The internet is a dark and scary place these days. Everywhere you turn it’s full of divisive commentary, disheartening stories, and an endlessly unnerving string of insults lobbed back and forth between the nameless, faceless entities hiding behind their computer keyboards, typing with all the courage of someone who will never face the ramifications of their actions.
Nothing is sacred online. It’s a paradoxical reality juxtaposed against the scenes we come into contact with, in everyday life, face to face. A life that for most of us over the last six months, due to the limitations of COVID restrictions has been forced to be one lived further removed from the ever-important act of human connection.
While some find this form of isolation to be a hindrance and struggle with their mental and emotional health, others have found themselves freer than ever to use it as a shield as they perpetuate hate and spread cultural and societal dissonance all from the safety of their computer screens.
Surely, one would think there must be some things we as a whole can agree on. The belief that at heart, people are basically good tells us that in general and by majority most people wouldn’t want to harm us, speak ill of us, or degrade us in any way. It’s this belief that keeps society running as we interact with each other on even the smallest account or inconvenience; such as bumping into someone with your grocery cart or shifting over on the sidewalk to make room as you pass by another person on their daily walk. It’s these small circumstances in which we show the basic model of humanity in consideration for others’ wellbeing.
I’m not sure why the comments I read on the internet surprise me anymore. Moreover, I’m not really sure why I continue to read any internet comments at all. It’s a predictable cesspool of tirades, insults, and bizarre trajectories. I often wonder where these people come from, and who talks like that. As I mentioned before, you’d never see it face to face.
If there’s anything at all you’d assume we could collectively agree on it’s the sanctity of the depth of grief for a mother of loss. And if you did indeed assume this, unfortunately you’d be undeniably wrong. In a world where every individual happening is readily available to be seen on an endless loop it’s also often picked apart by internet vultures like nothing more than roadkill on the highway.
Earlier this week Chrissy Teigen and her husband John Legend announced they had suffered a miscarriage. Furthermore, Chrissy was far enough along in her pregnancy that she then had to deliver their son, Jack, stillborn. In a poignant and touching act of empathy for others and in commemoration of their son’s life that was never to be, they shared their most intimate photos of themselves holding him for their first and only time.
It should be noted that there are organizations devoted solely to the documentation process for these families. In the midst of their grief and pain, they meet these families in their lowest moments to make sure they capture the only photos they will ever have of their child. It’s an act of service few are called to offer, and even fewer will receive. It’s akin to sainthood to crawl down into the chasm of the grief of the bereaved parent to offer a light in the darkness of their dwelling. Sometimes, it’s a lifeline as well.
As with all parents of loss we want to know more than anything that our child’s life mattered. That it does still matter, as much as the living children of anyone else. We want so desperately to say their names, to show their photos, to share them with the world just as any proud parents would. As I sit her typing these words on what would have been my daughter’s twelfth birthday, I’m so drawn to the heart and vulnerability behind the photos Chrissy and John shared, and grateful for the illumination it provides for those who have traveled down this emotional road themselves. It’s a road that often leaves you stuck solely in the shadows.
Parents of loss are enigmatic creatures to those who stand on the outside of the circle. It’s not surprising that it is so difficult to fathom the enormity of grief when you’ve lost a child, and how it permeates every aspect of one’s life, if you yourself have not experienced it. How do you describe the array of colors of the spectrum to someone who can only see in black and white?
What is surprising is that even in the most heart rendering situation, like child loss, is that there are those who are so far removed from the ability to sympathize with even a modicum of care, concern, or sorrow that they have conversely been propelled into the realm of criticism and judgment.
I was astonished to find that on pictures of Chrissy and John holding Jack from Chrissy’s hospital bed, IVs attached, exhausted and crying, but looking at him with such love and longing that so much hate was spewed at them on the internet. Comments came flooding in.
“Doesn’t change the fact that you’re evil. God doesn’t like what you’ve done.”
“Typical behavior from celebrities. It’s all about the publicity.”
“You willingly sacrificed your unborn child.”
“What is wrong with you? Are you that desperate for media attention?”
“Um who does a photo shoot after a miscarriage?”
It was too much. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was reading. I shared with my husband what I had seen. We were both incredulous. No person who has been forced to hold their dead child in their arms would ever say these things. It’s because we know. We know the heartbreak and trauma. We know the pain and isolation. We know the feelings of longing, and loss, and failure. We know these photos are all we will ever have.
I share the same photo of my daughter over and over. She’s sitting in her adaptable chair that provided safe, comfortable support, seemingly looking right at the camera, and has on an adorably brightly colored outfit, complete with feathered headband. I love it. She looks so animated here. Her cheeks a rosy glow, and on her lips a hint of a smile. Two weeks after it was taken, she died in my arms of the terminal genetic illness she was born with. We knew our time was fleeting and now it’s the last picture we’ll ever have. If we don’t continue to say her name and share her photos, who will?