In this article, I'm sharing with all of you a letter that Laura Curtis
wrote and sent to all her co-workers after the sudden death of her infant
son Allen. Let me tell you that this letter has had amazing manifestations
and connections since it was written and sent. And let me share it with
you as the model for how to take the risk of sharing your grief in the
hope of finding peace, or hope, or a bit of support.
Let me also say, that I do honestly realize that sharing
your grief is a *risk* and that many of us have been burned by negative
reactions from family members, friends, and co-workers. But often, I find
that they burn us because they themselves are uncomfortable with the subject
of death and don't know how to be there for us. They are afraid of death
being something their children might "catch" or they just haven't
dealt with their own mortality. Or they have never had anyone model for
them how to support a bereaved person. Or they have never seen the full
expression of grief before in their lives. So I know it is a risk to share
your grief with those who may be unprepared to offer any support at all.
But, in the following letter, Laura took the risk. She shared
her grief in detail*AND* was specific about how people could help her.
She *ASKED* for support and told people how to do that (read the letter
& read the website she created about Allen). Know what? Many people
showed up for the job! They had some direction or an invitation or a model
of what to do and how to help -- and they showed up to do it for and with
Laura!!! That is an amazing manifestation of grace in the face of grief.
So, please, read Laura's letter. Feel the full expression
of her grief and let it seep into your heart. Remember what she says here
the next time you meet a bereaved person. If you are a bereaved person
yourself and you seem to not be getting the support you want -- think
of this letter as an example of what you might try in your life. Ask for
what you need. If you don't get it from the first person, ask the next.
It is worth the risk once you get to the one or two folks who respond.
It has been almost 7 months since Allen was born. It is just now that
I feel strong enough to write this letter. I am writing to say thank you
and also to offer an update. When I first returned to SWA many things
were said and at the time I did not have the strength or the knowledge
to explain. Even now things are said I and I can't explain to the depths
of what I am thinking and feeling so I decided to put it in a letter.
Hopefully this will bridge the gap on both sides. I just want to share
what has gone on and I really couldn't figure out any other way to reach
On January 19th, Allen was born. He came home a bright eyed, beautiful
and healthy little boy, he is my greatest accomplishment in this life.
Allen stopped breathing on his 6th day of life for reasons still unknown,
while resting next to me just after a feeding. We initiated CPR and he
was taken to Hoag Hospital and resuscitated then put on a ventilator,
but was in a coma. Allen did not wake up from the initial coma, and after
6 days of fighting for his life in the NICU, we were told he would never
wake up. Allen died four days later in my arms. It was initially thought
that Allen may have aspirated, the "wet burp" theory. A secondary
review was done recently and shows no pathological aspiration or any other
life-threatening symptoms. His death is considered SIDS, which is a diagnosis
of exclusion when sudden death occurs in a healthy infant and no medical
cause or reason can be found. We have no answers to why Allen died.
My son has taught me many things and has given me the greatest gift I
have ever received, his life. It was short, way too short, but it will
always outweigh the tragedy of his death. It is what keeps me moving forward.
I am no longer afraid of dying, but I am no longer afraid of living either.
Please do not take your lives for granted! There is no guaranteed time
line for any of us. Life is truly a gift and you don't know when you or
your loved ones may be snatched away. Enjoy what gifts you have been given
and make the most of your dreams. As Don Young often reminds us to take
ownership in our work, I am hoping we can all apply that to our lives
I know it must seem nice that I work part time and I have my own space.
Well, it is what I can do right now. Even 7 months later I am still overwhelmed
by what happened. We were stretched to both ends of our souls, the pure
unbridled joy of Allen's life and the dark horrifying pain that came with
his death. It is still a daily struggle to find balance. There is not
a moment that goes by that I do not miss my son. I am constantly aware
that he is gone. The staggered time allows me to rebuild emotionally.
Thank you for understanding. It has been a rough journey so far and it
seems like a long road ahead.
Thank you everyone for all of your support and patience. The cards that
were sent when Allen died were so heartfelt and meant so much to us. Allen
was a big part of the this work-family as he grew inside of me for 9 months.
He spent quite a bit of his life in our office. I am sorry that he was
not able to meet everyone outside of the womb.
If you would like to know more about Allen's life and beyond, I have been
putting together a web page in his memory. Please visit him at http://www.angelfire.com/nb/allenrobert.
Kara lives on Vashon Island which is a much more awesome place than she
ever imagined it would be. She is a poet, bookmaker, wife, teacher, bereaved
mom, facilitator, receptionist, founder, struggling p.t.barnum, turtle
faithful, editor, artist, and a million other things that will prevent
you from putting her in any one particular label box! Kara teaches through
local art centers, artists in the schools programs, KotaPress and independently.
To find out more about her, see:
Take an online class with Kara: