The world is dangerous now.  I can be destroyed in a word and I can destroy others with a simple, terrible sentence.

First I allow a pause after the question is asked where I look down and breathe.  That tells the person that my response is not going to be the happy joyful news of a new baby in the world but rather something else altogether.  It gives them a  moment to realize that this isn’t going to be pleasant and to hold on to themselves while we finish this awfulness.

At that point they get that look on their face where it’s clear they wish they could take back the last 20 seconds of their lives.  But they shouldn’t feel bad about asking.  Inquiring about the birth of a new baby when you’ve seen the mother grow and bloom is natural and correct.  99.9% of the time it would be far ruder to *not* ask.  So they ask and they fall into a boobytrap of sadness and embarrassment that they had no idea was sitting there waiting for them.  There’s no way around it, though.

So I pause and breathe and then I look up to answer them directly.

“We’ve had a terrible tragedy,” I say and they are stricken.  Nothing more needs to be said.  Sadness, fear, helplessness, unfairness, terror, anger, embarrassment, they all flash across their features and I am stricken, too, with the grief magnified from having to pass on this awful news.  I see a fraction of what I feel reflected in their faces and it slays me over and over again.  And all I can do is ride the torrent to the waterfall again, and plummet once more into the Abyss.

I know this route, though and most of the time I can grab on to a solid outcropping and swing myself out of the swirl of disaster.  I have walls I’ve constructed to help me navigate this treacherous path.  They are not closed off and solid but rather strategic barriers I can lean against and hide behind.  It is not an impregnable fortress.  It is a maze of my own construction that slows the torrent but does not stop the plunge.