I read this in the Guardian the other day, and it seemed a perfect follow-up to my previous post on the solidarity of grief.
A beautiful and poignant example… I love the idea of planting a tree and this woman’s other children knowing why it is there.
A letter to … the kind stranger who shared her grief with me
The afternoon I visited your shop, I had been walking around aimlessly for hours and I’m not sure what made me go in. My confidence had deserted me and the furthest thing from my mind was shopping for new clothes. Less than a week before, I had been 11 weeks pregnant, full of joy and hope and new life. Now all that was gone, and with it my whole sense of who I was; it was my second miscarriage and I felt bereft.
Your shop was empty and I think you were probably about to close for the day but you gave me a big welcoming smile and asked if you could help. You were French, in your 50s and a complete stranger to me, but for some reason I found myself telling you I had just lost a baby and none of my clothes fitted me any more. You helped me pick out some tops and I went into the changing room.
Looking at my body still carrying the soft, hopeful signs of pregnancy was too much for me, and I hurried out, explaining that I’d changed my mind, and you touched my arm in empathy. In that small, kind gesture I felt myself unravel, I began to cry and then I couldn’t stop. I told you that I didn’t know how to move forwards, that I felt a failure, that I was afraid I had caused this, that the loss was unbearable.
You held my hands in yours and told me that you had lost several babies yourself, that none of it was my fault. “Try not to hide your grief,” you said. “If you talk about it, you will discover so many other women who have been through what you have been through and talking about it honours the sadness and helps everyone.”
You were so kind to me and you were right – as I began to talk about it, I was touched by the enormous amount of support for me, and I discovered how very common miscarriage is. Losing a baby in pregnancy is an unspoken grief, but it deserves as much compassion and understanding as any loss.
You suggested I do something practical to remember my lost babies by, and I planted a camellia. As the years have passed, it has grown into a beautiful tree that flowers every spring and my other children know exactly why it is there and why it is so important to me.
We only spent a few minutes together that afternoon, but sharing your experiences with me changed the landscape of my grief. I know you never had children of your own so to reach out beyond your own sadness and losses to comfort me and show me I wasn’t alone, was a great act of kindness. I can’t thank you enough for your tender warmth, wisdom and generosity of spirit.