I have been criticized for writing for Still Standing. Some of the other writers here have as well. Not criticizing the style of our writing, but the topic. Quite a few of us have family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and others who are disturbed, upset, ashamed or even angered because we choose to write openly and honestly about grief, the death of our children, the death of our dreams for future children, the challenges, frustrations and agony of infertility and other related topics. We’ve been told it is an unhealthy obsession. I’ve been told my sons died over 6 years ago and I shouldn’t focus on it so much. Friends and family who have complimented me on my writing, or encouraged me to remember my sons have faced criticism too! They are accused of facilitating my obsession. I might even understand where these feelings were coming from if they came from people I don’t know. After all, if you only knew me through my writing for Still Standing, you might be forgiven for thinking that all I do is lie at home in a dark room crying over my sons.
But I don’t. I write a lot, mostly painfully boring academic stuff. (Go bore yourself here). My life is filled with baking cookies with my kids, joking with my friends about Wine Book Club, occasionally even reading books, my work, church, my favourite tv shows, fun with my husband and all the other things that make up my life. It is a full life with lots of joy and wonder and grace.
But there’s still a hole. And to pretend it isn’t there doesn’t make it go away.
Arguably, Victor Hugo was one of the greatest writers of all time. He wrote a lot of beautiful poems about the death of his daughter, Leopoldine. He also wrote a lot of other stuff too. I hope when he wrote Demain, des l’aube, four years after his daughter died, no one told him to stop writing about her. Victor Hugo lost 4 of his 5 children (one as a 6-month old baby, one as a teenager, two as adults). His only surviving child spent much of her adult life in an insane asylum. I can hardly blame him for being obsessed with grief.
Writing about Nate and Sam for Still Standing, about how grief changes and ebbs and flows throughout our life, is just a small part of who I am and what I do. We all have many facets to our lives. I didn’t stop being a daughter and a sister and a wife when I became a mother. I didn’t stop loving Nate and Sam when Rebecca and Alexander were born. My grief is a hole that will always remain, but it isn’t the sum of who I am.
“The months, the days, the waves on the sea and eyes that cry
All pass beneath the blue sky
The grass grows and children die,
I know, oh my God !”
–Victor Hugo in A Villequier (translation mine)
Amanda Ross-White is the proud mother of four beautiful children, including her twin boys Nate and Sam, who were stillborn in 2007. She is eternally grateful to watch her rainbow children, daughter Rebecca and son Alex, grow around her. She is also the author of Joy at the End of the Rainbow: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Loss, which won second place in the American Journal of Nursing’s Book of the Year Awards (Consumer Health).