Tyler heard this book review on NPR as he was driving home from work the other day. When he got home he was telling me about it. He wondered if it was something I'd be interested in reading myself. And it was. I ordered it on Amazon as we were still discussing it. The book came the other day, but I refrained from starting it. I was saving it for some time when I really needed a book - like a waiting room or a park watching the kids play or something like that. Yesterday afternoon I decided I might as well read it now. So I did. It's not a long book. I read the whole thing last night.
After reading the reviews I didn't quite know what to expect. It was called "powerful" and "wildly important" and "an enlarging experience". On NPR they alluded to it being entertaining and funny. I'll be honest here - while I read it I wasn't laughing. After I finished I told Tyler that maybe for people who haven't actually lived it themselves this book is all of those things the reviewers said. For me, this book was simply true. Real. I liked the way the writer was able to express much of what I think and feel. I liked reading another woman's account of having a stillborn baby who seemed just as much at a loss of what came next as I was.
I can't resist posting just a sampling of excerpts that I really related to. Here is a passage on missing what you don't have (that could have come out of my journal but instead came from this book):
"He was a person. I missed him like a person. Seeing babies on the the street did not stab me with pain the way I know they stab some grieving women, those who have lost children or simply desperately want to have them. For me, other babies were other babies. They weren't who I was missing. Every now and then a baby could take me by surprise and make me weep...Babies born to mothers who'd been pregnant at the same time as me hurt a little. I didn't mind hearing about them, but I didn't want to meet them...One new mother enfolded me in a hug and said "Oh, Elizabeth, I am so sorry about your baby" - and I just wanted her to leave, because I didn't want to be a good and decent and functioning human being and ask after her baby. Even now I have a hard time with the babies born to friends around our baby's birth. It's not logical, and yet there it is: this one is one month older, this one three weeks younger. But mostly I just missed my own child."
One of the big issues I continue to struggle with is how we all deal with grief, how we offer comfort to others - or not. She had this to say about helping others grieve:
"...you need everyone you know after a disaster, becasue there is not one right response. It's what paralyzes people around the grief-stricken, of course, the idea that there are right things to say and wrong things and it's better to say nothing than something clumsy. I needed all of it...to know that other people were sad made my baby more real. As I was going mad from grief, the worst of it was that sometimes I believed I was making it all up. Here was some proof that I wasn't."
I have to stop myself or I'll end up quoting half the book here, so this is the last one:
"After most deaths, I imagine, the awfulness lies in how everything's changed: you no longer recognize the form of your days. There's a hole. It's person shaped and it follows you everywhere, to bed, to the dinner table, in the car. For us what was killing us was how nothing had changed. We'd been waiting to be transformed, and now here we were, back in our old life."
I'm glad I read this book. I finally feel like here is a woman who would understand me. Who would want to understand me. I'm not quite sure how I would react to this book if I hadn't been through something like it myself...but I feel there is always something valuable about trying to see things from another person's perspective. (If you're interested, my copy is available for borrowing.)
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