Neonatal Herpes Stories
LIZZY'S STORY (the friend's perspective)
Many parents whose baby has died struggle when friends and family avoid talking about it. Lizzy shares her experience here about being a friend who realised she needed to start talking more. Baby Kit died from a herpes infection.
This week is Baby Loss Awareness week. Before I had a child myself I didn't really understand the significance of that. I know that sounds selfish, but I really was clueless.
Four years ago my friend Sarah's baby Kit died when he was 2 weeks old. Although I was devastated, I didn't know what to say to Sarah. I missed my opportunity to help remove the baby paraphernalia from their house. I wanted to send cards and go round there with flowers, I tried to set up a meal rota, I wanted to call her and get her to come out .... but somehow, despite my instincts, I never did any of these things. I somehow got the idea from somewhere that she and her husband would rather be left alone. And so after sending one text I remained silent. Thinking she would come to me if she needed me.
And when we did see each other after several weeks, I gave her a hug and asked how she was, but I allowed her to bat away my question as if it was a social nicety and I let the conversation move on. And as the weeks went by I never asked her to tell me the story of how Kit died. I didn't ask how the hospital investigations were progressing, or when his funeral was going to be. And I never said his name. I waited for her to open up the conversation. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to pry. And I didn't want to upset Sarah by saying the wrong thing. I mean, what if she had been enjoying herself and hadn't been thinking about Kit and then I spoiled that by reminding her?
Then one day, Sarah said something which really helped me. She said "I'm always thinking about Kit. And since we are already going through the worst thing, there's nothing you or anyone could possibly say to make it worse. Except if you said nothing."
So these days, I do ask Sarah how she is, and I do mention Kit's name. Even if it's clumsy and clunky and the words don't come out right. I trust Sarah to receive my love in the way its intended and I try not to waste opportunities by overthinking. These days, I know that Sarah prefers the terminology of "Kit's death" rather than "the loss of Kit" - even though death is a hard word to say because it is taboo in our culture. This isn't the same for everyone but I know what's comfortable for Sarah because I've asked her.
None of this makes it OK that Kit died. Sarah and James will always have a Kit-shaped hole in their hearts. But by giving them the opportunity to talk about him, and how they are feeling, together as a community we can help break the silence and help support grieving families to heal, and see bright hope for the future.