In my work as a writer at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, one of my favorite things I get to do is write for their quarterly magazine, Choices. I've written on a variety of topics--bipolar disorder, sleep, celiac disease, emotional eating, talking to kids about food, and swimming, to name a few. For the fall issue, which just came out, I wrote about grief. Like grief itself, writing this article was both extremely difficult and very easy--the duality of opposites that is such a hallmark of grief (at least, it is for my grief). When the topic first came up in our writers' meeting, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do it. After much consideration, I initially declined the opportunity. But after a couple of days of thinking about it, I felt compelled to do it. I HAD to do it. I asked if I could switch with the other writer and she happily agreed.
It took me almost as long to write the one paragraph in which I tell Natalie's story as it did to write the entire article. I struggled with trying to strike a balance between telling my personal story, and keeping it relevant for the magazine's readers. I was very conscious that it not be all about me, but yet it is such a personal subject, how could it not be? The other aspect that came up was that we wanted the reader to come away with some sense of hope that things do get better. It has only been two and a half years for me, which feels like a really long time, but in the grand scheme of things, isn't very long at all. I don't have the perspective to be able to offer assurance to people that it gets easier. But I can say that it is a process that anyone in my situation must go through, and they must go through it in their own way, in their own time.
I suggested to our designer the idea of the broken vase that is crudely glued back together--and he did a beautiful job. It is not the way it was before it was broken and it never will be, but it is mostly whole and can still serve its purpose of holding the flowers. It is a perfect metaphor for my broken heart that will never be the same, and my need to keep on going for daughter Roslyn, my husband, my family and friends, and myself.
Writing this article also gave me the opportunity to help raise awareness of SUDC, sudden unexplained death in childhood. Everyone has heard of SIDS, but so rare is SUDC, that very few people know about it, not even pediatricians. I hope that people will visit the SUDC Web site and take the time to learn more about this devastating thing that has taken away hundreds of precious children from their families, just like my little Natalie was taken from me. It is my way of helping the cause.
There's also a section for friends and family of someone who is grieving on what is helpful and what is not. This comes from my own personal experience, the experiences of other grieving parents, and the advice of experts. It is difficult to tell people what you need, especially when you are in the depths of grief and can't always express yourself coherently. Maybe this will help, too.
So here is the online version of my article, Picking Up the Pieces. Please share your thoughts, let me know what you think. The printed version of the magazine will be mailed to members by the end of the month, but you can also download it from the Choices home page in the upper right corner.