Has a friend or relative or someone dear to you lost something or someone special to them?
Do you want to comfort them and think that saying “maybe it’s for the best” might help them see things from another perspective?
Please don’t say it. Not ever.
It’s tempting if a person you care about is grieving, to try and help them through it by finding reason in their loss. To provide some sense in a senseless situation. But it doesn’t help. It’s never for the best.
It’s half past two in the morning. I pant as the the contraction grows to it’s climax quashing the overwhelming urge to push while my baby’s head crowns. The contraction subsides to be followed almost immediately by the next.
“Push” comes the doctor’s instruction and a few seconds later I see my baby daughter for the first time.
I’m allowed the briefest of contact before she is rushed away to to intensive care.
I knew Jasmine would be poorly when she arrived. I had been given the news at 32 weeks gestation that she had hydrocephalus and that she may have serious difficulties throughout her life.
We had accepted that and knew we would have to seek all the help we could find to make life the best it possibly could be for her. She was already loved and the whole family would be there for her.
Just a week later and only 33 weeks into my pregnancy she was born. It was the next morning before I was allowed to go and see her.
Nothing could have prepared me for the shock. She was in a crib surrounded by electronic equipment flashing and bleeping. She lay on her back, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest, a steady rhythm supplied not by herself, but by the machines.
I held her tiny hand but was not allowed to cradle her.
The consultant gave me the devastating news of her condition. She had suffered a brain haemorrhage while in the womb which had led to her hydrocephalus. At the moment the machines were taking over her breathing because her blood oxygen was too low. To enable this she had been put on morphine. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to comprehend what was happening. I felt completely and utterly helpless and had to put my trust in the team who looking after her.
I sat with her for a while, looking at all the details. She was 7lbs 7ounces. A good weight for a full term baby but very large for only 33 weeks. She was massive in comparison to the other babies around her with some as small as a bag of sugar.
I wasn’t allowed to stay long. I didn’t want to leave. The nurse led me to a room at the end of the maternity ward where I would spend the next couple of days. Away from all the new Mums happily cuddling, feeding and changing the new additions to their broods.
I expressed milk for Jasmine with a brutal pump. It was all I could do for her.
I spent as much time as I was allowed with Jasmine and introduced her to her older siblings. They all loved her and looked forward to being able to take her home. Jasmine was responding to treatment and all the signs were there that she would soon be off the ventilator.
The hospital suggested I went home and got a good night’s sleep ready for taking more responsibility for her care. I gave everyone the good news and promised to take them for another visit the next day.
A phone call that evening came as a surprise. Please could I come back to the hospital. I got a friend to drive me straight away.
I wasn’t prepared for the shock. Jasmine had suffered another haemorrhage.
She had pulled through one, she could do it again. She was a fighter.
The look on the consultants face said it all. He didn’t need to say it.
This time the damage was too severe. The part of the brain that controlled all motor functions, breathing, heartbeat, movement everything was damaged beyond any possibility of recovery. She was only alive because the machines were doing everything.
It was time to turn them off and let her go.
For the first time since she was born I was allowed to take her in my arms. I took in everything about her. The dark hair, the dimples, the birthmark on her forehead, her plumpness, the pink skin, long fingers and toes.
The machine was turned off. I hoped beyond hope for a miracle. She slipped silently away, never to have cried.
In a side-room, alone, I dressed her in the clothes she would have worn to go home. We said goodbye, looking at her for the last time, wondering how to break the news to her siblings.
The next few days I think I was still in shock. Grief filled every waking hour but I had four other children to care for who were also filled with grief and anger. I devoted all my energy to them and muddled through to the funeral.
She was laid to rest in a tiny plot in the cemetery. There was just the family, 2 coffin bearers and the funeral director. It was our tragedy and I invited no-one else to share it.
I listened to the platitudes of well meaning friends and relatives but took practically nothing in.
With the exception of one phrase.
Maybe it was for the best.
I had to get away before I exploded with anger. I wanted to scream like a Banshee and let out all the emotional turmoil of the last few weeks in a vitriolic tirade.
How could it possibly be for the best? How could a life taken away so young possibly be justified by “ maybe it was for the best”? My heart was broken and someone hoped to soothe it by suggesting it was better this way. In what twisted Universe could it ever be better this way?
Recovery was slow and painful for everyone. The family remembers her, wonder how she might have been, who she might have been more like. Think about the things we may have shared and laughed or cried about together. But we never forget. She is a part of our family, a treasured part.
It is difficult to know what to say when faced with someone grieving and in need. My suggestion would be to give a hug and offer to be a shoulder to cry on at any time. Tell them you are there to help if they need you. And actually be there. Pop round and make a cup of tea, a meal, just give them time to talk.
I didn’t ask for any help but I could have used it if people came round. But they didn’t. Not because they didn’t care, but because they didn’t know how to react in the situation. Death is one of those taboo subjects that we are often sheltered from and then are ill equipped to deal with later.
I’m so sorry for your loss may seem insufficient but it’s a better start.