Dear mamas who’ve lost children,
I know how much loss you carry in your hearts that no one sees. I know your brokenness, the healing, the long road you journeyed all alone. I ache for you, because I know how unfair it is when your dreams are crushed by the reality of grief. No child should die before their parents. Pregnancies should not “go wrong.” Well-intentioned people, trying to be helpful, say things like, “The baby must have had a problem, so it’s for the best.”
A baby dying is not “for the best.” It’s tragic.
This tragedy started the moment when Adam bit into the apple in the Garden of Eden. Death and disease are the result of our sinful world. A baby dying was never part of God’s original plan. His plan was for life and when we taste death, our hearts break for Eden’s perfect world, where babies don’t die and we don’t bury those we love.
For the Mamas who’ve faced miscarriage
For those mamas who’ve experienced miscarriage, I want you to know your grief is real. You had a baby inside you–living and real–and then it died. You don’t have to carry this around with a stoic face. You don’t have to hold back the tears. When miscarriage is not recognized as a kind of infant loss, women grieve in silence. According to the journal, Obstetrics and Gynocology, the miscarriage rate hovers around 1 in 4 or 5 pregnancies, though most people believe it to be 1 in 20. With this misinformation, women fear talking about their loss and unprocessed grief leaves women wounded.
Though people will encourage you to get on with life, you need to mourn your baby. This is part of your grieving journey. According to the National Vital Statistics report issued by the CDC in 2000, 1,003,000 babies’ lives ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. That’s a million women affected by loss, yet many of them will suffer silently.
If you are one of these women, take the time you need to heal. Give yourself space for the raw and tender feelings. You don’t have to do it silently. We are a community of grievers standing with you, supporting you in your loss.
Mamas of Stillborn babies
For the mamas who’ve experiences stillbirth, all I can say is how sorry I am for your loss. You experienced nine months of blossoming belly, the hope of growing life, only to find yourself with the worst news a mother can ever hear: your baby did not live. Numb with the shock of this news, you find yourself in the valley of grief.
This is not how it was supposed to be. Instead of leaving the hospital with a baby, you left the hospital alone. There is something tragically wrong with this scenario. The nursery you prepared, the nesting you did, the preparations, both mental and physical, are painful reminders of what you do not have. Worst of all, instead of rejoicing in this precious new life, you are picking out infant caskets and burial spots in the “baby” section of a cemetery. This feels beyond cruel—it’s more like a walk through hell.
Although your friends and family recognize how difficult this must be, they do not know what to say. While your friends are celebrating their children’s milestones—their first steps or eating their first bite of food, they are overwhelmed at how to help. They don’t want their own child’s presence to worsen your pain, but they don’t know how to help in the midst of their busy, child-centered lives. This leaves the grieving mama of a stillborn child feeling even more alone, with friends often suddenly silent or afraid to stop by.
If you’re the friend of a mama who’s lost a stillborn child, please know that your presence is needed. Your phone call, text, or meal (no matter how simple or thrown together), is a lifeline. Don’t abandon your friends in grief, even if you feel like your children make the grief worse. Stay the course. Stand by your friend. Just show up.
Your absence makes the pain worse, not better.
And mamas who are going through loss, don’t walk this path by yourselves. Your loss needs community and connection, not isolation and silence.
You need to walk through this valley of the shadow of death, not only with your God who will comfort you through this hardest of journeys, but with those friends who can provide help in the midst of your greatest trial.
Mamas who’ve lost children
You’re a special group to me, because I’m one of you. I lost a child who was with me almost three years. I rocked him late at night, got up for middle of the night feedings, cleaned up dirty diapers and pureed endless meals in the blender. Like you, I would give anything to spend more time with him. Like you, I think about him and wonder about the what if’s and should have been’s. I feel guilt for all the things I could not change, but tried to.
For a long time after he died, I had this weird feeling that I couldn’t find my son, even though I knew he was in heaven. I kept wondering where he was and felt the emptiness of my house like a palpable weight. A part of my heart was gone, and I couldn’t seem to find it.
In the movie The Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman, a grieving mother, learns that losing a child is like walking around with a brick in your pocket. She is told,
At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and – there it is.”
Mamas who have lost sons and daughters, you carry your bricks around like a labor of love, a reminder of what you’ve lost, a heavy token of a grief that never goes away. Together we bear the weight of this loss–we heal from the pain, but we never stop grieving our children. When we do this in community, that brick is more bearable.
Other recent blogs about grief:
15 ideas for facing the anniversary of your loved one’s death
Grief and the Family Photo: The story behind our first family photos since our son died
How to deal with suffering and pain
Video: Please God, Let the Baby Be Healthy