My best friend buried her baby today.
This is a sentence no one should ever have to write though I think it is more common than we know.
This beautiful girl, born 4 months ago, has stopped living before she even started. She’d only just got going. She was loved. She was wanted. She was not ill. She was not sickly. She bounced. She giggled. She was cuddled. And yet still. She is gone.
An unexplained medical anomaly brought this news to my phone 24 hours after her mother and I had been texting about the house she was looking to buy. To set up her completed family. She’d always felt that three children was the right number. So complete… the next chapter had begun. And now they are one less. There is a hole. I don’t know how it can ever be filled.
We talk, she and I, about the parallels between our lives, and how there are similarities between having a child die and having a child with disabilities. She’d brought this up, though it had struck me too.
It is a life unfulfilled, it is the life you’d expected forever changed, it is you forever changed. You take a path few you know have trodden. It is achingly lonely.
She noticed people said the same things. They say: I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.
She said: You can. Imagine your child has died. Feel that. Then double it and double it and double it some more.
I said: People can, but everyone’s grief is different. People worry that by saying I feel your pain you may say How can you? Your child is still living? And what answer is there to that?
People say: I don’t know what to say.
She said: even by saying that, you are acknowledging my grief. Thank you.
People said: we are praying for you.
She said: I don’t have religion, but thank you, this gives me surprising comfort.
Me, I’ve noticed the paucity of the English language when it comes to grief. We have words in abundance when it comes to love but death, misfortune…? We are lacking. Our tongues slip away from the words, sliding the other way. We do not want our words to intrude on someone else’s grief for fear they are wrong, but without trying, without reaching across, we leave people isolated when really they need people the most.
What I wanted to say was: I am so sorry. I am so so sorry for this heart wrenching pain that you must be feeling, I want to make it go away. I want to fix this. Because in Small I have felt a tiny part of this and much as he brings me untold joy, I wouldn’t wish that loss of dreams on anyone.
But what I said was: I am sorry, she was beautiful. And I am here. And I’m sending love and strength. Because that’s all I uselessly have.
Today my best friend buries her daughter. And now what? Where does her life go now? There is a long long journey back to any kind of normal. I know it scares her. It scared me too. And I can only hope I can be there for her as much – or as little – as she needs. If our situations were reversed, I know she would have the right words.