Monday, 15 October 2012

Earth and Fire

When we lost our first baby boy at 32 weeks there was no question about how we would say good bye. It was clear for us that he would be buried. It's in our culture and upbringing. In France, and in the Catholic Faith, the dead are buried.

We drew comfort in meeting up with our priest and chosing readings and hymns. I remember that we chose the Gospel where Jesus instructs his disciples to let little children come to Him.
A reading from St Exupéry's Little Prince.
A French hymn about the beauty of Creation (the equivalent of All Things Bright and Beautiful).

We carried the tiny coffin ourselves from the church. There was much love in that gesture, and pain too as I hadn't been able to hold him after he was born...

For a long time I needed to go on his grave every day. I received many blessings there, a shooting star, a young owl perched on the cemetery's gate, a particularly beautiful sunset, a cloud in the shape of a baby (yes, really!)...

When we lost our second son 6 years later I couldn't face the thought of having two graves for my children in the cemetery (we had denied the option to make space in the grave for further diceased members of the family). I couldn't face either to have family coming over from France and have to comfort them as well as smooth over the tensions between them.

So he was cremated and we scattered his ashes over his brother's grave.

Since then I have been thinking a lot about these two very different ways to say good-bye.
I know lots of people don't like burials. Is it because of what happens to the body? It's indeed a slow process, painful to think about...
But one thing that's really important for me in a burial is that earth is life and life grows from it. We planted lavender and roses on our son's grave : continuity of life.

Fire is clean and quick but there is no after. There is a certain poesy in the scattering of ashes, carried by the wind, mixed with everything, but still, for me, it doesn't create life. Earth and dust do. And in the end, it's just that, dust to dust.

I have also reflected that these two good-byes were in accordance with how I handled grief both time.
The first time I confronted and embraced the pain, thought and talked about my baby as every possible moment. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the feelings of grief as denial, bargaining (what if... , if only...), anger, depression and acceptance. In my grief for my first baby there was a lot of bargaining, anger (in form of guilt) and depression, all mixed together, sometimes one stronger than the other, sometimes going forward, sometimes, going backwards between them. It took me time, lots of time. And I took the time to be sad.

The second time there was denial, numbness, but also acceptance, finally... I still talked and thought about him but I needed to say good-bye quickly and keep the pain and tears for later, when I would be able to deal with them, numb the pain for it would have broken me otherwise.

Earth and fire...


  1. This is such a poignant and beautiful post about something so heart-breaking. You write with such strength and dignity. And much love.

    1. Thank you for this thoughtful comment Sarah. x

  2. Such a powerful post, written with such honesty. My heart goes out to you for all the loss and pain you have suffered. Thank you for sharing. x

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting :) x

  3. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your grief x

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. x

  4. beautifully written. much love x