At first, you feel shock. Massive, gut wrenching, pull your heart up into your throat shock. You don’t believe the words you are seeing, or hearing. You don’t know what to do with the information that a baby is dead. A friend’s baby. A baby you saw on Facebook the day before- happy, smiling and dribbling. Then relief. As you think of your own baby, asleep upstairs. Asleep. Then huge, deep, leg shaking relief when you pluck your warm baby from her bed and yes! she is sleeping, only sleeping.
And then. Then guilt. Guilt follows relief. Because your baby is alive and your friend’s baby is not. Because you were relieved that your baby is alive, and breathing and warm and real. Guilt because you no longer know how to look at your baby without feeling so lucky and so so so relieved.
And then what? And then you are lost. In a world where pain and hurt and anger and death is all around you and you don’t quite know what to do or what to say or how to say what you think you want to say. And in the end, maybe you just need to say something. Maybe you just need to be there.
Almost eight months ago, my world was a whole lot more simpler than it is today. That is not your fault; that is just how it is.
Eight months ago, I didn’t have a friend who’s baby died.
I don’t walk in your shoes, I walk beside you. If you want me to.
I don’t know, I can’t know. And I am sorry about that.
If I say the wrong thing- and often I worry constantly that that is what I am doing- then please know that I am sorry. There is no rule book out there that tells you what to say or how to say it when a friend tells you her world is falling apart. There are no words to pluck from previous conversations to guide you through the torment of watching a person you care about float to the ground in tatters.
Sometimes, you want to scream and cry and shout and be angry and you think you can’t but you can. You think you’re not strong, or brave or inspirational. The people that tell you that you are, are all people like me. They are not bereaved mothers. They don’t know. But they truly believe those things about you; those claims that you dismiss as wrong. They do not know that you aren’t strong; you’re simply existing in a world that has been created for you, despite you, in spite of you. They want you to know that they would not even be able to rise from their beds if they had to face what you face each day… but then how would they ever know that is true?
When a friend’s baby dies, the world goes a little wonky, and sometimes you stumble a little. Sometimes you fall. But you get up again. Because it’s your friend. It’s a friendship that is so important to you and because you want to help. You care. You grieve too. You stumble, but you keep going. Beside her.