When my Madelyn died in my arms just after she was born I wanted to die too. Honestly, I couldn’t focus on anything but me and my grief. Everything and everyone beyond 2 feet in front of my nose was a blur. I ‘remember’ once laying in bed for 24 hours straight….only for my mother to come from across town to check on me and tell me I’d been watching fuzz on tv for all but 4 of those hours. I didn’t have the mental capacity to consider getting through the next 10 minutes let alone realize there were 8 billion other people on the planet trying to do the same thing. My world had shattered around me - how was theirs still revolving as normal?

Everyone within my circle was very kind to me though, always making sure I had eaten, was watered, had seen the sun recently, they would even give me a sponge bath…if absolutely necessary. {Basically, I was a very elaborate and expensive house plant.} I was in such a grief fog I couldn’t comprehend that others might be hurting from ‘my’ loss too…years later I realize they were - and still are - grieving the death of my daughter, their granddaughter, and niece - but at the time that didn’t even register in my brain…

Growing up I attended church services. I ‘knew’ when Maddie died we would have a service (more like I knew a service was expected) and being pre-COVID (and again, not knowing any differently) that that service needed to happen within the week. Bedridden by grief - and doctors’ orders - I wasn’t allowed to physically do many of the things required to prepare for the funeral. Luckily, have a very supportive and helpful family.

Honestly, I just thought it was standard ‘circling the wagons’ protocol. I was today years old when I found it was a deliberate and highly orchestrated plan by my husband…kinda… You see, Kyle is a ‘do-er’ {like a ‘Could you just sit still for 5 minutes, you’re freaking me out’ kind of do-er’} and he needed something to keep his hands busy otherwise his mind would go crazy. {His list of accomplishments is another story for another day…but I did get the laundry room and whole-house interior lighting I’d been asking for…}

And, I can see where he got his desire to process through progress:

My Father-in-Law, Bob, a woodworker all his life, built the most beautifully intricate and teeny-tiny coffin (something he said he’s always wanted to do) for Madelyn. My husband did provide (some) help when push came to shove…but I’m not sure how much ‘help’ was actually given. {Again, I wasn’t there - I was in the fetal position in some corner of my house.}

My Mother-in-Law, Kathey, an avid bargain shopper found the girliest, daintiest, frilliest pink gown to dress Madelyn in - exactly what I (didn’t know I) wanted. From the moment Maddie was allowed out of that sterile operating room she was dressed to the nines. She even had a beautifully oversized pink bow on her head - perfect for so many reasons.

My Mother, Carla, a creative crafter and embroiderer, personalized Maddie’s dress to perfection: Her name elegantly scripted across the chest; Our family saying for ‘love’ and her mama’s ‘superhero logo’ tenderly placed along the hem; And her great-aunt and uncle’s precious memorial angel pinned just below the collar of that frilly gown.

At that time in my life I could focus on no one’s emotions but my own. I greatly appreciated their ‘acts of service’ - but - I took their generous gifts as a desire to remove tasks from my plate.

Looking back, I realize the acts performed by my family weren’t just to remove a burden from my shoulders but also to begin their own healing journey - the first and final act of outwardly expressing their love. They were grieving too - not only for the grandchild they would never fully know but also for their children as they mourned the loss of their only child.

While each of these gifts are only in my physical possession as part of the cremains in Madelyn’s itty bitty urn - their presence continues to grow in my heart. And, even though we don’t really discuss it (even all these years later) I know these acts were Madelyn’s grandparents’ one opportunity to show their love to their first grandchild - love they get to show her cousins on a daily basis.

In the heat of the moment, if I had denied them this opportunity to outwardly express their love in their own very unique and special way {because “I need to do this myself thankyouverymuch!”} I don’t think I ever could have forgiven myself.

The further from the funeral I get the more I gain from the experience and unconditional acts of love my family showed me and Madelyn….and I hope you can too.

When trauma arises in my life - even when I am not at the tip of the kvetching sphere - I aim to reduce some of the burdens for others by sharing my gifts and strengths. It goes a little like this:

“There are no words to show my sympathy for your loss. I want to support you in a tangible way. I would really like to {{fill in the blank with my talent de jour}}. Can I please do that for you to hopefully give you a brief respite?”

And, when I’m on the receiving end of a question like this one I almost always say ‘Yes’ - not just to remove some of the weight from my shoulders but also to allow the other person to know they provided support in a meaningful way - for both of us.