Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. The book is written by Cheryl Strayed, who was formerly the anonymous online advice columnist, Dear Sugar. The book is a collection of letters written to Dear Sugar and her responses.
One letter is from a bereaved mother, Stuck. Stuck’s baby died. I want to share the wisdom that Sugar so powerfully offers. The following is part of the advice that Sugar wrote to her:
I’m so sorry that your baby girl died. So terribly sorry. I can feel your suffering vibrating right through my computer screen. This is to be expected. It is as it should be. Though we live in a time and place and culture that tries to tell us otherwise, suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us.
Don’t listen to those people who suggest you should be “over” your daughter’s death by now. The people who squawk the loudest about such things have almost never had to get over anything. Or at least not anything that was genuinely mind-fuckingly, soul-crushingly life altering. Some of those people believe they are being helpful by minimizing your pain. Others are scared of the intensity of your loss and so they use their words to push your grief away. Many of those people love you and are worthy of your love, but they are not the people who will be helpful to you when it comes to healing the pain of your daughter’s death.
They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died.
It seems to me that you feel like you’re all alone there. You aren’t. There are women reading this right now who have tears in their eyes. There are women who have spent their days chanting daughter, daughter or son, son silently to themselves. Women who have been privately tormented about the things they did or didn’t do that they fear caused the death of their babies. You need to find those women. They’re your tribe.
I know because I’ve lived on a few planets that aren’t Planet Earth myself […]
This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from the daughter you loved, but so you can live the life that is yours — the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her. That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. […]
You will never stop loving your daughter. You will never forget her. You will always know her name. But she will always be dead. Nobody can intervene and make that right and nobody will. Nobody can take it back with silence or push it away with words. Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. Therapists and friends and other people who live on Planet My Baby Died can help you along the way, but the healing–the genuine healing, the actual real deal down-on-your-knees-in-the-mud-change–is entirely and absolutely up to you. […]
I have been living on Planet My Baby Died for 7 years. I do not know if there is a separate Planet for when a second child dies. If so, I have been on that Planet for almost 3 years. Either way, here I am trying to live.
I read this earlier today. I have been thinking about the ‘planets’ we all live on, influenced by the experiences we had.
I have been living on Planet My Baby Died for 15 months today.
I have been living on Planet My Mother Committed Suicide for 10,5 months.
I have been living on Planet …
It’s part of my experience but it’s not the only thing that defines me and, as Lanie says, I am here to live.