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Fraternal Experiences and Other Words on Loss

I haven’t yet read Daniel Raeburn’s book Vessels: A Love Story about their first child who was born still, but an interview I read made me place it on my to-read list because of a few ideas he brought up.

Fraternal Experiences

He and his wife processed their daughter’s death differently.  He states in the interview: “Even though Bekah and I went through her death together, ultimately we each had to survive it alone. We had twin experiences, but they were fraternal twins, not identical twins, so the differences between us were magnified.”

Fraternal experiences.  I really loved that because I don’t believe there are ever identical experiences; even the ones you go through together with someone else.  So many factors go into how we experience happiness or grief.

That is such a lonely idea, too, that we are the only person in the world who experienced life exactly as we’ve experienced life.  But it also highlights that idea that every person is necessary.  Every telling of an experience — even a common experience — important due to its uniqueness.

Defining Moments

For Daniel Raeburn, the issue wasn’t getting to a point where he could move on.  He was terrified to forgetting his first child, or not having the experience affect his day-to-day.  He says, “I eventually realized that I didn’t want to be free of Irene’s death. That the long-term struggle wasn’t to move on, but to hold on. To never forget.  I realized that Irene’s death did define our marriage, and that that was a good thing.”

I really love this way of viewing this situation, and how it explains that there isn’t a single way to grieve, a point where grief is done.  And that grief is not always a sad thing; that these sad moments aren’t always things to get through but sometimes things that we can use to state who we are and what is important to us.

No Advice

But the best moment comes toward the end of the interview when the Raeburns are asked to give other grieving parents advice.  The husband states, “None. My advice would be to not give anyone who’s grieving or mourning any advice at all. Just listen to them. That’s all you can do. Nothing can alleviate the death of a child. Nothing. So don’t even try.”



1 Lavonne @ the OCD infertile { 05.25.16 at 9:36 am }

Sounds like something I should look into reading as well. I love his view on things and it’s so true, in these kinds of situations, no two people will have identical ways of dealing with it. It’s important to not only grieve in our own way, but let others do the same.

2 Beth { 05.25.16 at 9:52 am }

Oh so heartbreaking. I won’t be able to read this book, I know that, but the advice is very timely.

3 Journeywoman { 05.25.16 at 12:03 pm }

Fraternal experiences. That is such a great way to describe it.

4 Cristy { 05.25.16 at 9:07 pm }

Fraternal experiences. Knowing that every person experiences the world differently, even if they are facing it together. This realization hits me daily. It makes me aware of how we communicate and interact. I hadn’t considered the story angel, though.

5 Middle Girl { 05.25.16 at 10:03 pm }

Needed this today. Love it. Thank you.

6 Mali { 05.25.16 at 11:42 pm }

The fraternal experiences comment is wonderful. I know that I experienced my ectopics and our inability to have children quite differently to my husband’s experience. When I was volunteering on the ectopic site, many women felt their partners weren’t grieving or didn’t care, simply because they weren’t grieving in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time. Yet I am glad for that, because when I needed support, my husband gave it. He allowed himself to grieve – or to express that grief – only when he saw that I was healing, and that meant that I was better able to bear his grief too.

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.27.16 at 1:06 pm }

The advice is great. And this, too: “That the long-term struggle wasn’t to move on, but to hold on.”

8 loribeth { 06.02.16 at 8:53 pm }

I haven’t read the book (yet), but I vividly remember reading the article that the book is based on. I’ll look forward to reading it. I agree with all the points you’ve highlighted here — especially the advice about “no advice”! 🙂

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