Today is a day I never knew existed a little over a year ago. I still remember that day, every single detail, feeling, thought. The day I experienced a loss that left me forever changed, and in a deeply traumatic way. Without consent I became a member of this group caught in the grey area of motherhood, invisible to the world. Misunderstood by all who haven’t walked this walk. It was when I realized that a positive pregnancy test doesn’t always equate to a living, healthy baby. That becoming unpregnant was a reality for far too many people. It was when I began mourning all of the plans, hopes and dreams we had for our son and our family. The moment I realized I was a completely new person. The old me was no longer there. You never return to who you once were when you lose a child, you truly begin a new life – your second life.
Experiencing such a traumatic loss is paralyzing in all the ways. It’s nothing you could ever imagine or prepare for. You think you can empathize with how it feels but you have no idea. The world continues to go on as though nothing has happened, and you are left trying to make your way through the fog of grief and heartache. Your heart is overcome with fear, bitterness, pain, anger, confusion – it’s almost too heavy to carry at times. You have all this love to give but there is no child to physically give it to. I remember very early on feeling a deep desire to share my experience and feelings openly and honestly. Not for praise, or kudos or pity. But to hopefully encourage others to empathize with the bereaved, and to help women who have gone through this to know that they are not alone.
Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. It’s a day I wish I weren’t a part of but, boy, am I in the company of some brave and beautiful warriors. So in honor of this day I felt encouraged to share some thoughts on how others can be a source of light and love to the bereaved mother (and father). We are everywhere.
Things to Avoid Saying….
‘At least it happened earlier rather than later’ ‘You can have another one’ ‘At least you can get pregnant’ ‘You just need to be happy’ ‘I want the old you back’ ‘Everything happens for a reason’ ‘You’re going to be ok’
We know that you don’t know what to say, we know it’s hard. We know that everything about this downright sucks and can be so uncomfortable. So if you’re struggling with what to say just ask. Ask what we need, and don’t be surprised if that changes daily.
What to Say and Do….Over and Over….
‘I’m thinking of you’ ‘I love you’ ‘I’m praying for you’ ‘I am so sorry’
These are some of the best and easiest things to say. We know nothing you say is going to change or fix anything. But saying nothing leaves us feeling so isolated. I remember feeling like I needed to remind people that my loss wasn’t contagious. If you think it’s tough for you, imagine how it is for us. Reach out, show up, offer support.
Dont Be Afraid to Ask Questions….
Every mother and father will be different in terms of what they feel comfortable with sharing. Don’t be afraid to ask. I remember feeling so grateful when people would ask what happened to Maddox. I sometimes craved acknowledgment from people around me. My loss was very traumatizing so being able to talk through it has been very cathartic. But my story is also one of hope, and proof of God’s love as his army of angels were out in full force that day. I firmly believe God chose every person on our path that day for very specific reasons. Lastly, please know by bringing our loss up you aren’t reminding us of anything, we will never ever forget.
Don’t Forget About the Dad’s….
Please, for the love, remember that Dad’s are grieving too. Sure, they don’t experience the physical pain from that day but they endure the same mental and emotional pain that we do – and that is a much deeper, gut-wrenching pain than you can ever even imagine. Dad’s need the same amount of love, connection and empathy. Don’t forget them.
Know That Grief is Never-ending….
Grief is not linear. There aren’t stages that once you accomplish one you’re on to the next until you’ve reached the final step. Grief is messy, hard, confusing, frustrating. There is no way around it, you have to go through it and endure it. Please don’t judge or compare anyone’s grief journey. They all look different.
Show Up and Remember….
Remember my baby existed. Remember it’s hard and exhausting. Remember when my baby was born. But also remember that there may be some days that are hard and uncomfortable. Like holidays, mother’s/father’s day, due dates. We don’t expect you to understand any of this, in fact we know you never can, just know that this is our reality. And it’s not a choice. We can’t forget about it, or pretend like it never happened. Be gentle with us, extend grace, and allow us room to feel. Never be afraid to let us know you are thinking of us and that you are there. Send a quick text, send a card in the mail. You never know how great of an impact a small gesture can make.
So, if you know anyone who has lost a child or pregnancy please reach out to them today. Let them know they are seen, that they are loved, so that they know you care. May we all feel light and love today and in the coming week, and may our hearts continue to heal.
Lord, thank you for carrying me this far. Thank you for extending grace, even on the days when I question You. I pray you help our hearts to heal, and to know that there is purpose in the suffering. May we always know we are never alone. Thank you for the courage and for allowing me to live in hope. I pray that I continue to show up, to be brave enough to share my truth, and to serve you well through it all.
We love you, Maddox. I hope I’m making you proud. One step closer….
Though I lose my petals I am still a flower,
We grow together, in a garden bed of ash and tears, heartbreak and love.
Whispered support blows towards our delicate beauty, crying nourishes our shared roots, and the warmth of our compassion heals the winter of our grief.
Though we have lost a petal, we are still flowers, lush and full together in a garden of hope.
By Angie M. Yings