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An Open Letter to Friends and Family

by Nancy Eckert,
Mom to Cory Steven.

Dear Friends:

I hope you all will indulge me a little on this. I wrote this piece for my local group's quarterly newsletter "Reflections" last year and I think it speaks to some of the things I've seen in the posts lately. I envisioned it to be something SIDS parents could copy and hand out to their family and friends, if finding the words to vocalize the sentiments were hard to come by:

"If I haven't been able, or have forgotten, to thank you for your continued support during this terrible time, I way to say: "Thank you". Please keep calling me. I know you think you might call during a period where I'm doing "O.K." and you're afraid you'll remind me that I'm sad and upset me all over again. Believe me, though...It's never far from my mind, so you calling me won't remind me of anything...except that you care. I want you to know that my baby's memory will be with me every minute of every day for the rest of my life, so please don't be afraid to let me know YOU think of him/her too.

I know you have your own life to live and I don't expect you to call or come by or write every day, but please don't let me think that you think I'm "over it" and that I don't need your help anymore. I'll never be over it...I'll just have to learn how to live my life without my child in it anymore. It would mean so much to me if you'd send a "thinking of you" care, or take a quick minute to call, on what would have been my child's first birthday or my first Mother's Day or Father's Day. This will NOT send me into a terrible tailspin...I will be remembering all too well what this day is and to know that someone else remembers too will mean so very much to me.

Please don't say: "I don't know how you can do it. If something like that ever happened to me, I think I'd die too." While I know you're trying to tell me you think I'm brave and strong for surviving this tragedy, you also seem to be implying that you somehow love your child more than I loved mine. I loved, and love, my child every bit as much as you do yours, but I know my life had to go on. I really had no choice but to find a way to get through the rest of my life without my beloved child. If you truly believe I'm courageous, go ahead and tell me but please don't do it by implying anything else. The implication will hurt more than just about anything you could say.

Over the first few months after my loss, I may want to talk about my baby and possibly about everything that went on when he or she was found dead. I know how uncomfortable that might make you...before I lost my child, it would have made me uncomfortable too...but I need someone I can talk to about this. Please let me talk about it and, unless you've lost a child too, please don't try to compare what I'm going through with your miscarriage or when you lost your family pet. I know you are trying to find that common denominator, but none of these things even comes close.

I may not ever be able to let you know how much I appreciate your concern for me. You may never be aware of how much strength I've received from you by just being there for me. I may not ever be able to repay you for everything you've done for me during this difficult time, but maybe I will be able to help someone else someday. Your kindness will, hopefully, carry on in that manner.

Finally, please be patient with me during the next several months. Time will, I know, take away some of the sharpness of the hurt, but every once in awhile something will happen to open the wound again, just a little. Allow me the occasional hurt, because it will continue to hurt in the years to come. This child, whom we both loved very much, will always be in my thoughts and in my heart. The fact that he/she is in YOUR heart too, will mean more to me than I can ever say. Again, thank you for your care and concern...."

(Thanks for your indulgence everyone. I hope some of you might find this useful)

Nancy Eckert

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