Monday, December 27, 2010

Words fail. But they do help.

A lot of people have written that they don't know what to say.

I know that people don't know what to say.

We don't know what to say.

But I am so, so thankful that they have still written.

I am not much for talking these days.  I don't answer the phone.  I can't talk about Eliza without crying and I don't have much energy for talking about normal things, so I'd pretty much rather not try to do the telephone thing at all.

What I have been doing is reading.  And I am especially grateful for those who have written to me--e-mails, letters, texts.  People who confess they don't know what to say but say they are sorry.  That's all you need to say.  There's nothing else to be except sorry.  Believe me.  We're as sorry as it gets.

Monica told me that our personalities get magnified by grief.  I guess they teach this kind of wisdom in seminary these days?  At any rate, it explains why David has taken on a series of projects--putting away Eliza's things, fixing the roof (with the help of my dad), cleaning, sorting, vacuuming.  His industriousness guilts me into doing laundry, so I suspect that our house appears much too tidy for a couple whose insides are being eaten away by grief.

My inclination is to embrace the antisocial bookworm side of my personality and sit on the sofa under a blanket and read.  I've read all the dead-baby books we have been given, with all of the heartbreaking titles like "When Hello is Good bye" and "Empty Arms, Broken Heart" (I think I paraphrase, but those might be accurate titles).  I've read Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking, about the grief she felt after her husband died suddenly.  I slogged my way through I novel I'd heard about on NPR but didn't enjoy in the least.  And now--courtesy of the Kindle my parents gave me--I'm re-reading my way through the entire Anne of Green Gables series. 

But I am also comforted by reading again some of the cards and letters we've gotten.  Today I cleared off a shelf on the barrister bookcase in our living room and put Eliza's things on it.  A box that contains her blankets, a box that contains congratulations and baby shower cards, a box that contains her clothes, her baby book, and the disks with her photographs on them.  And the huge stack of sympathy cards.  I pulled out a few of my favorites to read through again--sometimes it's the cards themselves that are printed with the nicest things (there must be some people at Hallmark who really do understand loss) but more often it's the letters and notes people have included.

May you find comfort and strength in the deep love you have for one another, and know no more sorrows.

I will keep Eliza in my heart forever.  She deserves it and nothing less.

It is true that friends and family multiply our joys and divide our grief; yours is divided into millions. 

Such sadness may create in you a monument to her--hard, sharp, bright now.  I hope, with time, weathered and softened.  But present.  Real.  Immovable.  And not a place you have to visit alone.

These words--and hundreds others like them--these help.

E-mails, comments on this blog (most of them), and "Thinking of you" text messages--these help.

So thank you for that.

We are so, so lucky to have so many people reach out to us.  And even if I can't answer the phone or reply to the e-mail yet, please know that you are helping us and we are grateful.


  1. I'm glad you're feeling an outpouring of love and support surrounding you. I agree those who took the time to write, call or e-mail when we went through losing Lily meant so much to us. I still have the stack of cards in her room and six months later I still like to look through them from time to time. The words continue to bring me comfort. I hope you continue to feel surrounded by those who care for you ((hugs))

  2. I'm so sorry I haven't commented in several posts... it's only because I don't know what to say. But know I think of you so often. My heart hurts for you.

  3. You are very right. Words do help. They let us know that others are thinking about us. Many people have said to me (verbally or in writing) that they don't know what to say. But them simply saying that helped. Others say nothing, because they don't know what to say. Unfortunately, for me, many say nothing. Because they are overwhelmed by the enormity of what has happened to us. They think words cannot help. But they are wrong. Words do help. Not much, but they do help.

  4. Brooke, I am so sorry. I just learned of all of this from Pam. There is no comfort I can offer. There is really no comfort anyone can. I don't know if you were aware but my mom lost her second baby girl, Barbara Jill, to SIDS when she was 6 months old. At that time she was already pregnant with my brother Lin. My mom told me several times over the years how much this affected her life and that of my brother with whom she became extremely over protective. Maybe he needed that though. I can only hope and pray that as you go through this you know you are loved by all those around you and hopefully someday, long into the future, you will be able to remember with sadness, as did my mom, but in doing so, find the comfort you need. I am thinking of you both.

  5. like mirne says, words do help. i'm glad that those around you are reaching out. it's right that eliza has touched so many lives. it's wrong that this is because she died. it should have been because she lived.

  6. What a great post to let people know how to be encouraging. I'm so sorry to learn of your little girl. My husband and I just lost our little girl, Madeleine, almost a month ago due to chromosome abnormalities, and it was a total shock...still is. It really is so small, but people just saying they don't know what to say is so comforting, rather than the silence we hear from some people, and the ones who try to comfort and sound insensitive instead. A text, or email or comment on a blog goes so far when talking feels so draining. So, I just wanted to say, hi from afar, and let you know I'm thinking of you guys and your little girl today.