Teddy Bear Tins

May 1, 2010

THIS is what I am about

It was by chance that my reading took me to this blog, where the babyloss-mama author had published this watercolor:

Rachel, the artist, recently suffered the loss of her daughter Lyra at 30 weeks due to placental abruption. Through her blog she is expressing her grief through not only words but also through beautiful drawings, paintings and other artwork. Her message is profound.

I've long struggled with how to explain to those outside the babyloss world just what exactly it is I'm trying to do here on my journey. And here, in a simple watercolor painting, I find the message so clearly.

THIS is our world, the world of babyloss. You see the grief and the pain obviously, but there's that other theme: isolation. It's a theme that I've seen time and time again as I've met other babyloss families, always there, always haunting them. Truly it's as common a thread between us as the grief itself.

Why is there isolation here?

Yes, some of it is self-created. I remember several months after we lost Aiden that I found myself just not wanting to talk to anyone about it. I was too tired and I didn't want to bring it up because I felt I couldn't handle going any deeper than I had already fallen. But that to me seems normal in any grief, and it didn't account for the entirety of the isolation.

There is more to it.

As a society in general, we treat babyloss as taboo. It's too terrible, too traumatic for us to process. So we repress it. Think about it - someone posts on facebook that it is the 5-year anniversary of their father's death, and what do the responses look like? They're supportive, understanding, hugging arms and loving notes, memories voiced to bring a smile. Now change it up and let's say the post is instead about the 5-year anniversary of their baby's death. Wholllleee different can of worms here. What do you think you'd see? Maybe no responses, no one is comfortable enough to "go there." Maybe just a vague indication of support. Or worse, words of "advice" pointing to all the good things in life now that suggest you "move on."

Over time I've come to understand for myself that by and large this double-standard is not the result of any harmful intentions. People just don't know what to say, or think it's most appropriate to stay out of what is "a private situation." Babyloss is simply too hard to handle.

What they don't realize is that by reacting in that way, we are inflicting this sense of isolation on hurting families when they need support the most. Support not just at a funeral, or a few days later, but forever. Just like you would for someone who has lost an older family member.

It should be just as OK to bring up memories of baby at a family Christmas gathering as it is to bring up memories of dear Aunt Jane. Otherwise, I feel we are contributing more to this isolation. Because parents are left dealing with a complex and lengthy list of rules that describe when it is and isn't OK for them to acknowledge their child.

Sometimes in my openness about Aiden's death I make people uncomfortable. I know that. And I also really think I know why it makes them uncomfortable - it's because they think the way we are supposed to handle it is by keeping it quiet and private, because that's what we do as a society.

But that's the exact reason why I am NOT closed about it. Because I feel so strongly that it's not only appropriate for that to change but that it NEEDS to change.

These families need to know that they are not alone.

And breaking this stigma doesn't need to be scary. It just seems scary when you don't know how to respond to someone who says they've lost a child.

So I am here, to be open and to demonstrate what I know is possible. What I have learned as a babyloss-Auntie. That this isolation doesn't have to be there. I'm here to show through my actions that there are appropriate ways to respond and support babyloss families. To show that it is perfectly acceptable to live in a household where memories of a baby who died are shared happily and without the uncomfortable silence. Where anniversaries are given their due, and a life is openly respected and honored as the gift that it was. To end the unnecessary isolation that only makes grieving more difficult.

THIS is what I am about.


Curls O Fred said...

Thank you for sharing your connection with this piece. Aiden's got a fantastic Aunt. :)