I’ve been reading Elizabeth McCracken‘s book about her first child, her son, who was stillborn. There is so much that rings true although our situations, our experiences, our points of view in many cases are different. I read the following section right after I wrote my open letter to friends and family. I wanted to share this piece of Elizabeth’s writing because it so eloquently explains how much the cards, emails, and phone calls mean.
I don’t know what to say, people wrote, or, Words fail.
What amazed me about all the notes I got – mostly through e-mail, because who knew how to find me? – was how people did know what to say, how words didn’t fail. Even the words words fail comforted me. Before Pudding died, I’d thought condolence notes were simply small bits of old-fashioned etiquette, important but universally acknowledged as inadequate gestures. Now they felt like oxygen, and only now do I fully understand why: to know that other people were sad made Pudding more real. My friend Rob e-mailed me first, a beautiful and straightforward vow to do anything he could to help me. Some people apologized for sending sympathy through the ether; some overnighted notes; it made no difference to me. I read them, and reread them. They made me cry, which helped. They moved me, that is to say, they felt physical, they budged me from the sodden self-disintegrating lump I otherwise was. As I was going mad from grief, the worst of it was that sometimes I believed I was making it all up. Here was some proof that I wasn’t.
– Elizabeth McCracken, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
P.S. Thanks Dian for pointing me in the direction of this book.
This is SO true! The worst thing a person can do is say nothing. That wounds us so deeply – we wonder if our baby mattered, if we’re just oversensitive to be brokenhearted. Even the notes that just said “I’m here, and I care” were absolutely like oxygen (great metaphor, BTW). One of my favorite notes came from my SIL, who lives 4 hours away. She sent me an email at 5am a few days after Leila died to say she was awake and praying for me. Oh, how that touched my spirit!
I just finished reading this book too. I agree, the cards mean so much even when they don’t say anything. I lost my daughter about 11 weeks ago, so we don’t get many cards these days, but when I do it just makes my day.