How did you find out? Was it a text message? A phone call? A post on social media? How did your friend share the news that the most terrifyingly painful thing had happened to her?
We sent a text. A birth announcement like many I had received over the years, except not the same at all. We shared her name, her weight, the time of her birth. Only it was followed by seven simple words: “Complications during labour meant she didn’t survive”.
Many friends have shared with me their story of receiving the news about Maeve. Many remember where they were and what they were doing. Many have shared how lost they felt, how helpless, desperate to do something, anything to ease our pain. In truth, they were helpless, for there was nothing anyone could do to take away the raw agony of our early grief. Other than to simply be there, letting us know we were in their thoughts, and that they were remembering Maeve.
We received many beautiful cards. I have kept every single one in Maeve’s memory chest, though I have not yet been able to re-read them. I remember them arriving, words of love and compassion falling with a quiet thud through our letterbox. I remember crying as I read each one. I remember the poems, the words of solace. I remember wishing and wishing and wishing that they were cards of congratulations instead.
Maybe it’s a question you are asking, should I send a card? My answer would always be “yes”. Don’t be afraid that your card might cause tears to flow, for those tears are already there, you will simply give permission for them to fall. A card that mentions a baby’s name, even years later, is an immeasurable gift, as it says “I remember” and such a message of love travels straight to the heart of a grieving mother and helps to soothe the ever-present ache of her loss.
I recently sat with a blank sympathy card, pen in hand, but feeling completely stuck. The words just wouldn’t come. I began to over-think. What if I said the wrong thing? What if I caused more harm than good? Maybe I shouldn’t send anything at all? And then I remembered those cards that arrived in the spring of 2013 and I tossed aside my fears and wrote what was in my heart. That’s what I urge you to do too.
If the words still won’t come, here are some things you could say in the early days after a loss:
~ I’m so sorry for your loss
~ Thinking of you and your baby
~ Sending you love
It doesn’t need to be complicated, nor poetic. If you know the baby’s (babies’) name, please do use it. Share how much you like it, what a special name it is. So much is lost when a baby can’t come home, sharing the beauty of their name doesn’t need to be one of those things. I recommend caution with religious platitudes, unless you are confident it is something that would offer comfort to the parents. And please try if you can to quash the urge to write “at least…”, for there is no at least with the loss of a child.
Even if some time has passed, please still consider writing the little one’s name in a card. Take your lead from the parents, as I know this won’t be what every bereaved family wants and needs, but for me, when my little girl’s name appears alongside her siblings, or she is acknowledged somehow in a card, then it never fails to make my heart sing. “Thinking of Maeve”. Three little words with a truly significant impact.
If you are in doubt, please send a card. It will be a small kindness that won’t be forgotten.