My friend, Kara C.L. Jones, aka Mother Henna, says that the death of our children updates our address book. Friends come through our grief, bear witness, leave us or support us, but there is an implicit understanding that friendship is a choice--a kind of conditional contract we have both entered into that can be terminated. When they are there, it is a powerful testament to their love. When friends walk away, we grieve too, but we change their status to ex-friend, former friend, or something less, uh, flattering. Our families, however, are there in a different way. Awkwardly at times. Perfectly quiet at others. Making meals, watching living children. Abiding unconditionally, or on the other hand, they can be a source of great shame and pain, critical of our grief. The pain they can add to our grief can sometimes overshadow the entire grieving process. But our contract is never broken. We remain family whether we see them or not.
I always think of grief as a great big magnifying glass into every relationship in our life. It shows all the pores, the blemishes and the great strength of our bonds. Throughout the month of January, our regular contributors are writing and talking about family--both the family of origin and the family we select as adults through our friends. The ways in which our family can be there, and the way they can't, after the death of our child(ren).
We invite you to join the conversation at the Kitchen Table. Our answers are here. Want to join in? Post the questions and your answers on your own blog, link to us here at Glow in the Woods meme-style, and share the link to your post in the comments. If you don't have your own online space, simply post your answers directly in the comments on the Kitchen Table page.
1. What was your relationship with your immediate family (mother, father, sisters and/or brothers) like before your child died? How have those relationships changed?
2. Has your family been a refuge or safe haven, or a place where your grief is unaccepted?
3. How has your partner's family, if you have one, been there for you? For your partner?
4. Have your immediate and extended family accepted your child(ren) as part of the family? Do they talk about your baby(ies)? Do they mourn?
5. What kind of support did your immediate family offer? Did they lose themselves in action, like cooking and cleaning? Or were they emotionally supportive?
6. What was it like to bear witness to your family's grief? In what ways could you be present for them? In what ways could you not be present?
7. When you reflect on deaths in your extended family, how did the treatment of your child's (or children's) death differ from, say, the death of a grandparent?