Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Witness

When we got home from North Carolina yesterday, we found in our mailbox a personal letter of condolence from Joe Biden. Yes, that Joe Biden. It was signed by him personally (at least it looks like it was) and mentions Hudson by name. We are not totally sure how he heard about Hudson’s death, but we were obviously deeply touched by his effort to reach out to other parents who, like him, have suffered the death of a child. (We are sending him a note so that we can tell him the story of how he already met Hudson, and to offer our condolences to him as well). 

A few hours later, a friend sent me a Facebook message about having struck up a conversation with a dad in line at a restaurant. His two kids were running all over the place and his wife was very pregnant. When my friend remarked that he had two kids and one on the way, he proceeded to tell her that he still struggles with the question of “How many kids do you have?” He said he and his wife had actually been blessed with three children and one on the way, and that his oldest left them sooner than they had planned—she died when she was only 22 months old. She would have been seven in August, but he still struggles with whether to be honest when asked that question. He said he usually decides to tell her story because it is one way he keeps her alive in his heart.

What, exactly, do these two stories have to do with each other? At our second meeting with our grief counselor, she said that the best that a grief counselor can do is bear witness to our grief, that the process is our own and can’t really be directed, but that it deserves and needs a witness. Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross agrees:  “Grief must be witnessed to be healed. Grief shared is grief abated . . . Tell your tale, because it reinforces that your loss mattered.” Telling our story also helps us explore our grief in a way that helps us put it in some kind of order and begin to put back together the pieces of our shattered lives.

This is exactly why I write this blog, because my grief so desperately needs a witness. This is exactly why that dad in line shared his story with my friend, because 6 years later, his grief still needs a witness. This is exactly why Joe Biden sent us a note when he heard about our story, even though he certainly has an infinite number of other things to do, because he is also a bereaved parent and spouse, and he understands the importance of bearing witness.

I am, once again, so grateful for everyone who has sent and continues to send us notes, messages, and tributes, for everyone who continues to call and stop by and invite us out. And for everyone who continues to read my blog, even though it is very difficult at times. You are all bearing witness for us—you continue to reinforce, so powerfully, that our loss matters, not just to us, but to so many others. One Good Thing we can find in the depths of our grief is that we have so many willing witnesses to share it with. Thank you all.

12 comments:

  1. Tho I've sent the link to your blog to some close friends and kin, I've resisted posting a link to it on FB. For my own reasons, I just don't like to post much personal stuff there, and this blog is intensely personal. So I'm going to ask your permission before linking to this. Would it be ok with you?

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  2. Mandy, I am so honored to be one of the many bearing witness.

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  3. My husband loves sci-fi movies and shows, and in one of his favorite series there is a beautiful gentle blue alien that has the power to lay her hands on any creature and absorb their physical and emotional pain. In the weeks since Hudson's death, I have often imagined each thought, prayer, FB post, and blog post from your friends and family, as us laying our hands on you and absorbing your pain. We will always be here like that blue alien, bearing witness.

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  5. To the person who asked if it was OK to share this blog on Facebook, it is absolutely OK. The only consolation I can take from Hudson's death is knowing that somehow, somewhere, her story can have meaning for someone else. If her life can continue to have an impact on the world she loved so much, then her story should be shared, as far and wide as it can possibly be shared. Thank you so much.

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  6. Mandy, I have just reread the entire blog to date. You have a true gift with words; I hope that someday you will publish this. It would be a help to anyone else going through such a time. Please know that we keep you and Ed in our thoughts and prayers daily.

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  7. Mandy, Hudson's life, and her departure, matter. They matter to you and Ed, to your friends and family, to anyone who is/was/will be a parent, and especially to everyone who has ever lost a loved one. Though on some days you may not feel like writing or talking about your story (completely justified), reading your blog is a blessing to us. That you (again) thank us for reading it only proves how strong and loving you really are. - Sara

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  8. Mandy, I couldn't figure out why I have felt a profound sadness in Hudson's death like no other in my life, especially since I didn't know her. This post on being a witness is helping me understand it at last. I was on maternity leave last year with my daughter who is 3 months younger than Hudson, and saw you electronically gathering a group of new moms to meet at Sureia. You sounded so nice via email, that I asked to join the group of new moms even though I wasn't a new mom, but rather a mom hoping to make some nice friends in the neighborhood. We emailed a couple times, and in the end I never was able to make it because my older son's nap always seemed to collide with the meeting time.

    When I heard about Hudson's death, I thought of my brief emails with you, more than a year ago, at a time when we both were sharing that joyful, magical experience of being at home and bonding with our beautiful, new daughters. The cruelty of her life being cut so short completely shocked my system.

    I am continuing my witness of Hudson's death and I think you've captured what so many of us are trying to do when we cry in sadness and in rage for Hudson and for you and all who loved her.
    Erin Hutson

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  9. Thank you again Mandy for writing these blog posts. You are such a force of nature. Thank you for letting me be a witness.

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  10. Mandy, I'm checking your blog every day. Hudson's death and your grief have touched me deeply, and I think about you a lot. My daughter Adelaide is almost 17 months old, and it breaks my heart to think that you lost your precious girl at this most tender and miraculous of ages. Please keep posting and we'll keep reading-- not because reading your blog is in any way enjoyable but because it is something we can do to take away a tiny piece of your burden. Elizabeth Hambourger

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  11. Mandy, I don't know how to say it correctly, but you allowing us to be witness to this awful thing has made me different-- better, I hope. My responses in so many situations since we heard of Hudson's illness have been made more meaningful by thinking of you and your enormous strength, and your ability to let other people in to share the burden of your grief with you. I know that your loss will not diminish-- it will change and I hope become easier in the day-to-day-- but your response to this terrible thing is in itself transformative. We continue to think of you every single day.

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  12. Mandy - I've wanted to write ever since I started to read your blog, but, because I don't know you personally and have just heard about your family and Hudson through my daughter-in-law Dana, felt it wasn't my place. I can't hold back any longer because I am overwhelmed with how beautifully you express your intense feelings and grief and how wonderful it is that you are reaching out so we can all bear witness.

    I think of you often and send you and Ed and your family my deepest sympathy for your tragic loss. As a social worker/counselor, I think your writing is not only very therapeutic for you, but so helpful to all those who have suffered terrible tragedies. Hopefully, you don't mind that I have shared your link with my sister-in-law, a pediatric oncologist who deals with bereaved parents every day. I think her reading it and perhaps sharing it will also help to continue Hudson's legacy and help other bereaved parents.

    You have many people who love you. Take good care of yourself and keep on writing. Susan Miller

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