Have you ever seen that commercial with the little girl and the Ritz
Bits crackers? The announcer is trying to get her to say whether Ritz Bits are the
same as regular Ritz crackers or different.
The little girl tries
various explanations. First, she tells him how they're alike. "So they're
the same?" he asks. "No silly," she answers, "one's little
and one's big." "So they're different," he says. She rolls her
eyes. Finally, in frustration, she says, "Don't you get it?" What is
obvious to her - but difficult to explain - is that they're the same, but different.
The shock / disbelief /
horror / anger is the same. The pain in the chest is the same. The void is the
same. The ache and longing and despair hurt just as much, for just as long.
The difference is nobody believes any of that.
When Nicholas was
diagnosed (shortly after birth) with a heart defect, he was given only a short time to
live. We wanted to bring him home from the hospital, and we were met with some
resistance from family and friends. Many thought that bringing Nicholas home was a terrible
idea. "Oh, My, you'll get attached to him, and it will be much harder on you
when he dies," was the common thread of their thoughts on the matter.
I didn't know how they
thought we had avoided attachment to this point - he was our child, he looked
just like our other children, he was our son! (Can you envision a world
where people have to be talked into taking their new baby home? "Don't worry,
Dear, you'll like him once you get him home and get attached to him.") People
honestly think you can carry a child through pregnancy (to whatever stage the pregnancy
ends), and have no feelings toward or about your child or yourselves as parents unless the
child is alive and healthy.
When a baby is expected,
we are told by everyone, including the media, that the birth of a baby is the most blessed
of all life's events, that this new person, who is different from all other persons ever
born, will change our lives forever. And yet when this most blessed and unique
person dies, everybody acts like it's nothing. "Oh, well, better luck
next time." "It's better he died before you got to know him."
"You'll have more babies."
These are some of the
things that make grieving for an infant child complicated - different.
There is no permission given to even feel bad, because you can't have feelings for someone
you didn't know?"
Do I wish Nicholas had
died at birth instead of living six weeks? Of course not. It simply defies
logic to think that any parent would want less time with their child instead of
more. People will say that the grief over the death of an infant is nothing more
than the loss of hopes and dreams for the future....But we also miss that unique
individual who was our first-born or second child or only daughter or whatever. Even
if I'd had another child, Nicholas would still be my only child starting kindergarten this
year. He was his own person with his own place in our family.
When we speak of the
death of a child, age has no place in the discussion of grief.
Don't you get it?
It's the same.
(use if coming from "I just don't understand my friend.")