The friends, the friends who understand and why I need both

Beautiful ornaments created by Kirstie for all the families.

Beautiful ornaments created by Kirstie for all the families.

On Sunday I attended the SIDS and Kids Christmas memorial service. It was my third. It is always a beautiful and poignant event. There are tear-stained faces and new little babies bringing hope – finally filling arms that had been empty too long. There are brave speeches and burgeoning bellies, as new little rainbows dance into the world. The names of children gone too soon are read and seen and acknowledged. And as I read and heard them, I recognised so many of them – the children I now view as Xavier’s friends.

At the service I saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Friends that had supported me through my grief, and friends I had made when they joined the most heart-breaking of clubs. My need for support has changed, as has theirs. Our lives have taken off in millions of different directions. And that’s okay. When we come back together, we are still connected, joined by the bonds of loss and children remembered.

It is important this community. Not just in the bleak aftermath of loss where it is a necessary life-line, but as a continuing family that supports each other. Why do we need each other? Why is it so important to be supported not only by those that already love us, but by those who know our pain? There are some things that only another bereaved person understands. There are some perspectives that are only changed by loss.

When we say good-bye to Xavier, there were some people who knew exactly what to say, exactly how to support us. Those people had experience their own heart-breaking losses. They were the friends who understood.

A friend says, “he was beautiful”.  A friend who understands says “he is beautiful”.

A friend says, “he will always be in your heart”. A friend who understands says “I will keep him in my heart, beside my loved one gone too soon”.

A friend says, “you will always remember him”. A friend who understands says, “I will always remember him”.

A friend says, “you will always be his mother”. A friend who understand says, “you continue to be a good mother to your son gone too soon”.

A friend says, “it wasn’t your fault – you need to stop blaming yourself”.  A friend who understands says “I am sorry you are in the horrible dark place of guilt. It is part of this grief. I am here for you.”

Newly pregnant with my baby’s sibling, a friend sees my terror and says “this baby will be fine”. A friend who understands says, “I can’t make promises but always remember every baby has a different story and a different life to live.”

A friend says “it is time to rejoin the world”.  A friend who understands says, “do you want me to stay with you when you are in the darker places?”

A friend is sometimes cautious about speaking his name, worried that they may make me cry.  A friend who understands speaks his name often, accepts tears as a gift and knows that his name is a kind of music that makes me smile.

A friend waits for the grief to end. A friend who understands knows that the grief stretches as long as the love.

A friend says “I cannot begin to imagine your pain”. A friend who understands says “I know how terrible, how painful this is. The light will return and I am here for you until it does”.

I need the friends, innocent of loss, to bring lightness, love and joy into my world. I need the friends who understand, for they are the ones that can nurse my broken heart, who know how to collect the fractured pieces and have practiced carefully piecing them back together.
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Holes in our hearts … but we carry on

I don’t often cry over Xavier.  Even in  the early months, I didn’t sob as often as I would have expected.  During support groups, I would be amongst the few whose cheeks remained dry.  For a little while this worried me – was there something wrong with me? Was this unhealthy grieving? Would the dam burst one day and floods of un-shed tears finally overtake me? Was I in denial? I began to realise that my way of grieving was simply more cerebral.  I analyse rather than cry, think rather than sob, write rather than weep.    And that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean I miss or love my son any less.

However, there is one thing that unleashes the tears.  Music unlocks something in my heart and the tears flow in sweet release.   When I was teenager, music played an important part in my life.  I would see my own feelings reflected in song lyrics all the time.   It has been a long time since I have sought solace in the same way.  Nowadays my life means that I tend to listen to music in the car, when a random song on the radio can unexpectedly send me reeling.

There are certain songs I simply cannot hear – Beautiful Boy by John Lennon,  Small Bump by Ed Sheeran, Last Kiss by Pearl Jam.    Then there are snatches of lyrics that never meant anything to me before that suddenly carry a profound weight.  Songs about loves lost and the inability to live without them. The song “Holes” by passenger hits home at the moment.

Well sometimes you can’t change and you can’t choose And sometimes it seems you gain less than you lose Now we’ve got holes in our hearts, yeah we’ve got holes in our lives Where we’ve got holes, we’ve got holes but we carry on

I have gained so much since Xavier died.  Learned more than I could have conceived.  But I would give it all up in less than a heartbeat if I could hold him again.   You gain less than you lose .   The gifts of grief can be hard accept – you never want to regard their origin with anything approximating gratitude.  Yet they are there – they exist.  And yes, they never amount to the same weight as the life of a child, but they are what you are left with.  We  carry on – life carries us on her relentless tide.  

We’ve got holes but we carry on.