The Comfort of Being Sad and Normal: What a Friend's Baby Loss Taught Me
Helping a friend through the loss of her third son has been hard, especially as I'm pregnant myself. But the experience has taught me about the comforts of being "sad and normal."
Four years ago, while perusing a pregnancy message board, I had no idea that I’d end up meeting one of my closest friends. Diana and I had our daughters about three weeks apart and quickly bonded over being new moms and our adventures in blogging. The first time we ever spoke on the phone there was never a lull in conversation. And our daughters, who are now almost four years old, have even had virtual play dates while their mamas try to squeeze in their own chatter via Skype.
About 20 months ago, though, I truly realized how deep our bond was rooted. Diana lost twins at close to 20 weeks of pregnancy. I listened to her cry and tried to comfort her the best I could, despite the many miles that separated us. And I cried. Though I’d never gone through such a tragedy as hers, my heart was breaking for her.
As the year went on, I did the best I could to be there for her through her plight into adoption—which had many of its own struggles. Then almost a year ago, we celebrated together as she became pregnant again. Her pregnancy was extremely high risk, but she did all that she could to continue to grow her family. And about four months later I was sharing with her the news that my husband and I were expecting our second child. Once again we were pregnant together and relished the fact that we’d have each other to lean on as we added another child to our broods. We even chatted about how our new babies would be starting school at the same time, just as our daughters were.
In August, Diana’s son Kaden was born. He had a few breathing problems but was, at first, doing well. On the day Kaden was expected to get cleared to come home, however, Diana and her family were dealt horrible news: Kaden’s heart had serious problems and he had to be flown to the nearest Children’s Hospital instead of driven home.
My heart sank. Why was this happening to my dear friend? She’d gone through so much with the loss of her twins. It was so unfair. Bad things aren’t supposed to happen to amazing people.
We kept in touch the best we could over the next three weeks, but it wasn’t looking good. As I prayed for a new heart for Kaden and for Diana, Sam, and Bella to be able to take Kaden home, his heart failed, and he passed away. A few days before, there was a sense that this was going to happen. And when I got the text from her—“He’s gone”—I wept for her.
It’s been about two and a half months since Kaden passed. For me, it’s been hard to comfort a friend through such a tragic loss while I’ve had an uncomplicated pregnancy with a healthy baby. I’ve felt a tremendous amount of guilt. Why has it been so easy for me to conceive and have healthy babies while my dear friend has struggled so much?
Before Kaden passed, you’d find us joking with each other about the not so fun parts of pregnancy, keeping up with each other’s weeks, and celebrating milestones in pregnancy. Me out of the first trimester dump, Diana surpassing 20 weeks and finding out she was having another boy. She even shared sweet Kaden’s name with me before others knew. Our bond seemed to grow even deeper. It was so much fun to be pregnant together again.
Since Kaden’s passing, I worried if our friendship would change. Would it be hard for her to chat with me, knowing that I was pregnant while she was grieving? Could I bring up baby sister and pregnancy in our chats? Could we joke around like we used to? Could we talk about trivial matters? I so desperately didn’t want to make her feel any worse than I can’t even image she is feeling with the loss of Kaden. I was just so torn.
I decided to just go by her lead. I knew her well enough to know that if she wanted to talk about Kaden, she would. If she wanted to talk about writing and blogging instead, she would. And if she was in a joking mood, we’d still have our giggling moments. And when Diana wrote in a recent blog post, “It’s comforting to be sad and normal,” I knew that going with the flow, her flow, was best. She needed both. And the day she texted asking how I was doing with my transition back to teaching, I knew that it was OK to chat a bit about me and what was going on in my life, pregnancy and all.
I know through this all that she is still happy for me and my growing family. We’ve chatted and I told her how I’ve been worried to bring up my pregnancy and baby sister to her. I waited weeks to tell her this, but I knew I had to. Friends are honest with each other. She told me she didn’t want me to worry, and I believe her. Still, I’m sensitive to her grief right now, and don’t bring it up often. If she wants to know how I’m doing, she’ll ask, and I won’t be afraid to chat with her about my sausage feet or sleepless nights.
But the other night, when my husband and I thought we decided on baby sister’s name, I so wanted to tell her right away. I waited, though. How could I share my excitement while I knew she was so sad? Days went by, and I bit the bullet, remembering that she truly is happy for me despite her sadness. And after sharing the news with her, she told me about her hard day. Because, as she said, “It’s comforting to be sad and normal.”
What I’ve realized is that the best I can do is to just be there for her in any way she needs me. If it’s to laugh about a hysterical iStock photo she finds or to compare threenager stories about our daughters, then we do that. If it’s to let out all of her frustrations and sadness and grief and for me to listen and comfort her, offering her the best guidance I can, then we do that. Life ebbs and flows after all, and there’s comfort in all of it.
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