In my circle I am known as the baker, I even have a very small side business doing such and I get great joy out of nourishing others, especially those I love. This week though, in the face of judgment and other’s desire to heed the social protocol for loss, I had to say no because the request was not in line with what I have learned a grieving heart to need, at least early on.
My friend who had triplets has lost two of them and the third is fighting hard to stay here, his mama is fighting harder for him. There is no other way to describe so many horrible losses in my mind, they are each and all devastating on a primal level.
So when some of our circle decided that a mini birthday gift and cupcakes should be sent over for the mama whose birthday is this Sunday I immediately thought NO. My breath caught, memories flooded back of those early days of awfullness. To be fair these wonderful women didn’t know that her third baby was facing yet a new set of struggles but even so, two have died in the last twelve days. Not really a celebratory sort of situation.
Of course I do not know her loss. I have had miscarriages but mine were early on in the first trimester, not 24 weeks along, not after I could feel them move and my belly swelled with the life that was slowly unfolding and growing inside. My pain of those miscarriages was more private and less, well, painful. Also, although I have known deep pain and loss and I don’t know her loss, this type of loss, perhaps it is a vastly different experience than the early days of pain and loss after having a spouse die-I don’t know. But in that moment I felt the need to protect her from well intentioned expressions of love that simply won’t be helpful in these early days.
Because what I do remember of those early days was not wanting ANYONE near me. My pain was too big, too awful to share that space with anyone or anything else. I needed to curl myself into a small ball around that pain and loss and be left alone while I desperately tried to figure out how to keep breathing, in, out, in, out.
In those early days I was acutely aware of my breath that kept steadily going even though I didn’t know how. I was acutely aware of my heart that still kept beating even during pain that was so intense that other bodily systems literally shut down in the face of it. I was never hungry, never thirsty, I didn’t need to or wasn't able to sleep, I couldn’t put a sentence together, I had no attention span for news, books or even small talk. In short my body took over and was working on surviving while the rest of me checked out for several weeks until the shock began to wear off slightly.
Remembering all of this, I had to say no to them. I had to try to explain why I said no. That it was out of love that I was choosing to let her be for little while longer before invading that chrysalis of sorrow that she must certainly have wrapped around herself right now as she slowly absorbs, in her own private way, the magnitude of the losses she has experienced. I had to say no because in the is moment I cannot begin to imagine how a birthday anything would feel good to her having just given birth and then almost immediately experiencing death.
Saying no doesn’t come easy for me. I am a people pleaser and I try really hard to be a good friend. But in this situation I had to be brave and say no in order to be a good friend to the one most in need.
I remember the kindest thing my best friends did for me in those early days was holding others at bay while I mourned, intimately and privately. To others, this act may not be viewed as a gift, but to the center of the storm, it can the equivalent of the life saving raft being thrown to the griever. I’m glad and proud that I did it, that I said no in the face of social convention, even if I’m deeply sad that it had to be done at all.