I got home from the gym, and Jeff had left out a Christmas card on the table. He handed it to me, and it was a card from his his brother's family. Inside, was a check. No small check. And they told us to do with it whatever we wanted.
First, it made me cry. Everytime I've received a card this holiday for Luke...I've cried. And not out of sadness, I don't think? I think it's more about being thankful. Thankful that everyone remembers him along with us. That people write his name down and acknowledge that he's our son. That he really happened. I hate that it scares people to talk to me about him. I can't guarantee that talking about him won't make me cry, but it makes my heart full. And sometimes that just triggers tears in my eyes.
So we decided that that check would be going into a college fund for Luke's potential brother or sister. We can't even thank them enough.
Then I opened an email from my sister...and well, it pretty much made me bawl. She told me about how she'd been to a book club meetup Sunday. She was casually invited by a friend, and that she actually hadn't even read the book, but decided to go anway, in a spell of spontaneity that she rarely exhibits. They discussed a book by a woman named Cheryl Strayed, who is also sometimes an advice columist on The Rumpus as Dear Sugar. Anyway...Ali mentioned that the girl next to her mentioned a passage. One that strongly resonated with her personally, as someone who'd been through many miscarriages.
Someone had addressed a letter to Sugar about the stillbirth of her daughter at 6 months. Any baby-loss parent should read this here. Because it's...everything. EVERYTHING.
Here's just some of it...
"Though we live in a time and place and culture that tries to tell us otherwise, suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us.I read this with tears. I've read tons about the process of healing, but I don't feel like anything has hit me as hard as reading this has. In a bit of serendipity, I'd mentioned to my sister yesterday that I'd started reading that book Sugar recommended above, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination and that I'm really connecting to it...Not knowing that they'd discussed this the day before at the book club meeting.
Don’t listen to those people who suggest you should be “over” your daughter’s death by now. The people who squawk the loudest about such things have almost never had to get over any thing. Or at least not any thing that was genuinely, mind-fuckingly, soul-crushingly life altering. Some of those people believe they’re being helpful by minimizing your pain. Others are scared of the intensity of your loss and so they use their words to push your grief away. Many of those people love you and are worthy of your love, but they are not the people who will be helpful to you when it comes to healing the pain of your daughter’s death.
They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died.
It seems to me that you feel like you’re all alone there. You aren’t. There are women reading this right now who have tears in their eyes. There are women who have spent their days chanting daughter, daughter or son, son silently to themselves. Women who have been privately tormented about the things they did or didn’t do that they fear caused the deaths of their babies. You need to find those women, darling. They’re your tribe.
I know because I’ve lived on a few planets that aren’t Planet Earth myself.
The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be over-estimated. Call your local hospitals and birth centers and inquire about support groups for people who’ve lost babies at or before or shortly after birth. Read Elizabeth McCracken’s memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. Find online communities where you can have conversations with people during which you don’t have to pretend a thing.
This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from the daughter you loved, but so you can live the life that is yours—the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her. That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really fucking hard to get there, but you can do it, honey. You’re a woman who can travel that far. I know it.
You will never stop loving your daughter. You will never forget her. You will always know her name. But she will always be dead. Nobody can intervene and make that right and nobody will. Nobody can take it back with silence or push it away with words. Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live though it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. Therapists and friends and other people who live on Planet My Baby Died can help you along the way, but the healing—the genuine healing, the actual real deal down-on-your-knees-in-the-mud change—is entirely and absolutely up to you..."
Dear Sugar: July 15, 2010--How You Get Unstuck
It helped us both feel that we're still somehow connected to Luke. Maybe he's doing something from wherever he is that pushed my sister to go to that book club meeting so she could find this guidance and share it with me--from him. That's how I like to think of it, anyway.