Dear moms of babies in Heaven,
First off I know you never expected to be here. You never thought it would happen to you. Neither did I. It’s messy and ugly, but we’re here, and we are not alone. I want to share with you some things that I have figured out in the 6 years since my first miscarriage, 5 years since my son died at 1 week old, and 2 years since our last son was still born at 17 weeks. There are things that no one tells you, and things you think that you wonder if you are normal. These are just my experiences. Everyone is different in how they process things so don’t feel like if something doesn’t apply to you you are wrong.
That brings us to the first point. This will probably be the longest one because I feel there is so much to say in this category. 1. Everyone grieves differently. Your experience, your loss, your feelings are all your own. It is ok for you to go through things differently than someone else. Often times family members don’t understand this. Just remember they don’t know what you are going through. They have no way to imagine or comprehend how you feel. Even your own husband, who has been through the same thing, processes it different. Give them some grace and don’t expect them to understand. Sometimes people will say comments about how you need to move on, or you aren’t “getting over it” soon enough. Just put those remarks right out of your head. Know that they don’t get it. They can’t possibly. Don’t expect them to. Just remind them that you are still grieving. Your husband probably won’t grieve the same way you do. It is harder for men to show emotion sometimes. For a lot of them, they want to protect you. They want to be strong for you. They think if they break down, then you will fall apart. They often can’t talk about your child the same way you can, or at all. I am much more open and talk about our sons than my husband did or does. And that is ok. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am. I didn’t want to talk about it at first. The last one is still harder for me to talk about than Eli. I knew Eli. I see the good that came from his life. I see how our lives changed because of him. I don’t have that for Luke. There isn’t any answer or explanation. I don’t understand it.
Which brings me to point 2. Understand that sometimes things DON’T happen for a reason! This is a tough one, because so many people say, “everything happens for a reason”. I have come to understand that I disagree with that statement. That’s a hard place to come to, but hear me out. God can use any situation for good. Even terrible, tragic ones. And yes I believe God allows bad things to happen in the world. Maybe He even causes some of them for a better reason, or to lead us somewhere good. I don’t know where the line is there. BUT the pain and the bad in this world is a result of living in a sinful world. God doesn’t want babies to die. It was never his plan. In the garden of Eden choices were made that resulted in consequences that still affect us today. When we chose to turn away from God and take our own road, we went to place God never intended. So sometimes things happen because this world is broken and that’s it. God cares about us, He loves us, and He hurts with us. God is not insensitive to our pain because He knows one day it will be over when we get to Heaven. Jesus even cried when His friend died, knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead! If you want to read more on this subject I recommend this article.
3. God WILL give you more than you can handle. This is also one of those sayings people say, meaning well. It is simply not true. First I will give you the Biblical basis in which this saying comes from. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
This verse is talking about temptation. He won’t give us more temptation than we can bear. Which means we will never be tempted to sin, beyond what we can overcome. This does not mean pain or trials. In fact I think God does let more than we can bear on our own happen to us. This is how we know we need Him. We we face something that we can’t possibly do or overcome in our own strength, those are the times He carries us. That is when we know we need Him. This was never more real to me than when Eli died. I honestly have never felt the closeness of Him like I did then. He carried me through the absolute worst and most difficult days of my life. He gave me the strength to go on and get up each day, even when I didn’t have the ability to myself. I don’t think He thought I could handle my son’s death. There is a great article on this idea here.
4. Time doesn’t HEAL, but it helps. There is no magical number of days, months, or years that will make everything ok. Time is a constant reminder of dates and ages and things that your child is missing. Whether it’s birthdays, holidays, other kids starting school, graduation, and many others, you will be constantly reminded of the life that you didn’t get to have with your child. Some of these times you dread and you expect like birthdays, but other times they sneak up on you. Something might remind you of your child that you didn’t expect and you are flooded with emotion. Time doesn’t change that. What time does is help those emotions to change from extreme sorrow and sadness to sometimes thankfulness for their life, or a fondness of a memory you had with them. If you had an early miscarriage and you didn’t get to make those memories, I am so sorry that you don’t have those to hold on to. I had those also. I didn’t get to hold or know them, but I do have a hope of that one day. I am confident that the Lord knows them. I am comforted by the fact that He knows exactly who they are, and that one day I will be with them forever in Heaven. I wrote more about time in this blog post a few years ago.
5. Everyone else will go back to normal before you do. I have very distinct memories of those around me laughing and me thinking “how can they laugh, don’t they know what happened, don’t they care?”. The first few weeks people surround you and it’s easier, but eventually they go home, they go back to work, they seem to resume normal life, and you are there, stuck in the place that doesn’t feel right. That place is normal for those of us that have been through this loss. You have to realize that that place, the place without your child, is the new normal. You won’t ever feel the way you did before. You know know grief in a deep and intimate way, and you can’t ever forget it. It doesn’t mean that one day you won’t adjust to your new normal. You will get up, you will go on, but you don’t ever really “move on”. Your child is forever a part of you. Back to number one, just give those around you grace, they don’t understand.
6. Keep their memory alive however you can. This one is huge. It is so important. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that regret not making memories. At the time you don’t think you want to, but do it. Listen to those around you. Let them help you and encourage you. It might be taking pictures if it’s possible, saving things that belonged to them, or writing down things you remember. It’s why I do what I do with photography. I wish I had more pictures of Eli. I wish I had spent more time with him making memories, after he passed away. It seems weird to those around us. It seems morbid even. But it’s so worth it. Sometimes it’s all you have left of your child and those things are priceless. It is hard. When he died, all I wanted to do was get it over with and leave. I regret that I didn’t spend more time with him, and let our family spend more time with him. We had to make the best choice for us at the time. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t get a chance to do these things, just hang on to what you have. I am do thankful for the staff at Kosair. They took some hair before his surgery, they did hand prints, feet prints, and even made a mold of his hands. These are things I couldn’t look at for a long time, but now I am so glad I have them. Another part of this is talking about your child. Don’t be afraid to say their name, just because it makes others uncomfortable. They are part of your story. You have something to share, to help someone else possibly. I learned that if I seemed comfortable talking about it to others then they were more wiling to talk about them also. Every time someone asks me how many kids I have, I have an opportunity to minister to them. I can tell them a small part of my story and how far God has brought me. That’s not easy and it took me a while to get there, but now I can say I have 5 children, 4 sons, and only 2 living. Now be prepared to get the “pitiful eyes” as I call it, but it’s worth it to help someone else know that they can survive whatever they are going through if they lean on God. We also celebrate Eli’s life and we have a cake every year on his birthday. It helps us all to remember him, and to be thankful for what he did for our lives. It’s comforting to talk about him and remember him.
Ok, this post has gotten very lengthy already, so I will wrap it up with this. Do the best you can, don’t beat yourself up for the choices you made while grieving, rely on God for strength and turn your loss into something that might help someone else. I know where you are at, it’s a very tough road, but with God’s help you can make it. Take comfort in know that the One who made your child is holding them, He loves them, and you. Read Psalm 139. God gave me that chapter of His Word when I needed it so badly. I am praying for you. Let me know if I can help you on your journey in any way. I would love to answer ANY questions you have.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16