I remember randomly turning on the TV the morning of April 16, 2007. I was horrified by the news that was taking place before my eyes as the tragedy at VA Tech unfolded. I was home, babysitting a few children. To this day, I am not sure why I felt compelled to turn the news on that morning, something I rarely did when the children were around.
I was speechless. I was angry. I felt helpless. I could not relate.
We were newly married and expecting our first child. Although I had experienced painful moments throughout my youth, life was good for me now. I wanted to cry with the families of the victims, I felt it inside, and yet I couldn’t. I knew there was nothing in my life I could relate it to. For days, I carried this frustration inside. Little did I know what lay ahead.
Less than a month later, during a routine ultrasound in my pregnancy, the doctors told us that our baby was not developing properly. Although we were encouraged to learn we were going to have a healthy dwarf, there was still an intense amount of pain in processing the truth that our baby was different than what we had planned. As it turned out, we would have gladly accepted a healthy dwarf; instead, our little Sadie Rose died June 20, 2007, only 17 hours after she was born.
In the midst of my anguish, I remember thinking, “Now I know. Now I can cry for the families of the VA Tech tragedy, because my baby is dead, too.”
I understood that the horrific senseless violence in which those victims died only added to the pain of losing a child, a sibling, a grandchild, a friend. Our daughter was given every opportunity by the medical community to survive and she still couldn’t make it. In the VA Tech tragedy, someone made a deliberate decision that the people in his line of fire had lived long enough, so in some ways, I still could not relate. But now I can grieve with the families. I can empathize. I know how it feels to think about my baby every day and wish she was here with me.
That’s how it is with all our stories of child and pregnancy loss. They are all different. Even when they are similar, there are unique circumstances and situations that make every story of loss its own. No one can honestly say to the next person, “I know exactly how you feel.’” But we have common ground. We can grieve together with an unspoken understanding of how it feels to have buried our child. Together we can help develop and understand what this “new normal” feels like as we adjust to life without our children here to fill them.
What are things you would tell your family and friends who want to support you in your loss, grieve with you, relate to you, but they have not gone through the experience for themselves?
Have you been the person that felt you could not relate to your friends loss? How did you respond to that? What are ways you worked through it?