Stepping Stones – Baby Loss Awareness Week 2022

You are standing on the bank of a river, for most of your life you are not aware that it runs alongside you nor that on the other side of that river there is another bank, for the most it has been shrouded in fog, and even when it has briefly lifted, blown aside by stories of others, the fog quickly settles, and you think of the river or the other bank no more.

Then one day, something terrible happens, your world is shattered by no more than a handful of words, and the resulting howl of grief clears away that fog and you see the river lapping at your feet now, rising as if to pull you in. And in you go, willingly, because that river of grief is now all you know and the bank you have left is who you were before your world was devastated in a terrible moment of silence.

At first, as you slip into the waters echoing with the stories of others that have shared this pain, the river is by turns terrifying, comforting, and seemingly without control. There are times when you try and fight the current, times you surrender to it allowing yourself to be swept along by the love it represents or the anger you feel and fear, and times when you may simply tread water feeling very little of anything.

With time, you become aware of others around you, they are moving across a series of stepping stones that emerge from the water. Some stumble as they try to cross, some seem to glide with an impossible elegance across well worn stones, some may find that the stones they have used before have now become treacherous and risk slipping back into that water.

You may recognise some of those people, some you may never have expected to be in the same club that you now find yourself in, others will be strangers, but all will be there to encourage you. To point out the stones that they found helpful, the ones that had been left by the countless ones before them. You may try to use their stone only to find it the wrong shape for you, too smooth or too jagged but it is only by trying these stones that you find the ones that work for you. The stones that seemed like they would cut like knives, unusually soft or the ones that at first glance seemed smooth and safe, turning to sand beneath your feet.

And over time, with help from others, with trial and error, curiosity, and caution, this is how you can cross the river. What lies on the other side is not acceptance but a place where we can live with our grief rather than fighting it or denying it. It is from here, we can rest, and find comfort in the soft sound of that river of grief rather than fearing its rage. We can live with the love and memories and dreams that drives those currents and remind us of those we lost.

There will be times when we want to plunge back willingly into the water to feel the rawness of the loss, to howl at its injustice, but with the stepping stones, ours and others, we know we can get back to the bank of the river. It is now the side we started that is now shrouded with fog. We may see glimpses or shadows of ourselves as we were we look across the water but know that this is the side we now exist.

The stepping stones now only extend back to our new home. There is a bittersweet comfort in that as you share your stories with others and in time, you too may be the one pointing out stepping stones to the new people you see struggling in the water, reaching a hand out to help pull them up when you see them sinking, sitting with them as they share their story so they are not the only ones that carry it, and in those stories we share our love and memories keeping the ones we lost close and forever part of our lives.

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