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.
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.
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.
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.”