On Wednesday evening I was part of something incredible. A panel of three women sharing their experiences of resilience, their tender stories and their thoughtful advice.
I don’t get many places to share Xavier any more, but I did on Wednesday evening. Just as Bec Sparrow shared her little Georgie (born still) and Suzi O’Shea shared how her (living) daughter helped her out of depression.
The stories came from a heartfelt, authentic place and there was a kind of love in the room that allowed the vulnerability. But there was also plenty of laughter and so many ah-ha moments that I expected Oprah to appear at any moment.
One of the questions was about how to support someone through grief or any of life’s tough times. Which was a welcome and thoughtful thing to ask. I shared “ring theory” which I still think is the absolute best way to look at support.
If you haven’t heard of it before, please check out this. If you want the cliff notes, here it is:
Imagine a circle and place the person to whom a tragedy is occurring within it. Then draw an other circle around that on. Place the people immediately close to the person experiencing trauma in it. Draw another circle around that, and place wider family and friends in that circle. And so and so forth. You have a bunch of concentric rings, the centre point being the person who is going through the rough.
Now, comfort comes into the person in the centre and doesn’t need to come out from that person. It’s comfort IN, dump OUT. You comfort those closer to the centre of the circle than you are and you dump out to those in the rings outer to yours. The person suffering doesn’t have to comfort anyone or be dumped on. They should feel the full wave of love and support coming in from the outer circles.
Unfortunately, so often it doesn’t happen that way. The person in the middle ends up comforting those in outer circles, even circles quite removed. As Bec Sparrow shared on the night, it’s when you want to say “Wipe your tears and where’s my a cup of tea.”
This theory goes beyond just offering comfort, it also goes to offering advice on where to find comfort.
Bec shared that one of the things that got her through her grief was that it would have been worse to lose Georgie at an older age. That if she had to lose a child, then saying goodbye at 36.5 weeks was a better option than, say 9 years or 16 years or any older age. Inevitably, her friends and family would say, ”No, this is sh*t, this is terrible, you don’t have to lessen it.” Bec would have to say this is one of the thoughts getting me through right now, let me have it.
I never found perspective in the early passing of Xavier. I felt blessed to have had two weeks with him. In that way felt “luckier” than those I knew whose children had died before birth. It grated when people suggested that it could have been worse – he could have been older. All I wanted was more time with him, him being older seemed like it would have been a blessing, not a curse. So for me, the thought that it would be harder if he were older didn’t bring comfort. But that doesn’t mean it might not bring comfort to someone else. That lies with the bereaved mother and no-one else.
Other things brought me comfort that people found hard to understand. When Xavier was first born I had a strong sense of my grandfather, my Opa, who had passed years earlier. My grandmother felt the same thing. Opa was a complicated man. He was filled with love and anger in almost equal measure. For his family, his love was overwhelming. But the world at large made him increasingly angry. The thought settled on me that Xavier was Opa’s soul coming back into the world to bathe in love and peace for just the short time he needed to feel it. This doesn’t bear much scrutiny. It doesn’t even really accord with my belief system. Yet it still gave me comfort. And when I shared this with some people, they would immediately say that they couldn’t believe that. That if felt too close to a reason for Xaviers’s death. Of course it didn’t matter it they could believe it or not. It didn’t really matter if I could believe or not, it was just one thing that gave me comfort. One of the things I was clinging to.
Getting back to ring theory, the person in the centre can grasp at whatever thing gives them comfort. It can make exactly zero sense. But the people on the outer rings don’t get to decide what those things are or pass judgement on them or say that they do not count.
I learned a great deal from Suzi and Bec on Wednesday night and here are my key takeaways:
- Let go of what you think people around you need you to be, or what you think would look impressive on social media. Just be you. Know who you is, and embrace it.
- More people experience growth after trauma, so let’s look at post traumatic growth. This isn’t seeking reason in terrible events but accepting that tragedy often shapes people in positive ways.
- Six weeks after a loved one has passed is a universally terrible time. We need to be there for each other after the initial shock has passed.
- Ask for help. Have the support system around you that allows you to ask for help. Invest in friendships – the truly great ones that allow you to be you. Have each other’s back. Always.
- If you need professional help, ask for that. It takes more courage to do THAT, than to suffer because you think your mind should be strong enough to overcome illness.
Thanks so much to the beautiful Champagne Cartel for having me part of this incredible evening. You can read more about the night here. You can see the fabulous photos from the incredible Briony Walker here.
Did you come along?
What were your thoughts about the night?
What would you have shared?
Before I forget …
I would normally send a calendar out with my monthly newsletter. I have spent my time on other things this month. However, there is a calendar. Just click on the picture to download the PDF.