I was sitting in the hairdressers chair on Thursday and we were talking about the myth of closure.

As in:
  • Having a funeral gives you closure
  • Planting a tree gives you closure

  • Having another baby/husband/dog gives you closure. (Not sure what my hairdresser is supposed to do - she lost her mum, can't buy a new one off the shelf.)

And I'm realizing, closure is crap. There is no closure. There is getting on with life, there's the ubiquitous "new normal", there's life after death, but there is no closure. Which has me wondering, why have ritual, why try to grieve collectively, or use words and events to make sense of our grief? Is the funeral, the memorial service, the baby loss page, even my blog redundant? I'm thinking about this as I plan a tree planting ceremony on June 8th, after attending the baby loss ceremony at the hospital on Sunday. If not closure, what are we trying to achieve? If grief is a journey, is there an end point? What is the destination?

The problem is partly in the word. The word itself, closure, implies that there is an end, a threshold, that I cross over, a line, real or imaginary, and say, "That's over now." Closure suggests closing a door - ending a part of my life. Saying, "I was there, but now I'm here". These ideas just doesn't seem to reflect what I've learned about grief. Grief is not a once in a lifetime event, it is not binary in nature, either on or off, black or white. Closure assumes that life is a series of rooms, but with doors on each room, and we can cross the room, and close the door. Once we close the door, we are never back in that room.

Originally, months ago, I told someone that the pain of Gabriel's death was an anguish so deep and so wide that there were no words to describe it. In these words I affirm what our hearts already know: there is no moving on, door closing, we will never again be the same women and men, before and after our babies. We are, as the Bible describes it, changed in the twinkling of an eye.

Returning to the room analogy, maybe the answer of why we have ritual is this: those of us in Lost Baby Land, we understand that there is a room called 'death of a child'. And, having found ourselves in this room together, we can stand with each other, even as the pain we feel is different from those around us. When we gather in these rooms, when we hold funerals and plant trees, and recite names and talk of our loved ones who are gone: this is not closure. It is not intended that we should ever close the door on this room. Rather we help each other be in the room. Sometimes our experience of grieving allows us to give other's words. We allow others, even encourage them to take our sentences, our thoughts strung together, and make them their own. My words to make sense of tragedy become your words, perhaps slightly different. In the experiences of others, I begin to see the room I am in, and it gains shape, and I can comprehend it better.

I am learning that indeed, my pain is an anguish I can describe. It is deep and vast, but I am learning my way through it. I am learning what the boundaries are, how large the room is, and what is in it. I am, slowly, tentatively, painfully, drawing a map. Learning where solid wall meets solid floor, and slowly venturing into the corners.

And perhaps this is why we should grieve as a community - because all of us have to go through these rooms in life. No one escapes - we all bear some sort of pain. For some the path through is more straight. They can spend a day, perhaps a month, and they are changed, just a bit, by their presence in the room.

For Mr. Spit and I, and all of you who were plunged into this room of grief, for what ever reason, we will spend more time here, and we will be more changed. Eventually I think I shall be a guide in this room, and while I will not be able to help others move through the room, because you do that on your own, I shall be able to stand in the pain, to abide, to bear witness to their pain. To hold a light up for others, so that they may see the boundaries of the room for themselves. To tell them they are not alone in this room. To say the names of their babies. To remember with them that what is is not what was supposed to be.

I think this abiding, this witness, is the purpose of community and of ritual - where we speak our own truth, and permit other's to use that truth to illuminate their lives. We do not tell other's how they will feel, rather we describe our pain, and we allow other's to enter into it with us, and be changed and altered by it, and then we allow our pain to give words to the pain of others.