Monday, October 06, 2014

a guide: what to say

(Somewhat consolidated)

The Brit and one of his friends had a little joint birthday do, in Hampshire this last weekend.

Most people who came along had babies or small children, but I have yet to attend a small gathering where a couple walks in to join us, proudly carrying a pair of twins. Until now.

I see twins all the time, and while it hurts - it shouldn't, and I wish it wouldn't - mostly these twins are in passing. On the street, in one of my playgroups, but mostly they are gone, in the blink of an eye, and I don't know them.
There are a lot of twins here. In southwest London anyway; a day doesn't go by when I don't see a set of twins passing me on the street in a double buggy.

But this was the first time twins came to join our party. And I have to admit, my heart leapt right up into my throat, and I caught my breath, not being able to tear my eyes away from the two sleeping angels in their Maxi Cosi car seats. The same car seats Sebastian and Molly had ready to go.

I got emotional, and so did the Brit. It wasn't easy.

And then I felt angry. Those parents, so happy, smug and oblivious, it's not their fault. They don't know. Just like everyone else, they have no idea. No, I wasn't angry at them. I was upset that the people that invited them didn't say anything to me or the Brit beforehand.

Obviously they didn't think to, and obviously they didn't intend for us to get sad, and clearly I am asking for too much, but it would've been great to get a head's up. In a perfect world, our friends would think about this.
In a normal world, people are busy, have other stuff to think about, and if they do think about this, don't want to rock the boat by saying something.

But it makes me realise more than ever that there isn't a manual out there for people, on what to say or what to do, or what to consider, when someone you know has lost a child or someone they love.
Mostly people don't say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. The safest thing is to say nothing at all - and I have been guilty of doing this in the past to others who have lost, too.

So. If there was one, a manual I mean, this is what it should say:

If there's just one thing you can do to someone who has lost a child or baby,  it's acknowledge it.

Some of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, long lost friends, relatives, have yet to say anything to me about Molly.
It astounds me, especially the family members, and I yearn for them to just say one thing. Just one sentence.

What they have said is "Congratulations on your little boy, he is beautiful!" This in itself is obviously very sweet, and they are focusing on the joy, the miracle, the wonderful shiny thing over here, mainly to avoid the sad, empty bad thing over there.
All know I had twins. All know, or realise, or have seen, that only one survived. But they can't, or don't know what to say.

I've even gone on to say to some I haven't seen since I was about to pop, "A lot has happened since I last saw you, and as you might've seen, I lost one of my twins just before they were due."

I don't blame them for not knowing what to say, and I am not angry. I do get frustrated though. Because no matter how hard they avoid it, there is a massive big pink elephant in the room. I had two babies, and only one of them was alive.

So if there's one thing you can do, if you ever find yourself in this situation (or God forbid, meet me!) is simply acknowledge it. Acknowledge her.  I carried her my entire pregnancy, I expected her to be here with us.

Acknowledgement can come in various forms. It can short, sweet and we don't need to dwell on it:

"I'm sorry about what happened."
"I'm sure you miss your daughter, I'm sorry."
"How are you feeling these days?"
"I'm sure you still miss Molly very much."
"Just to give you a heads up, there is someone with twins coming to the party today, I hope that's not going to be too sad."
"I'm sorry about Molly."

Using her name is also like music to my ears. Just hearing 'Molly' means you are respecting that she was a little person too. Actually using her name carries so much more weight than "I'm sorry you lost a baby."

I have to talk about her, and the fact I had twins, because I did.  When someone asks if I knew I was having a boy, I am honest.
"I had twins. And yes, I always knew deep down one was a boy and one was girl."
So if you don't acknowledge it, I'm going to. Simply because it is a part of me. Talking about it also hopefully makes others realise that I am happy to talk about my loss, and Molly. It's not forbidden territory. Not only am I happy to talk about it, I want to. I need to. I simply cannot ignore it if conversations turn to children, or twins, or pregnancies.

I have a lovely friend who I hadn't seen since I was 7 months pregnant, and although we had chatted throughout it all, I saw her again a few months ago with Sebastian for the first time since the birth. The first thing she did was take my hand and say, "I just want to acknowledge this. I am so sorry about everything. Just know that I think of you and Molly all the time."
(Clearly, she had read a manual somewhere, because it was the best thing I have heard since!)

Another way of acknowledgement is asking questions. Maybe you don't know what happened, but you can ask. People think asking questions will open up wounds and be hard to talk about it, but more often than not, it's better than saying nothing at all.

"What was your pregnancy like carrying two?"
"What happened with Molly, do you know why she died?"
"How do you cope when you feel sad?"
"Did you get to hold her or take pictures?"

Questions show interest. Questions are good.

Don't try to make it better by offering solutions

This is where I find people say the wrong thing, and it can be very easily avoided. Often people try to make it better, or make the other person feel better by making them see the positive.
It comes from a good place, and they are trying - it is better than saying nothing at all - but these don't work:
"You're lucky. At least you have one. Some people lose their only child."
"Just focus on the fact you have a beautiful boy."
(This is all very well, and trust me, I do. But I lost another entire person. A daughter, not a handful of oranges.)

"It's a blessing. Twins are so much work." (My hairdresser said that to me.)

I can see why people say these things, but they just make me feel worse, and often guilty. It makes me feel as though I am not a good mother to Sebastian because I miss and grieve for his sister. Then I feel guilty that I don't acknowledge Molly enough. I just end up feeling sad and guilty.

"Are you feeling like you're getting over it?"
(Yes. I have good days and bad. But this isn't something I just "get over", and you are making the assumption that I should.)

"Things happen for a reason." (I don't believe things happen for a reason anymore. Why would I get pregnant with twins only to have it taken away? This just happened. Why does there need to be a reason attached to it?)

A bit of thoughtfulness goes a very long way

It's hard to please everyone, but things that I might appreciate might be:

Acknowledgement of Molly on their birthday
(It'll always be Sebastian's celebration, and he'll have parties, but I'll be thinking about both of them on the day, believe you me)
Letting me know if someone is coming to a party with twins
Putting me in touch with others you know, or sharing similar stories if you hear of them - it helps to know I'm not alone

That's really it.

Must say, I looked up at the sky the other day and thought of how coincidentally twisted life can be. Or maybe there is a reason, but either way, I had a moment at a playgroup last week that I could only observe sadly and shake my head and laugh (in a bitter, sort of way. The worst way.)

Out of the twenty people sitting in a circle, Seb and I managed to be the coupling that found themselves squeezed between a set of twins.

Two little identical-looking boys, on either side of us, held by granny and grandad. A few moments later, one crawled over to the other and the granny asked if we could please move up so that they could sit together as they 'hated to be apart.'
Seb and I moved over, so that the twins were now both to the one side of us.

The little girl we were now next to had the name that Molly would've had if she had been alive. Isn't that ironic? We wanted Molly to have her name as it meant something to us, and Molly was a name we loved for a little girl. A little girl who would always be a little girl.

It's only something me and my husband would notice, but nevertheless it sticks out and slaps me in the face when these little things happen.
Someone pointed out that it could be Molly reminding me that she is with us. A sign that she is looking over us, and is here.

I'd like to think she is. Especially over her (little) big brother.


Anonymous said...

PEAS ((((((((((HUGS))))))))))))) some people have no clue how to deal with other people's emotions and losses - i remember my "best friend" calling round the weekend after my first miscarriage at Easter and not mentioning it all morning, just wittering on about lovely walks she was going to have with her 2 year old (who i always doted on) when i later asked why she never mentioned anything after 2 losses she said "people dont know what to say" and left it at that. Funnily enough she was also really annoyed when i became pregnant finally - i think you find out who your true friends are at times like these - xxxxxxxx be strong xxx

Vannessa said...

Gosh, Peas, you took me back a few years now. I wrote on my blog a long time ago that sometimes the sadness runs down my face and catches me by surprise. It did now reading this and last night while I was watching Resurrection on TV (tip: don't watch it, too soon).

I had to go back to my blog and find this post - So many of the same sentiments. Reading your blog and also reading my friend's FB page(whose twin daughter died last year at 17) has me wanting to post something on my blog again. Just about all the feelings that are being stirred up in me again. I hope you don't mind if I mention you (no names or links). We don't know each other IRL but I think about you and Molly and Sebastion a lot.

Vannessa said...

Had to add a link to this post too -

Going down memory lane....

churchaholic said...

My experience of loss is completely different - although we had three early miscarriages, which is utterly different - but can totally relate.

My wife died aged 37 after 6 months in Addenbrookes. The whole experience was fucking awful but the real eye opener was post death and it became clear that we, certainly in the UK, no longer have a clue as to how to deal with death and the bereaved.

Death is now brushed under the carpet and is more taboo than paedophilia - in the early days I saw people in my home town crossing the street rather than bump in to me, such is the anaethema.

Add our national emotional reticence into the mix and you're in a minefield of stiff upper lipdom - 12 years on and I still dread the question about my marital status; it always results in a wish from the questioner for the ground to swallow them.

Only in this do I wish I was French or, better, Italian or, even better, Spanish but best of all Corsican.

Sadly you're in the wrong place, at the worst of times, for the right response.

God Bless Molly and may her soul rest in eternal peace - and if my belief is proved wrong may her essence and memory live forever in your family.

Coffee and Books Cape Town said...

Well written Boo. There is something I wanted to ask. Did you choose Molly's name from your old house at school? Big hugs Dad xx

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Satin Slipovers said...

That is beautifully written my girl. I certainly include Molly in my conversations with others when they ask after you all.

Peas on Toast said...

Michelle - And huge hugs back to you. It pains me to think you've gone through the same thing in terms of people not acknowledging your loss. And yes, you definitely find that your true friends will stick around and others not so much. xx

Vannessa - thanks so much for sharing these links! I am going through the posts on your blog as we speak. I'd be honoured if you posted again and mention me and the blog, links or no links! Your advice and comments have been invaluable to me over the past few months. xxx

Church - it's SO true you mention the UK thing, I almost put something up about it here. People here don't know how to talk about their losses and 'feelings,' - at least not like how South Africans do! And it's very frustrating at times. xx

Coffee - Hi dad, no, as that was spelled Mollie! It's just a coincidence really. x

Satin - thanks mum, I really appreciate that xx

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