Updated October 2nd, 2020
Over the years in my role as Funeral Director and charity lead, I have seen people grieve in various ways. Some sob, some retreat into themselves. Some want to tell you every single detail of how their loved one died, and some give you barely the essentials. But just as every person who I have ever cared for was individual so is their loved one. Every person finds their own way to grieve. And do you know what? Never have I found a copy of the ‘Grieving rulebook volume 1’ which states just how someone should grieve!
So, when I saw the reaction to Chrissy Teigen and John Legend sharing pictures of their recent experience, after the death of their precious baby Jack I was utterly appalled. The questions poised ‘why?’ were understandable. Those asking why were often open to being educated why a family would want to share such moments. They were posing a question and I respect that. Its good to be open and let someone who has been in the same position as Chrissy and John to explain why we share such milestone moments.
But it was the pure vitriol of those who were making the most personal and horrendous comments that shocked me the most.
Little Jack’s death came just as we were entering the most important month of the year for the baby loss community. Baby loss awareness week (9-15th October) is the pinnacle of October for ‘us’. The royal ‘us’. Those who have been through the heart wrenching pain that Chrissy and John are just starting to navigate. This month is designed to bring us all together, to share in our experiences and to feel like we are being heard in wider society. To reflect and to remember.
Yet the comments I have read over the last 24 hours were sickening. The mention of ‘a clump of cells, attention seeking and abortion’ were unbelievable. And as I write unbelievable even that word does not seem to do justice to just how shocking it all is. I genuinely cannot believe there are people in this beautiful world we live in that can be consumed with so much hatred that rather than scrolling past or walking away actually took time to write on a public forum their spiteful venom. The hardest part to understand is that it is just so easy not to say anything. If you do not understand why people do this why not do some research? If it does not affect you why comment? Why not unfollow someone if you do not like the content they post? And that does not just refer to celebrities but to anyone you follow on social media. Its that simple. To spout such hatred takes so much more effort.
I have done my job as a funeral director for 11 years and started the charity seven years ago. In that time I have seen a huge shift in the way the bereaved are treated. I optimistically or maybe thinking about it, foolishly, believed that we were taking great strides in breaking the taboo around baby loss. I was really starting to believe that in my lifetime, before I hang up the top hat and hand the reins of the charity to someone else, that I would witness the bereaved being treated properly. That there would be no judgement, that there would be support, understanding and most importantly respect for their own choices. And yet yesterday has shown me there is so much work to be done. So, so much.
Why did Chrissy and John share pictures of their baby Jack? Why do any grieving families share pictures of their dead baby (or themselves during this time)? Why? Because if you remove the word dead you leave the word baby. Jack is their baby. A tiny, precious life. It is that simple. Remove the description of ‘dead’ and he is their child. They longed for him, they planned a life with him, they love him. The fact that he has died is a detail to them. He is their son. They will never get to take him home, to push him in his pram. They will not get to plan his first birthday party, to watch him walk into school. There is no future for them with Jack, only the here and now. And in these moments, they wanted to share him with all of us. Isn’t that a gift? Shouldn’t we applaud them? Shouldn’t we thank them for sharing the most precious thing in their life with us? Are we not the lucky ones? Should we not feel privileged? To berate a grieving family for a choice they have made is despicable.
So, my message to everyone, including brave Chrissy and John, is you do you. If sharing helps you then you share away. Similarly, if sharing is not for you then you do you. Nobody has the right to judge you, especially in the deepest and darkest tragedy of your life.
As a charity we will always support anyone to grieve in their own way. As a human being I implore you to do the same. The world is in the sorriest state I have ever known. Now more than ever we need to look out for one another, to be kind and to spread love and understanding.