“It could never happen to me,” is a lie people tell themselves in order to put the most distance between themselves and what happened. Yet distance is not what’s needed when tragedy strikes. What’s needed is the bravery to close the gap by stepping right inside, square in the middle of someone’s pain. And just be with them in it. Which means feeling all of it too. Terrifying– I know– but imagine how much more terrified your loved one is. You at least get to go back to your normal life. This is their new normal– forever.
A few words from a thought-provoking piece by Angela Miller, published today at Still Standing Magazine.
I was incredibly lucky not to face the kind of devastating comments the author speaks of (“How did you let this happen?!!”). Instead, I heard the doctors who took care of Paul tell me several time « This is not your fault ». I heard these words coming from people close to me too. And they told me again and again I was still Paul’s mom, and that P. and I were good parents.
I still felt guilty and awful. Maybe because two police officers followed me from the very first moments after Paul’s cardiac arrest and for hours after that, never leaving us alone, even as we were receiving heartbreaking updates on Paul’s health. But most likely just because i was searching so hard for an answers, and needed to blame someone.
And even now that i have learned to live with the uncertainty that Paul’s death has left us with, even now that i have managed to keep my guilt reasonably in check, i still feel the distance between me and the others. I have dug this unbridgeable gap between me and them. I don’t blame them for it. But i still can’t cross it. I don’t know how to bridge the distance between their normal and mine, i can’t imagine i could be them, i could live their normal. I can’t imagine i could have a living and healthy baby. I can’t imagine having to just deal with the daily routines of a 14 month-old. I don’t even know what that is. And i can’t imagine the people around me having to deal with the reality of baby loss.
The reality of those who have living babies and their innocence still intact is so far removed from the reality of those of us living daily with our loss. How wouldn’t there be a distance?
Unlike Angela Miller in her piece, i don’t feel the need to ask people around me to find « the bravery to close the gap by stepping right inside, square in the middle of [my] pain ». Those who could already did. And i deeply appreciate, and benefited from, their courage. Now, i want to try, slowly, to believe i could be the one climbing through the ravine that keeps me so far removed from their normal… I know i’ll always have at least a foot dangling off the cliff, but perhaps i can learn to live a little closer to them, and stop thinking “It could never happen to me »…
For other posts around the theme of distance, visit
I am thinking a lot about guilt lately – maybe because it is such an concrete and abstract concept at the same time, and there is no answer in my mind to the question of what we could have done to make sure things did not turn out the way the did for us..we would have done anything, of course, but who knows what that is…the sad truth is that our losses were what we had no control over – a point where we had to face our utter powerlessness and lack of control – the breaking point of will and love.. i tell this to myself in my rational moments but cannot help but feel guilty again at other times..this is the « new normal » for me..
and add to this, the guilt I feel about the current pregnancy – that I may « miss » something again, and cannot prevent this baby’s death either..i expect constant vigilance from myself and it is so tiring..
thanks for writing this piece..i really get what you mean..
Dealing with the complex feelings and worries of a pregnancy after loss IS exhausting. I think i deal with that by avoiding as much as possible any thoughts that something might go wrong. I feel like i can’t do much more than being attentive and patient… and pretend it’s going to be fine. I am not sure it is completely healthy but that’s how i cope most of the time.
i hope all is well with your current pregnancy and that things continue on smoothly.
This was beautiful. It is hard and strange to transition from such a difficult first experience at motherhood to one that is hopefully much more « normal ». For some seemingly simple things, like singing to my baby, it took months to (quite literally) find my voice. I hope those around you that have been so wonderfully supportive after the loss of Paul will help you find your way with this second baby.
Thank you for your comment. I am just starting to envision what the new new normal might be like. Sometimes it’s frightening but then at other times, i look at babies around me and just feel so filled with desire to mother a tiny human being that i think everything is going to work out, even if it is never quite normal…
From what you share on your blog, you seem to have transitioned beautifully to mothering Strawberry Baby… but i am certain the transition had/has its challenges.
Thank you (and sorry, I thought I had replied earlier). This really means a lot to me. I’m sure you will be a wonderful mother to bébé-lentille, much like you are to Paul. The balance between children here and missing, and all the other demands of life, is difficult, but I guess in a way that’s true for everyone.
Each time I read one of your post I am struck by the eloquence and wisdom of your words, which provide a counterpoint to the pain and loss, and to your current journey. You write beautifully, and I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is for you. Thank you for sharing with #ThePrompt x
Thank you so much for your kind words. Writing has been incredibly helpful in learning to make (some) sense of this situation, to wrap my mind around the loss of Paul.
Thank you for the thought provoking prompts, i appreciate having a reason to share this journey in english too.