A Child Died: Red Balloons, Sadness for Strangers & Bereavement Nursing.

Today felt like a big waste. I started and stopped work like a teenager learning to drive a rusty old stick shift, never actually getting anywhere. Mostly, I was distracted by my phone and its million reasons to draw me away from work I desperately needed to focus on: Texts coming in and texts not coming in, phone calls, e-mails, Instagram reloads.

Somewhere in the midst of all this un-productivity (and the resulting frustration), I came across a family. I’m not sure how I traveled to their Instagram feed, to the peek into their life that it brought me, but the stuff of @babyboybakery immediately stole my heart. A gorgeous woman (clearly, the writer), her red-headed man (clearly, her husband), and a perfectly hip, innocent and beautiful red-headed toddler (clearly, their son). The colors, the smiles, the pure joy I played voyeur to, brought me happiness throughout the day – yes, I went back to them many times.

But I didn’t just go back because of their beauty as a family, I went back because of their story. Just five days ago, a photo showed the young red-head running through a Disney park – no more strollers, the caption said. Today, Instagram seemed ablaze with the hashtag #redballoonsforryan – I e-sleuthed; he died that very day, hit by a truck running for a frisbee.

I don’t know these people. I don’t even know their names, apart from the Instagram username, and information I see on its associated website. I don’t know how they met, or how they decided on the name for the son, or what day he was born. I don’t even know what state they live in, nor do I think I should. I think I know what I see – lively photos of a family in love, and the resultant support of the online community after an unthinkable event – but even that is just my own speculation.

I do know that there were likely some medical personnel involved in the aftermath of this little boy’s accident. I am sure the scene was not a pretty one, and I’ll venture to guess that not much could be done for this tiny life. If he even made it to the hospital, I am sure that nurses worked desperately to try to save him, even if just for a moment. I will likely never know the course of his care, but I know that whomever responded brought everything to the table for him that day. I do hope someone was kind, human, amidst their urgent task-giving.

What I wish for desperately now, for these people who seem so kind, whose happiness and love are now undergoing such a great challenge, is that they seek out the care they need in their time of grief. Clearly, their support ranges far and wide, via family, friends, and the portals of the internet, and bereavement counseling is not something to be rushed, but I do hope that wherever they live, they are offered professional guidance when they are ready for it.

Nurse bereavement services are typically tied to hospice care and the aftermath of a hospice-supported death, but some health departments offer grief services to families who have lost children. Countless online and phone organizations exist – Miss Foundation asks bluntly, “A child died. What do I do?” In short, help is out there, and sometimes, the most helpful kind comes when the family and the blog followers and the friends and even the husband all step out, after all the chaos has died down and it is quiet, and you just need one more person to hear the story.

Sometimes, I pray, in weird ways. Getting energy from a cloud in the sky, or smiling at the scent of lilacs in the night as I walk out of my house. I send these feelings and moments to whomever I think needs them then. I think this family that I don’t know, and will likely never know, needs a hell of a lot of these prayer-like things. For the courage to mourn, to ask for help when its needed, to reload the Instagram feed and again see the son that never should’ve left.

Peace, all around tonight.


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