grief and loss
There is no dress rehearsal for grief. As a dog happily buries a bone, my mind concealed the trauma of sudden bereavement. It wrapped the details in that oh so satisfying to pop bubble wrap and then deftly popped up a flat packed cardboard box, secured it with a liberal application of fragile tape, to be shelved somewhere at the back of my mind with the VHS tapes marked 'DO NOT TAPE OVER'.
Her hair is gone now. All those curls, left on pillows and in clumps clogging the plug hole till she got fed up and shaved it all off. You probably think I was selfless and shaved mine off too in solidarity, but I didn't. She doesn't believe me, but being bald just shows how beautiful she is -- the curve of her head, her lovely big eyes.
I've lost count of the number of times people have told me how strong I am. Considering I rarely set foot in a gym and my body bears the sagging signs of having carried three children, I'd be surprised if they meant physically so. Rather, they're talking about the resilience I've shown since losing my mum to cancer last summer.
He battled a mental illness for 18 months before he brought it to an end in 2011. But despite how my dad's life ended, he was, and still remains, the most positive person I have ever known. Always upbeat, he loved to sing, crack jokes, act the fool. A sociable and out-going bloke with so many friends, a loving husband, dad and grandad. He was all the proof anyone needed that mental illness can happen to anyone.
I have never gotten over her loss; every year on the anniversary of her birth and death I am blindsided by fresh grief. I picture her as she might have looked as a young woman, I wonder who she would have become as a person. I wish so much that I had gotten to keep her.
This is something no-one wants to hear, but it is true for you as much as it is for the critically ill patients I treat each day in hospital. Many of them are much closer to the end than you are, however, life is unpredictable, chaotic and sometimes cruel. Few of us will die at the time of our choosing.
In some senses I think my situation is fairly rare, though forgive me if I am mistaken. I've never met anybody else who knows what it's like to be left by their mother. Fathers, yes, sadly this is more common I feel (I do not wish to compare, though
It's the latter that has made me think long and hard about the need to lay out some plans in case death strikes our little family before it should. My friend knew what the outcome was going to be so I am sure as a family they had discussed it and their young son was aware of the inevitable, but it still breaks my heart to think of a little family being torn apart and left to rebuild their unit.
How do you comfort someone whose world is in the process of spinning off its axis? You want to be supportive but when you open your mouth you realise you have NO IDEA what to say so just blurt something out and hope for the best but worry the whole drive home that you offended them.
I am glad it still hurts because it should. I am encouraged that we are getting slightly better at talking about babies we have loved and lost. Whether or not we lost a baby in the womb, whether that baby died during pregnancy or after, in childhood or beyond...