Mar 13, 2010

The Leprosy of the Situation

"Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like the lepers."
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In those first weeks, I was amazed myself at how well I was doing. I truly felt as though I was physically being upheld by Grace. Lately, it has felt like that grace was wearing off...

Post-partum hormones replaced my grace. Then, among other things, Jimmy's uncle died after a long battle with cancer. Out of love for my husband, and his family, I attended the services, though they sent me over the edge. It meant seeing large quantities of people that knew our baby had died. Quantities feeling so sad for us, and maybe wanting to hug me a little too hard and a little too long and squeeze tears out of me and perhaps a public sob. Too much public.

This event began a spiraling realization, fueled by crazy hormones, that my mere presence makes people sad and awkward. All those casual acquaintances in our neighborhood, at the bank, at the grocery store who saw me as pregnant, will want to know where the baby is. Then I have to retell the horror story that ruins their day, as evidenced by their expression. Then I feel sorry for doing this to them. And I feel like a leper.

Speaking of leprosy, no other entity has made me feel more like a leper than the professional support community. When you deliver someone's still born baby, you should send a card to the mom immediately, then call a few weeks later and a few weeks after that. You should make sure that there are support groups that actually meet and support contact people that actually call back. At the very least you should return said mom's calls and emails in a timely matter. Honestly.

The one counselor that did initially call back, did not keep her arranged subsequent phone appointment with me. When I called her this week, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps I misunderstood but I thought she was going to call me.

"I probably did say that," she said cooley, "And I just must have forgot. I'm apologizing."

And she was the best of the bunch!

OK. I've since discussed my disappointment with both of these ladies, and all is forgiven. People make mistakes, even when I really need them not to. In my midwife's previous experience, moms with losses don't want to hear from her. She is grateful to know that the system in place, which truthfully is hardly ever necessary, did not work for me. She kept saying "thank you." She is a good person.

Research has shown that doctors spend less time with their patients who are dying. Perhaps it's to spend more time with patients that have more of a chance. Perhaps it's because death to doctors has some stigma of professional failure. I think it's that most people are quite simply afraid of death.

But you know who isn't afraid of death? Those who have had near death experiences. In his book, Closer to the Light, Dr. Melvin Morse interviews children who have been so sick that they have lost heartbeats for several minutes. Their experiences during their time "outside" their bodies not only comfort me but inspire me. It seems that all we hope heaven to be has been confirmed. There are past relatives, there is a flooding of love and knowledge. There is the most powerful light, guardian angels and happiness. These kids can't wait to go back, and they all seem to be more content with their earthly life for their experience as well. My baby is there!

So, that helps me not to fear death. It's only hard for those of us left behind.

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