Living With Grief

The Book (Quote) Thief

Logophile (noun): A lover of words

There’s not a lot that I love more than writing (or talking!), but reading is up there. Common theme: words. I love words. I wrote a blog on music and ever since I’ve been itching to write a similar one for book quotes.

When I find quotes I like, I note them on my phone. So the list below is quite a disparate selection, collected over the years, which I now read/discuss through the lens of baby loss.

“Each of us narrates our life as it suits us”
― Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

This is a perfect quote to start with, it encapsulates the entire website. My narrative enables me to manipulate you, doesn’t it? I tell my story, my way. I could choose to leave out the murkier details, leaving you thinking that I’m a nicer or better person than I am. So I’m going to tell you something I don’t want anyone to know, something I’m ashamed about. To balance the books and to say something I rather wouldn’t: Once upon a time, I heard about a miscarriage and I remarked “well, why did she tell everyone before 12 weeks anyway?”. Shame on me. I did not get it at all. With the beauty of hindsight, I’m now so pleased she was able to tell people and celebrate her child while they were here. I have had to learn empathy, it did not come naturally to me and yet here I am berating others. Shame on me, indeed.

“You might think a person who brings proof of heaven would be embraced. But even in the presence of a miracle, the human heart will say, why not me?”
– Mitch Albom, The First Phone Call From Heaven

When I think of the million tiny processes that have to go right in order for a child to be born, it really is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a wonder that so many healthy babies ARE born, rather than the other way round; surely it’s easier for stuff to go wrong? So it’s a shame I can’t remember this when it comes to pregnancy announcements. I’m just stuck in the “why not me?”.

I discussed this quote with my counsellor and she suggested that I change my focus, as the quote indicates that I’m actually reacting normally, as most would do. I guess I just hate not being better than that. I still just want to appreciate miracles, whether they’re my own or not.

“it is your blood
in my veins
tell me how i’m
supposed to forget”
Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

Such a powerful poem. It makes me think of one of the few things that has brought me great comfort throughout all of my miscarriages. The book Saying Goodbye states that carrying a child actually changes your DNA. Apparently cells of every child remain in the mother’s body, whether the baby died in the womb or not.  James (my font of knowledge!) didn’t know this either. I’ve found it so reassuring that I refuse to google and verify its validity. How can I forget my babies, when they’re still physically here with me? It’s a nice thought.

“Most people have no imagination. If they could imagine the sufferings of others, they would not make them suffer so”
– Anna Funder, All That I Am

As with so many of my thoughts, this is going to sound strange, but when I initially read this quote, it became my view on terrorism. I honestly believe that if people could feel all the pain they inflict, they would be paralysed, physically unable to carry out any harmful acts. Yet so many of us lack that empathy (I’ve already given an example of how I’m no different), which mean that hurtful events occur. It serves me to remember this, when thinking about baby loss. Yes, there are people who have hurt me, one way or another, but I know that these are ultimately all good people, just trying to muddle through. Some people cannot imagine my suffering, they can’t comprehend how they are adding to it, so it’s up to me to set the boundaries and focus on my own self-preservation. I have both imagined and lived life without them and it is time for me to say goodbye.

“The heart breaks when it has swelled too much in the warm breath of hope, then finds itself enclosed in cold reality”
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

This describes pregnancy loss so beautifully. I don’t think I should comment any more, it’s just a quote to sit with.

“Hell is the absence of the people you long for”
– Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven.

There’s something about the use of the word ‘long’ here, I can really feel it. This is a quote from my current read (half way through and I’ve already seen the word ‘summer’ nine times!), and it made me stop and think: Am I living in a sort of hell, on earth? What a question. It’s true though, if you stripped away yet more people, this living malarkey would become my own personal hell. Still, I’m not quite there yet, so that’s something.

“After grief comes another season, another valley, another you. And the love who is nowhere to be found, you start to see everywhere”
– Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love

You all know what that season is, it’s Summer. It’s the sunshine after the rain, the blooming of the cautious sprigs. The grief is less overwhelming than it once was, but I am forever changed for it. Gladly. And though she is gone, without even searching, I now see her everywhere. She is in all that makes me good.

“The effortlessness with which one falls in love without intending to”
― Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

It’s funny that this book had ‘daughter’ in the title, because I read it before any of the pregnancies. I probably wrote this quote down, thinking it was a nice way to articulate my relationship with James. But now I see how well it’s worked for my pregnancies too. Even though I tried not to hope too much, to not get “too attached” (how is that even possible, when they are physically attached to your very being!) before 12 weeks. Falling in love – with partners, children, friends – it really is so wonderfully effortless.

“Grief is a love story told backward”
― Bridget Asher, The Provence Cure for the Broken-Hearted

Since finding this book on a shelf in a bar in New York, I have loved this quote, though I’m still not sure that I fully understand it. That’s why I adore it, it’s one that I can sit and ponder. To me, it speaks of the memories, of the glimpsing backwards. Grief is so personal that the happiness is found in the retelling, the remembering, the what was, not the what could have been. It unfolds back-to-front, it’s complex and confusing, but underlying it all, there is such beauty. Unspeakable, yet demanding to be heard.

“It’s the tragedy of loving, you can’t love anything more than something you miss”
–  Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

It’s never enough is it, the time we had? Even if we live a lifetime, or if they did manage to, it still wouldn’t be. It is impossible not to take things for granted. It is impossible not to occasionally get wound up with your loved ones, to treat them unkindly, to have some regret. It’s what makes baby loss so hard, the regrets are all what could have been, not what has been. And so the love grows, because there is an infinite number of things we’re missing out on. Like the children I can hear outside my window – their first day of school. Joy we can only imagine.

“Work is no longer labour in the economist’s sense, but a labour of love: a source of stimulation, identity, worth and sociability”
– Robert and Edward Skidelsky, How Much is Enough?

In more normal times, I think I enjoy my job more than the average person. I emailed this quote to my colleagues years ago on a Friday afternoon, but it’s actually how I now feel about writing my Mumoirs. My workplace has been very supportive since Summer passed away and I’ll often write blogs around the workday (before work, on my lunchbreak etc), but doing so has highlighted a huge contrast: how I feel towards my day job and how I feel towards my ‘unpaid labour’. I call it that, as I’m reluctant to call my baby loss blog a hobby. That’s why this quote resonates, Mumoirs has indeed been a labour of love. It’s making me think, it’s helping me figure out who I am again and it’s opened up a whole new community of bereaved parents, who I could not do without.

“Here’s my theory on Significant Life Events: everyone has them, but some have more than others, and how many you have affects how interesting you are, how many stories you have to tell, that kind of thing”
– Sara Bernard, Beautiful Broken Things

I sent this quote to a friend years ago when she was going through a divorce. The number of new things she was trying (from crystal healing to spontaneous trips away!), the bravery and strength; she genuinely became the most interesting person I knew – and I frequently told her so. Which sounds strange, I know, but I would meet up with her and be blown away by her insight and new perspective on things, so she knew what I meant. I sort of hope baby loss will be like this, there has to be some silver lining, right? At the very least, I certainly have a lot of stories to tell – this is the 64th blog.

“She was one of those people who are irrevocably, incurably honest and therefore both inflexible and vulnerable”
– Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Can you see why I wrote this one down? I read it years ago and felt the author was also describing me. The reason I can write an ‘honest’ blog, is because I don’t know how else to be. This is how I talk and think, bruthfully unfiltered. But I’m also very set in my ways and extremely heart-on-sleeve. It’s why I’ve been surprised about how difficult grieving has been; it’s not a case of ‘mind over matter’ and because I’m the type of person who says a nice thing when I think it (why wouldn’t you?), I’ve been shocked about all those who’ve said so little. Silence hurts. Solutions hurt. Kind words help.

I think different things resonate with different people. For me, its quotes like these. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have. If you want to add any additional thoughts or your own book quotes, feel free to use the comment functionality to do so.

N.B. I’m finding it impossible to push ‘publish’ on this blog without giving some recommendations from the books listed above! The Forty Rules of Love, The Count of Monte Cristo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and pretty much anything by Mitch Albom are my particular stand-outs. I do however recall Beautiful Broken Things and The Provence Cure for the Broken-Hearted being unexpectedly beautiful reads also.  Books bring me such joy, I hope these do for you too.

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(3) Comments

  1. Victoria says:

    Love this entry. I used to write down quotes I love and don’t do it anymore, so you’ve inspired me to do it again. You’ve also reminded me of my favourite quote from years ago ‘A ship is safe in its harbour, but that’s not what it was built for.’ This is the exact opposite of how I have been feeling this week, as I’ve had thoughts of do I want to even try again. So I’m glad that’s come to me. Thank you!

  2. Karen Palmer says:

    How very wonderful that you didn’t publish this brilliant post without giving those recommendations. I’m so grateful – desperately looking for a good book just now – and will follow them up. Thank you! xx

  3. Kirst says:

    It’s blog posts like this which make me think that you *really* need to write a book (no pressure!) Sitting here reading your beautiful words, and your take on other people’s beautiful words, with a big old lump in my throat. Just wonderful, Anj. ❤️

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