Grief looking in

DSC_0411I’ve read a few entries on different blogs regarding friends from the parents’ point of view. I thought it would be useful to hear from a friend looking in so these are Emma’s thoughts and feelings about us losing Alexandra.


I can remember exactly the moment that Claire and Andy told us that they were hoping to start a family. We were in a little B&B in Cornwall the night before our friends’ wedding. A fair amount of red wine had been drunk after they had had a horrendous journey down and Claire told us that ‘Operation Rainbow/Beaver was a go!’ At first I had no idea what they meant but then it clicked. I was 5 months pregnant with our son Euan and Simon and I were both so excited for them. The next we heard was when Claire and Andy came to visit us after Euan had been born, Andy suggested that Claire was looking wonderful these days, ‘glowing in fact, wouldn’t you say?’ I turned to look at Claire and the joy on her face was clear as day.

The next few months pottered along, we tried not to scare them too much with tales of sleepless nights and endless crying (I think we failed miserably on that part). We passed on a few bits and bobs that we had found useful in preparation for the baby’s arrival, and we talked about how the kids would grow up together and play together and it was a wonderful vision of the future.

Claire’s due date came and went. I really didn’t want to be the annoying friend pestering for updates on whether ‘baby was here yet’ so I tried my best to sit on my hands and not send those messages.

When we heard of Alexandra’s birth and how poorly she was, it never actually occurred to me that she wouldn’t be ok. That just wasn’t an outcome that I allowed to enter my mind. I even sent Claire a message telling her that ‘if Alexandra is anything like her mother, she’s a fighter and she’ll pull through’. I have never really regretted anything more than that message. I think now of Claire receiving that message and how trite and meaningless it must have seemed in the face of everything that they were dealing with and how it clearly showed that I hadn’t understood the reality of the situation. Claire – I am sorry!

Two days later I was at home with Euan and Simon rang me from work. Andy had called to tell him that Alexandra had passed away the night before. I just became numb, I couldn’t understand what he was telling me and then after I hung up the phone I laid on the bed with Euan next to me and sobbed uncontrollably. This just wasn’t fair, how could I have Euan next to me all happy and healthy and yet Claire and Andy didn’t have Alexandra? It was wrong and I felt horrendous guilt. That guilt has stayed with me for a long time. My rational brain knows it is unwarranted but at every milestone that we have reached with Euan, in the back of my mind has been the thought that Alexandra should have been not farbehind. I’ve quite often felt apologetic for the fact that Euan was ok and then of course more guilt cascades in for apologising for my child and so on and so on in a vicious cycle.

Then came Alexandra’s funeral, the most awful of days and we faced a dilemma – what should we do with Euan? Should we take him? Should we not? Would it be incredibly insensitive and cruel to attend the service with a baby in our arms? Or would it be worse to deliberately not bring him and for Andy and Claire to worry that we had worried about it or felt like he wouldn’t be wanted there? In the end, we made the decision to take him and I honestly couldn’t tell you to this day whether it was the right choice or not. We tried to hang at the outskirts of things a bit and as soon as Euan started to fuss during the service I took him straight outside so as not to bring attention or cause disruption but I remember Claire’s mum making a beeline for us afterwards to say hello to Euan and to say how wonderful it was to see him. That was such an incredibly kind gesture and we are still very grateful for it.

Since Alexandra died we have faced what every everybody has faced in this situation. How on earth do you comfort your friends who are going through the worst thing that anyone can go through? I have to say I think we failed the test. We tried not to keep messaging asking if they were ok, because of course they weren’t. We knew that hearing about new pregnancies and new-born babies was hard for them and we worried that spending time with us would be too hard as we would have Euan in tow. We worried and worried about so many things but all that did was keep us from being the support they needed. The reality is that we failed them, we weren’t there for them when we should have been mainly because we just didn’t know what to say or do.

This is one of the reasons I am so proud of Andy and especially Claire (and this blog) and how they have turned the loss of Alexandra into a force for change. Not only in terms of their fundraising to help provide new equipment in the maternity unit at Leeds hospital, but for all of the work they have done to raise awareness of baby loss and how you can support your loved ones through grief. I am no longer afraid that talking about how shit it all is is the wrong thing to say because that is the reality, it is so completely and utterly shit! I understand so much more now and I like to think that I am a better friend now. Nothing we can do or say will bring Alexandra back but we can honour her memory and by talking about her often we can help Ophelia know all about her amazing big sister!

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