The grief of losing a child is immeasurable—and rarely discussed publicly. Grief is layered—it’s different for everyone, and can change every day, or every minute, for the same person. That’s why writer and comedian Michael Cruz Kayne’s viral Twitter thread on his family’s experience of losing their son is so important.
Michael, who has two surviving children with his wife, Carrie Kayne, started the thread by saying, “This isn’t really what Twitter is for, but ten years ago today my son died and I basically never talk about it with anyone other than my wife. It’s taken me ten years to realize that I want to talk about it all the time. This is about grief.”
He explained how most people don’t know how to react to others’ grief. “Most of the conversations we have about grieving are very very weird. Tragedy is still so taboo, even in the era of the overshare. It’s all very ‘sorry for your loss’ and tilted heads and cards with calligraphy on them and whispering. We’re all on tiptoes all the time.”
Michael noted that grief is a lot of things—“a galaxy of emotions, most of which are put in orbit by the loss of someone you loved … but we only get to talk about one part publicly: the sadness.”
Anyone familiar with the stages of grief is well aware that sadness is far from the only emotion that accompanies a loss. “Some things make me angry: when the hospital prepared us for his death, one of the doctors kept saying ‘your daughter’ repeatedly until I said through gritted teeth, ‘he is a boy,’” Michael wrote. “Some things make me confused: we cremated our son. How the fuck does that work? Like, what are steps one through ten of that process?”
And there are some things the stages don’t cover at all, and that people never talk about, like that loss can be funny. “Some things make me laugh: the funeral home handed us a receipt after our son’s funeral that said, ‘thank you come again’ at the bottom.” Many people who experience loss would also prefer not to hear about the stages of grief anymore, because finding a way to heal is never a linear path.
Michael and Carrie’s son had a twin, who is still “very much alive” today. “And he’s really just great,” Michael added. “And that’s crazy too, because the better he is, the more I’m like ahhhhh shit I wish his brother were alive.”
The couple talk to their two children about their brother all the time, and still find special ways to include him in family moments. “They both have a sister, who asked us to put an extra candle in her brother’s birthday cake, and who led us in writing a story about her dead brother tonight,” Michael wrote.
He made an important plea later in the thread, “Ask your sad friend about the sad thing that you never talked about.”
Sadness has far-reaching effects, and not all of them are negative. “My dead son has a legacy already, in my wife, who became a pediatric intensive care nurse because of him,” Michael wrote. “Can you believe it? Being around sick and dying children all day? Healing/caring for them? She does that because of my son.”
Michael’s plea adds to his son’s legacy, and unites others in their grief. “Grief is isolating, but not just because of the sadness,” Michael wrote, “also because the sadness is the only part about it that anyone knows. Not a single person has ever been unkind about my son, but almost no one considers the fullness of his loss and how complicated and weird and everything else it was and continues to be. Having just recently started talking to other grievers, I know many of them feel the same.”
The original tweet has 2.3k replies and 106k likes. In sharing all the complicated emotions that come up when thinking of his son, Michael helped other Twitter users publicly unravel their grief, and identify the range of emotions it caused them to feel.
Michael followed with another reminder that those who are grieving are not alone. He ended the thread with a touching photo of his wife, Carrie, holding their deceased baby son. “Fisher Daniel Kayne forever and ever,” Michael wrote.