I am grateful for Ana in a lot of ways. Her response to my blog on my difficulties understanding spiritual benefits of stillbirth was so brilliant and insightful I asked her to contribute a guest blog. This brought me back to where I had started nearly 5 years ago.
When referrals to her post started to show the Sands forum as a source I took a look at the site after a long absence to find out why.
Returning to Sands
In the month after my sons’ deaths I briefly visited the site only to drift away left uncomfortable by the language of angels and talk of a heavenly afterlife that seemed alien, still too raw to really know what I was doing.
Returning to the site I was struck by how sporadic the posting still is. In a way that’s reflective of the ebb and flow of grief. You shouldn’t spend all your time there but dip in and out as needed. Its a place of refuge not somewhere to take residence.
The forum has an impressive range of topics and categories for all the different facets of the tarnished diamond of grief and the mysteries and contradictions around bereavement. There is a ‘just feeling’ area that felt like a genuine safe place to talk of things I would feel uncomfortable talking about even here.
I put up an introduction post and replied to a few others. I asked questions about memorials and memories.
Within a few hours I had kind and heartbreaking messages from parents who had lost their babies decades ago.
They showed me that while the way bereaved families are treated now still needs improvement we have come a long way from those cruel to be kind days.
Some of the stories of 40 years ago are devastating. The small comforts of photos and hospital tags we were given were denied to them leaving them with literally nothing.
It was all with the honourable intention of protecting the mother but instead these cruelties condemned them to a compounded tragedy of losing their child and not even seeing them or holding them or even pictures to remember them by.
I found a kindred spirit with a similar passion for music. They told me of the final moments spent with their baby and others spoke of how beloved songs had taken on a new meaning in the light (or darkness) of their loss. How a song more used for weddings became one to mourn and grieve.
There were accounts of a barely suppressed rage being unleashed on the insensitive and an utterly unforgivable failure of memory depriving a family of theirs in the cruellest way.
The Wood within the Sands
It was through these discussions that I learned about a special place for those exorcising their demons and enshrining memories in words.
It was a place that recognised that some of the people there would come and go, some may stay longer than others and others may visit once and then never again.
It’s somewhere I want to absorb all of its stories and share them so that the experiences and mess of feelings are not ignored or sidelined.
But at the same time I know that total immersion in sorrow, rage and horror can only come at a price. It will be a fraction of the pain felt by those that lived through it and still live with it but that it is not possible to read so many accounts and not feel each snowflake becoming an avalanche.
The lost art of keeping a secret
It’s somewhere I’ve only visited briefly but from the second I found it I felt as though I had found what I had been searching for through blogging and through the forums.
I’m grateful for all of the blog link ups that have hosted my horror amongst their positivity and joy but I’ve always felt a stab of guilt for the person that links up after me. The unbreakable vow of linky rules compels them to read and comment on some of my most terrible thoughts.
What I have found is somewhere where like minded people write and somewhere that is the closest thing to a kindred spiritual home.
I’m torn between keeping it a secret to protect it and wanting to share it so others like me can find sanctuary within stories and share our own.
I’ve been waiting for a guide to take me by the hand
It’s not mine to protect though and it’s hard enough to find our way without someone ‘helpfully’ hiding the sign posts.
Each story reassures us we are not alone and allows us to connect. These stories should be told so that those that suffer and will suffer can speak freely and tell the world that their children were here, they are loved and will be remembered.
For those of you that have joined the terrible club and want to find the place you need to go in the darkest hours of the soul at 3am please take my hand and I’ll lead you to the Glow in the Woods.
“For parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: we want to be a glow through the trees. Stumble up the steps, shake off the snow and the crust and the stiffness. There’s a bunch of us by a crackling fire, offering you a hot mug or wine and whoopie pies or whatever else warms you up. Sink into a battered old sofa, tuck your feet under your legs, a woodsmokey quilt around your shoulders, and be with us.
One of us, only half-joking, said this will be a place where us medusas can take off our hats, none minding the sight of all the snakes. Because not only can we bear the sight of each other—we crave it.
Babylost mothers and fathers, this place is yours.”