Often when we hear of other people's tragedies we say "I can't imagine," in response to their experience - I've heard that many times when people learn of Cale, and I'm sure I've said it many times in response to others stories. But really, what we should say is "I don't understand your pain, but I'd like to try to understand it a little better." Because we want people to imagine. We want them to be willing to try and imagine what it's like (whatever "it" is). Because in doing so you show your humanity and your compassion.
The people who haven't walked in our shoes, but try to imagine what it must be like - they are true gems. They are the people you grab hold of and surround yourself with. They are the people who deserve to share in your joy because they don't shy away from your pain.
Awhile back I heard about a movie that was in the works called Return to Zero. It's based on the the director's true story of losing his son when his wife was pregnant and their journey as they navigate life after loss.
I pledged $35 through Kickstarter when the film was raising the funds necessary for production and as a result would receive frequent updates during the filming and production. The day before filming, the director, Sean Hannish, sent out an email welcoming people from the baby loss community to share their thoughts with the cast and crew. He wanted to read them aloud before filming took place. I thought it was a powerful thing to do and so I sent him this email:
Dear Cast and Crew of Return to Zero -
Thank you for giving your time, energy and part of your hearts to the making of Return to Zero. You are doing so much more than making a movie. You are giving a voice to a community of grieving families, to a tragedy that isn't spoken about as often as it should, and most importantly, you are giving a voice to those who are not here. Our children.
Cale Harrison Hidalgo is one of those children. He was seven pounds even with dark brown hair. He looked like his Daddy. He had big chubby hands was perfect in every way except the most important one. He passed away as I went into labor. Our much wanted, much loved first child. So much hope, so many dreams, so much love.
The hope and dreams for his future died with him. But the love. . .our love for Cale will always be there. I wish I got to share him with the world, but I do what I can to still be his mother. To tell others about him. To be his advocate and share his story and his brief, but beautiful, life.
Thank you for also being my son's advocate. Thank you for your willingness to tell this story.
Wishing you the best of luck - may this be a successful and meaningful journey for you all.
And sure enough, I got a response back from the director thanking me for my words and offering his condolences over the loss of Cale. I have no doubts that he wrote everyone back and no doubts that he took to heart each and every message he received.
The movie, and independent film, went on to get enough funds (I suspect in large thanks to the baby loss community), but could not get a distribution deal in theaters. Minnie Driver (who I've loved since Circle of Friends and now love even more) stars at the mother to the stillborn baby and has done some wonderful interviews raising awareness of and promoting the film. She mentioned in an interview recently that part of the reason the movie could not get a distribution deal was because it's too sad. No one wants to see such a sad movie, no one wants to talk about such a sad subject. Fortunately, Lifetime picked it up, and this Saturday at 7pm central, Return to Zero will air for the first time. I'm thankful that the people at Lifetime were willing to take on a sad movie and willing to show something so that maybe others can imagine what it's like. Viewership is important for films like this as the more people that watch, the more times it will get replayed. The more times it is aired, more awareness will be raised.
I have see clips of the movie (the trailer can be seen here), and while I'm sure it will bring up lots of emotions, I'm excited to see it. I'm excited that there will be people talking about stillbirth and excited that this will help break the silence that surrounds far too many infant loses.
If you've never experienced the loss of a child, especially if you've never experienced the loss of a child, I encourage you to watch the film. Help break the silence.