Last week I bumped into someone who I last saw a year ago, when I was going on maternity leave. She remembered me and asked how old my baby was now. I was unprepared, I stumbled over my words, but replied ‘he would have been nearly a year old, but he died.’ The bomb went off. Her face fell. I explained, probably in too much detail. She said she was sorry, she grasped my hand. It doesn’t always go like that. Sometimes people back away, not knowing what to say to me, like they think it might be catching. Sometimes they rush to say something, anything - ‘it obviously wasn’t meant to be’, I’ve heard, which is one of the worst things someone can say to me, or ‘will you have other children’, like that would negate the loss of my boy.
At times, dealing with other people’s reactions is harder than living with my own grief. I don’t like to make people feel uncomfortable, or sad, or scared. I don’t want to upset them or make them feel unsure of what to say. I don’t want to get cross with them for their often inadequate responses. But I can’t deny my son. I can’t pretend he doesn’t exist, that he didn’t live, that he isn’t relevant. He did, he is. He’s imprinted on my heart forever and I need to be able to talk about him. So I go on dropping that bomb, placing it down as gently as I can, and preparing myself for the fallout.