Friendship after loss


Three times I have now done this.

The first was my cousin. Her beautiful daughter died just six weeks after entering the world. I am not sure how much of a help I was for that to be honest. I think teapot and chocolate spring to mind.

It is not that we weren’t close, we were very much so. Childhoods entwined with long summer sleep-overs and roaming feral across coastlines and cliffs in the those care-free days before parents locked their children away with iPads. Then there were the teenage years spent lolling, eating fizzy cola bottles, on bunk beds debating the relative merits of Curiosity Killed the Cat and Wet Wet Wet. She was the one that told me that I could practice snogging on my hand and led me astray with my first elicit ‘mixy’ made from bottles languishing for a reason in her parents’ booze cupboard.

But I was young. I had no clue. I think I rolled up to the funeral, got drunk and probably obnoxious, then swanned back to London and my life. The only support offered in the coming years being a metaphoric slap on the back in a late night bar and 2am blurrily recalled booze-fuelled chats.

The second was my sister-in-law. Just nine days her little man graced the earth before Edward’s Syndrome claimed him. We knew it was coming from early in the pregnancy, but nothing could prepare us for how heartbreaking it was. I am happy to admit I was of more practical use in the dark early days this time around. I could take her other children to school and back, load the fridge with food, make tea (so much bloody tea), and sit on the floor with her toddler and play whilst she wept upstairs.

I got all the inside scoop, sitting there on the sidelines, on the way that people handled her. And what worked and what did not. Because everyone is different. And for every person that gave her a bear hug, there was one that crossed the road to avoid her – crippled with unease, not knowing what to say and not wanting to sustain her sadness.

Now there is you. Not even a week has passed since you lost your beloved boy.

I suppose I could have put all this in a private letter. In fact that was the plan. But now I find myself opening up my blog dashboard and keying in the words here instead. A blog long neglected as what could I write about when all of our thoughts have been with you for what has been the most bittersweet of summers. And this is what we do – you and I – we spill our beans online. The “brainfart” as you call it.

I also thought that I am probably not alone in what I am about to write.

You have created comrades in droves with your endless kindness to others. Even when the chips were down and I knew you were fighting your own demons, you could always find the right words to help and bolster those struggling with this life that we all now lead. The one governed and mastered by the genetic lotteries that are our children. Your support stands out – coming as it does from your your own unique, witty and insightful perspective of the world.

Now it is time for us to try and support you. And where do we begin?

This time around it is beyond tough. Because this time around you are too far away to make tea for or to scoop your daughter out to the swings down the road so you can pause, hear the quiet, try to calm. I can’t load the fridge or stand in the corner handing out the biscuits as the visitors arrive. There, but not there, as you try to get through the day.

For a friendship that began in a support group, I like to think it is a strong, if not conventional, one. We speak in some form every day. Our conversations are in the written form, accessible at all hours, and that’s what has made it so easy and natural. I’ve got so used to this sort of friendship that I sometimes stare at the phone in surprise if someone calls and I have to speak not type.

But this ‘virtual friendship’ mode is going to make things tricky going ahead. You are not going to have the energy to communicate through a keyboard, you won’t be able to find the words that jumble your brain, to relay just how broken you are right now. The most effective communication is non-verbal – a small smile, a pat on the shoulder – things that smart phones are still not smart enough to convey.

Then there is the thing that bonded us that might now drive us apart. Our two little boys, born just weeks apart. Who although medically different, matched each other developmentally small step by small step. It will be painful for you, I know, to hear tales of my child. You’ll say it won’t, but there will be times that will rip you apart. I won’t do that to you, but I believe the strands of our friendship are made up of so much more. That is where we will focus our attention in all the long days ahead.

I am going to get it spectacularly wrong at times. I know that. There will be days when you can’t function and I’ll post a picture online beaming with a cold beer and you’ll think I’m a terrible mate. I know I’ll annoy you – hell we all will – just because. But, I am setting my stall out early. You can push back and hide as much as you need, but at the end of the day I will still be here. You can rant and shout and scream and I will listen. You can weep and I will comfort. And one day you will laugh again and I will laugh with you.

You say that you are “pinned to the bed with sadness” and there is nothing but despair ahead. There will be the funeral, his birthday, Christmas and the summer once more. Each day feeling like it can’t be worse than the rest, but then finding a new way to knock you down. But let me whisper this to you now to put away in your pocket for another day – those two women above were just the same. But, slowly they began to live again, allowed themselves to plan, to see that the world still had lots more to offer. You will one day again too. With every breath I know that they grieve their babies, but most days it doesn’t consume them the way it once did.

So what do we do now? How do I – and all that love you – try to help pick up the pieces of your smashed heart. I guess it will just be one small piece at a time. Holding each part in our palms and handing them back – bit by bit – when you are ready with a word, smile, hug or gesture.

I promise you this. We are not letting you go down with this ship. You’ll sink for a bit, but there is a small army of us watching and waiting, arms spread out wide. All that you have invested in us, will now be paid back in spades.

We are building you a raft to keep you afloat, but you’ll not need it forever my friend. You don’t realise it yet, but those sails will mend and there are many more oceans still for you explore.

And for now I’ll keep hold of the maps.


You can follow my friend’s story at Are You Kiddingney.

Her brilliant, brave and sharp writing has also earnt her a nomination for Best Campaigner in the Mumsnet Blog Awards and you can vote for her here.


11 Comments on Friendship after loss

  1. Sarah
    September 9, 2016 at 7:39 pm (6 years ago)

    Oh Alison this just popped up in my Facebook feed and I’ve just been to read your friend’s story. I’m sitting here weeping, feeling so helpless to find the right words or say anything useful. But just… You are a beautiful writer and a wonderful friend. They will be in my thoughts xxx
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  2. Carolyn
    September 9, 2016 at 7:41 pm (6 years ago)

    That made me cry so much, it’s so beautiful hon, so well written and says all the things any good friend would want to hear. I hope it can be part of the raft building -I may unintentionally provide a crappy bit of driftwood full of holes but when provided know that it was intended to be a strong mast to help you sail ahead I’ve just not had much practice at mast building to know the best reinforcements to use.
    Hugs to you both you are both beautiful and amazing ladies author and lady 3 xxxxxx

  3. Life at the Little Wood
    September 9, 2016 at 8:50 pm (6 years ago)

    Beyond beautiful Alison. So, so moving. You have such a gift! Thinking of your friends, and you all, in these dark days ahead and praying for comfort too. Huge hugs lovely lady xx

  4. Moira Senior
    September 10, 2016 at 6:30 am (6 years ago)

    I read this with tears in my eyes, but I am sure in the days to come this will comfort your friend. It was written with such compassion, support and understanding. What a lovely friend you are and I am sure when the days begin to lighten for your friend she will remember and thank you for them

  5. TPPV
    September 10, 2016 at 11:39 pm (6 years ago)

    *sniff* … beautiful. I bought some lovely pink string today, I’d love to tie our raft together with it. :-) xx

  6. Leigh - Headspace Perspective
    September 12, 2016 at 5:45 pm (6 years ago)

    This is so beautiful, Alison. I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss. As someone who has been there, I don’t think your friend’s shattered heart could ask for a kinder person to help them get through it. Try not to worry about doing the ‘wrong’ thing. The fact that you so clearly care so much means you will always do right xxxx

  7. Steph Curtis
    September 15, 2016 at 7:46 pm (6 years ago)

    Beautiful words and thoughts. Unimaginable pain. All you can do is be there in whatever way you can be xx


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  1. […] finally, a very special post from Alison at Complicated Gorgeousness (@complicatedgorg). Friendship After Loss is an emotional post, one that brought tears to my eyes as I read it. It’s so beautifully and […]

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