I don’t know what to say except, I am here.”
And there you will be with casserole and two ears to listen. Sit with the person who hurts. Listen to their grief even though it’s uncomfortable. Cry with them. Help wrangle their other children if they have others. Offer to babysit. Clean their house.
Don’t wait for them to call or reach out. Their lives are so upside down with the unnatural loss of those that are supposed to walk after us that they don’t remember you. They are merely dog paddling to stay afloat in their new life and every stroke hurts. Every breath hurts. Every. Inch. Hurts.
And when something awful happens to you, as it surely will in this adventure we call life, they will be there. Those who have loved and lost are gilded in the fires of Hell itself. We are stronger because we have embraced grief. And grief comes from love. And love is never wasted.
Love is never wasted.