Do Books on Grief Make Grief Harder?

4 years ago

I don't know about the rest of you babyloss friends out there, but when your baby died, did tons of books and articles start flooding your way?

Not that there's anything wrong with that and honestly, I think it's so encouraging that those who care most about you send not only their condolences, but anything they can that they think might keep you treading water. Because that's all we were doing for a very, very long time after Andrew died -- treading water. Sending literature, cards, plants, or whatever means you're acknowledging our loss and sadness -- that it's not being trivialized. As much as I felt suffocated by the full mailbox of sad cards and flower deliveries, I felt so thankful that Andrew was recognized at all to a sea of people who had never even seen his face (which is beautiful, by the way).

We sent the plants and flowers away with a friend who works at a nursing home. The people appreciated them there and were willing to see that they were cared for. We would've just let them shrivel up and die... which felt like such a strong metaphor for how we were feeling when our son really did die. We didn't need to watch other things die around us because we were in no shape to care for them. So they went.

But the literature.

Grief Books

Credit: Brandy Wilson

I'd venture to say that I read only one of the books in the entire pile. It's a children's book and I lost my mind reading it... but felt it was a good description of grief. Other than that, I didn't even crack open the covers. I hid them away, embarrassed that I needed to own such titles. I didn't want anyone telling me how to grieve or giving me advice on something so crippling and unforgiving. I didn't want someone telling me it would be okay eventually or that I needed to move on and this was how to do it. I did read two books, but mostly memoirs of those who had babies die before me. I craved that literature, as I wanted to know I wasn't alone. But a psychiatrist's point of view about how to handle the worst thing conceivable? I wanted nothing to do with those words.

All I wanted to do was talk with babyloss friends, cry, and try like hell to get pregnant again so I could mask some of that sadness in the form of a sibling. While having B is much more than that now, it definitely felt like the best salve I could have to ease the pain. And it has... but just like a salve, it only masks the pain a bit. It doesn't eliminate the pain.

Yesterday during B's nap, we were cleaning the utility room in our basement. I cleaned through all my teaching supplies to consolidate and eliminate some of the stuff I know will be valueless in a few years when I finally head back to the classroom. We organized our camping and hiking supplies, and made room for our tools and other things that belong in basement utility rooms... like dust-collecting tennis rackets.

I came across Andrew's bag. It's a Trader Joe's bag that our friends brought to the hospital full of snacks and goodies the day after Andrew was born. I can't bring myself to use the re-usable bag, as it most definitely feels like Andrew's bag. Yet, it's such a cheap representation of his life and value. But I just don't know where to keep his things. The things he wore in the hospital. The only things he ever wore. The trinkets people sent us and keepsakes, his footprints, certificates of sad things... and the literature. The grief literature that just seemed to pile and pile when we opened our mailbox during the weeks and months after he died.

I only now might be able to crack open the covers of some of them, but I don't know if that's healthy. I'm an experienced griever now, and I do believe my words could very well be written on those pages. I fear the words will open wounds that are salved over and maybe even present more anger than I continue to harbor about losing our perfect firstborn.

Do these books remain on my shelves? What about Andrew's things? Where do those go? They were in the nursery until Benjamin was born, and then we moved them to the basement because we didn't know where else they should go. I moved them from the basement utility room to the basement bedroom closet yesterday because it seemed like a warmer environment for the only things Andrew ever touched. I don't know that I value them a ton, but it seems like I should or at least separate them from dusty tennis rackets and the hot water heater.

Brandy at Windy City Wilsons

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