The room that was already small was made to feel even smaller by the fact there were already two other families waiting in it. The receptionist had called it a ‘waiting room’ but I was pretty sure that at one time throughout history it had actually been a cupboard.
I clung to the paperwork that the hospital had given to us in one hand and held onto Nick’s hand with the other. I would’ve given anything to be sitting in the main waiting room of the Registry Office. In that room there were two sets of parents waiting with their newborns to register their births. One couple were too engrossed on their mobile phones to notice their baby had woken up and the other couple were arguing about who was the most tired as their baby had kept them awake most of the night. There wasn’t a door attached to our broom cupboard which meant that me and Nick had to overhear this conversation as we sat patiently waiting to register our own daughter’s death.
“What time is your appointment?” the lady opposite asked us. She had a kind face and was waiting just as patiently to register the death of her mother.
“11 o’ clock,” Nick replied.
“Ours is at eleven too?” she frowned.
“And ours,” the family next to us joined in.
“You don’t think we all go in together do you?” the kind lady questioned.
“Maybe we should ask for a discount?” Nick said, “Buy one get two three?”
And we laughed. We really laughed. And in that moment I thought about the irony of our situation. We were the grieving, but we were also the only ones who were laughing. The new parents on the other side of the wall had every reason in the world to be happy, yet they were both ignoring and complaining about what they had been blessed with. And then there was us, a united group of broken hearts finding humour in our loss. Surely it should be the other way around? Surely we should have been huddled together in that small room with tissues in our hands and tears on our cheeks? Because death is by no means amusing.
But I have found that there is a strange humour to be found in grief.
Nick and I have always had a dark sense of humour and maybe this has helped us to get through some of the harder times since losing Evalyn. Maybe we are just fed up with crying and humour has been our way of getting through just one more day? Maybe humour is actually one of the stages of grief that got left off the list? But I have found that humour, for us, has become one of our coping mechanisms.
The morning after Evalyn died, one of our midwives told us that there was a kitchen and lounge area across the corridor that we could use. She told us that it was for our use only and that the kitchen had food and drink we could help ourselves to should we feel hungry. We wandered over, not really wanting to eat but our minds telling us we had to do something. We laughed when Nick pulled the bread from the cupboard and read out the brand.
I’m not sure who had thought it was a good idea to include this bread in a maternity suite for loss parents, but the irony of it was not lost on us. We didn’t overly find it funny. In 24 hours we’d been told our daughter had died, I’d given birth to her and we’d met her for the first and one of the only times. And now here we were eating Mothers Pride bread! It was hurtful. But it was the first time we had managed the smallest smile since our lives had been turned upside down.
There were other times we found humour in grief. Nick digging up our front garden in the days that followed Evalyn’s death was one of them. Digging up the grass and replacing it with slate and plant pots was always on Nick’s ‘To Do” list whilst on maternity leave. But not having Evalyn at home with us had made the days long, endless and needing to be filled. So, Nick ordered a skip, grabbed a spade and a wheelbarrow and continued to dig up the front lawn. We would laugh about how the neighbour’s would probably think he had lost his mind.
On the day of Evalyn’s funeral, we didn’t want a hearse. It broke my heart to think of her tiny wicker casket almost getting lost in the huge space surrounding it. I also knew that I couldn’t take her myself. I’d always wanted her first journey in our car to be in her babyseat on the drive home from the hospital, not in her casket on the way to her own funeral. In the end, my dad asked if my parents could drive her.
“I can have her on my lap,” he told me, “I’d like to do that for her and for you. And I’ll play her songs on the CD player and we can have a good sing song.”
“Thank you,” I smiled at him.
“We better not get stopped by the police though,” he added, “I’ve never been caught with a dead body in my car!”
“There’s a first for everything,” I told him as we laughed through our tears.
I’ve found that grief can be all consuming. But there have been moments in the past nine months when we have found ourselves perhaps laughing at what might be deemed innapropriate and people might be given the impression that we are doing much better than we actually are or perhaps moving on quickly.
This isn’t the case at all.
But we have to laugh. We don’t have ‘the good times’ of Evalyn’s life to reminisce on and fondly laugh about. When you lose someone before they have had the chance to live, there is only loss. There aren’t memories of a life that were made over the course of time. We look for any humourous moment in our grief and we cling to it and we smile. Smiles and laughter are perhaps one of the strongest weapons to try and defeat it. It doesn’t work every time. But sometimes, it does.
I like to think that if Evalyn does check in on us every once in a while, she sees us smiling. That she sees us trying to be happy.
And for Evalyn, we try.
We really do.