With Sympathy

A few weeks ago I went to buy a card for some parents I knew at work who had lost their little boy. The first time I’d ever looked after him was on the day that he died, although I did know them to speak to and ask about their twins. but I’d been through so much with the parents that day that it felt as thought I’d looked after their little boy and supported them for much longer.

I’ve looked after too many dying children and seen too many broken-hearted parents but they were the first since I’d had Squidge. Before Squidge the grief that I’d shared with parents and families was completely genuine and real but since having had a baby of my own I now had the vaguest sense of what it might be like to lose him.

I also had no idea how these parents and all the other bereaved parents I’d met had carried on.

I wanted to let them know that I was thinking of them and of their little boy and that I remembered him every time I sang ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ to Squidge; I just felt that it was important that they knew.

Loosing a child, especially a baby is already such a taboo and I wanted to show them that I wouldn’t forget him; that just because I wouldn’t look after their little one again it didn’t mean that I’d stopped caring.

That they could still say his name and talk about him and that I would listen; that I didn’t think that because they still had two surviving children they should stop wanting to remember their other little boy.

I wanted to tell them but I felt that these were sentiments that would be far better written down. I didn’t want there to be any awkwardness and didn’t want to upset them any further by saying the wrong thing or ending up rambling trying to get my thoughts across.

Equally I didn’t want tell them things that they just weren’t ready to hear; that saying these things to them would just be another reminder that their baby boy was gone when all they wanted to be left in peace.

I didn’t want them to feel as though they had to accept my condolences simply because I’d come to talk to them in person.

So I decided upon a card as the medium for my message.

I thought then they could look at it if and when they wanted to without any embarrassment or obligation or emotions on my part or theirs that they were too wrung out to handle.

The last thing they needed was to feel that they had to somehow be grateful for my thoughts when they were already in such pain. They’d already seen my tears and they didn’t need to see any more.

I wanted a card that was simple without any mention of angels or heaven or pre-printed messages with empty, saccharine words that didn’t remotely reflect what I wanted to say.

I definitely didn’t want one that had anything to do with angels. I’ve heard so many people tell bereaved parents that their baby was too beautiful for this earth has been taken by God to be an angel. I have nothing against it for parents that it actually brings comfort to but it’s an easy thing for people to say when it isn’t their child that God wanted.

Unfortunately the only shop that sold cards didn’t have an awful lot of choice and while some of the cards looked nice at the first glance I soon realised that they all had the same two words on the front.

With sympathy

Two words that I think are so well meant and at the same time so empty.

So devoid of any real meaning.

How can sympathy possibly be used to describe to describe a pain so intense that it sears your very soul and leaves a scar so deep that you feel it in everything that you do every minute of every day for the rest of your life?

Sympathy to me is ‘Never mind’ or ‘Better luck next time’ or ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ It was what I got when I failed my driving test multiple times and when I didn’t get a higher degree qualification.

How can you possibly sympathise with something so terrible that you can barely even begin to imagine it?

Sympathy is also irretrievably associated in my mind with pity, which was what I got from people when they realised how many times I’d failed my driving test (I passed on attempt 9).

Pity was the last thing I wanted them to feel.

I know the dictionary definition of sympathy focuses on the concern for another persons well-being and being sorry for their grief and I feel both of those things but I also feel so much more than that. Something that I can’t really put into words but that I hoped they’d understand when they read my

In the end I managed to find a non-religious card that said ‘Thinking of You’ on the front and was blank on the inside.

It was surprisingly difficult.

I wrote my thoughts inside the card and when I next went into work I left it with the doctor they were due to see that day.

I didn’t want to hand it to them personally; it somehow felt as though I was expecting them to be pleased or grateful.

As though I was making it about me.

I’ve seen them in passing several times since but I’ve never mentioned the card and neither have they although I know they got it because the doctor I gave the card to told me.

I don’t know what they did with it; if kept it or if they even read it. I don’t know if they took any comfort from what I wrote or whether the words just washed over them.

But they received it and that’s all that’s important.

2 thoughts on “With Sympathy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s