From the archives: Watching grief. Explaining death.

[While I’m on creative sabbatical through the end of the year, I’m pulling some of the most popular posts from the archives and sharing them again. With October being a month to honor and bring awareness to pregnancy and infant loss, I’ve chosen some of the writing from the first year after Benjamin’s stillbirth. These posts bring tears to my eyes, because of course, three years later, I’ve forgotten what those early days were like. This is why I blogged through my grief – I wanted to capture the moments that vanish into the fog of memory. I wanted to always remember how devastating it was to lose my son.]

It’s interesting to watch grief takes its toll. I am so happy to have my husband home for three weeks after eleven weeks of work on the road. (He was home for a few days every week but it was a long haul and we are grateful for all of it). Every day it seems we have a moment where I watch us miss each other. We’ll have a conversation where even though we are on the same side, it feels like we’re fighting. The unhappiness is palpable.

Today’s moment happened to be in a Verizon Wireless store. I know where it’s coming from, I know why it’s happening and it still feels awful. I felt the wave rising and I knew I could either fight the lump in my throat or leave and let it go. Thankfully he understood. As I sobbed in the car I thought about the secrets we all keep as we are out in the world. How many people are quietly grieving as they go about their day? How many end up in a car, a restroom, or a dark corner letting the wave wash over them so they can function again? How many of them fight to get through and end up yelling at their child, walking away from their spouse, or mistreating a customer? How many of us hold grief at arm’s length only to have it wreak havoc on our lives?

One of the questions I ask myself these days (when I remember) is what would compassion do here? Then I take a deep breath and turn in that direction. It’s not always the easiest choice, but without a doubt, its the one that feels the best.


Ada and I had a long conversation about death tonight. It started as we talked about our good friends – family really – who recently separated. Ada wanted to know why they were sad. Then she talked about their dog that died earlier this year, then our dog that died a year before that. She wanted to know what happened to them after they died, then what happened to her little brother, and why they all died. She wanted to know Did the veterinarian make my brother alive again?

It’s so hard to know how much to say and how to say it. I don’t want to scare her. I also know how harmful lies and adult expressions can be. Children take everything literally. When I was in my Masters program I took a workshop on how to help children understand death and their experience of grief and they made it very clear – don’t lie. Don’t tell them Grandpa is up in the sky because then if they get on an airplane, they might look for him. Be careful when talking about sickness or they’ll be terrified if they, or Mommy, or Daddy gets sick. Whatever you do, don’t tell them the person who died went to sleep or they’ll never want to close their eyes again.

So we talked about the fact that their bodies stopped working. We talked about their spirits going to a place where they are loved and safe. We talked about bodies either returning to the earth, or to the air. I was as honest, as age appropriate and as positive as I knew how to be, while still wondering if I was saying too much. She had lots of questions. Then she thought about it for a while and said I don’t like it when they are in two. I wasn’t sure what she meant.

Like Buster and my baby brother, when they are in two pieces.

Ah, you mean when their bodies and their spirits are apart?

Yes. I don’t like that. She smiled. But Squirt and TC (the cats) are alive. Ella (the other dog) is alive. I’m alive. You and Daddy are alive.

Yes we are sweetheart.

May we be so for a good long while. Especially you, my sweet, especially you.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *