I came across the term ‘continuing bond’ last year, when a colleague and now friend of mine, (then student), created a fantastic music project for his Masters Final. He wrote an album of songs about and in some sense WITH his late older sister (using her recordings). He did a lot of research into the topic and came across quotes like; ‘death does not end a relationship’. I learnt a lot from our discussions about grief.
Here is another interesting thing about grief that is super relevant to baby loss –
It seems there are two different ways to look at tackling grief; 1. You, over time, accept the dead loved one is gone and move on. 2. You accept that your relationship with your dead loved one is now different. You will never see them again but you can still love them and this can be a healthy way to exist.
Psychologists have been discussing this in detail for a long time. However, it seems pretty clear that only one of the above is an option if your dead loved one is your child. It’s not going to be within your gift to ‘move on’. I didn’t know about this whole thing when I wrote ‘I Can love You from Here’ but I had already figured out that the second option was the only one available. It’s extremely challenging since in some ways I never ‘knew’ Liberty. But something I can at least work with.
This idea of forming an ongoing relationship with the deceased, is known as ‘Continuing Bond’. I can express my love for my living children in easy and simple ways like making their favourite meal or cuddling them whilst they are watching the scary bit of their favourite film for the hundredth time, but how do I express my love and support for Liberty?.. Well in my case, by writing a song about that love and singing it in different rooms until finally, at The Houses of Parliament, to a chapel full of MPs who have lost their own babies. I then recorded it and shared it with other parents who may want it too. I think she would be proud and happy. Maybe she wouldn’t! I can only do my best each day, as I do with my two sons.
Is this the best and ‘healthiest’ way to carry on as the mother of a baby who has died? I don’t know but I think I am doing OK and it feels natural to my personality and the way I generally live my life. I think each of us should use our own talents, instincts and dispositions to do what we are comfortable with, in order to continue a bond with our children and do our best for them as we see fit. For my husband, that was pro bono work on committees and helping charities, (useful stuff in a suit).
A week after Liberty died, I read an article in a newspaper about an old woman who lay dying in an old people’s home as her children gathered for her death. During her final day, she would only say one word over and over again, a name; ‘Elsie’. They did not know who Elsie was. After her death, they discovered that ‘Elsie’ was their eldest sister, who had died very soon after birth and before any of them were born. I read that article and thought; ‘that is no way for me to live my life’. It seemed clear that the ‘moving on’ just doesn’t work. For me, ‘continuing bond’ is the only viable alternative.