Dear Grieving Mother…

Dear grieving mother,

Oh mama, I’m so sorry. No mama should ever lose her baby. I lost my two baby boys at 20 weeks gestation, my friend lost her baby boy at 36 weeks gestation, and last week the niece of my dear friend unexpectedly died at 4 months. This should never happen.

The grief is debilitating. Everyday life feels like too much. Getting out of bed is too much. Trying to make a meal is too much. Trying to care for your other children is too much. I feel like I lost an entire year of my life grieving my babies and just trying to survive. The healing still isn’t complete nor will it ever be. The pain has lessened over the years and I feel like I can smile at the sunshine and the flowers again. But it’s taken a long time. And that’s okay.

I know I can’t fix the sorrow, the pain, the loss, the expectations never to be, the hopes, and the dreams that have all been taken away from you. If I could take it away I would. I would never wish it on anyone.

No one is ever prepared for the grief. No one is ever prepared for a loss. I know I certainly wasn’t. We kind of assume it’s a long way off when we have young children. But that’s not necessarily true. And in some ways that makes the unexpected all that more unexpected.

I don’t claim to know it all. I don’t claim to have the perfect way to deal with it but there’s a few things that I’ve learned about myself and about other people and I think they’re valuable. I hope that maybe some of the things I say can be encouraging to you. I pray they help you through this unimaginably hard and painful time of life.

Firstly, let people help you. I know many times I wanted help but I didn’t know what to ask for.  Let people make meals, clean your house, watch your kids, bring you coffee. If there’s anything that enters your mind that you think might be helpful, let others do it for you. They want to help you.

And when the help comes, expect it to be messy. People don’t know what to say. Especially when it’s your baby that you lost. Loss is never normal. People generally have good intentions. Try not to get too offended by the words they say.  Please give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re trying to help. When you hear that, “All things happen for the best.” or “They’re in a better place.” or “You’re still young you can have more kids.” or “Be thankful for the kids you have”, etc, ect, the list could go on and on… try not to internalize it… those phrases aren’t helpful, they hurt because they don’t validate the baby you just lost. The one you will never hold in your arms again. Try to ignore those comments… people don’t mean to hurt you even when they do…

I remember hating the question “How are you?”

“How am I? Really? You even have to ask?”

Often you can tell if people really mean that question or if they’re just asking out of formality. When it was out of formality I could easily say “okay” or “managing”. And most of the time they wouldn’t even notice, but would reply “Great, talk to you later!” But the people who really care when they ask that same question, often mean, “How are YOU today, honestly?”  “Can I help you today?” “Do you need a hug right now?” “Do you want a shoulder to cry on right now?” “Do you want to get coffee with me right now?” Or “Do you want me to leave you alone?” “Is it a good time to talk?” Answer honestly. Don’t tell them everything’s fine when it’s not. You don’t want to talk about it you can say that too. But when close friends and family ask, try to be honest if they’re asking honestly. It helps them and it helps you.

Allow space for however you’re feeling. If you’re angry, recognize it. If you’re sad, cry. If you are lost, ask someone to find you. If u r lonely, tell it. If you are confused, voice it. Let your feelings be what they’re going to be. Don’t try to hide it, don’t try to stuff it down, don’t try to be perfect in the face of others. You’re only hurting yourself.  It ALL WILL eventually come out… even if it’s 20 years from now.

Also don’t feel guilty for your feelings. If you find something to laugh at, laugh! If you see something that makes you smile, smile! If you didn’t cry today, it’s okay. Don’t feel guilty because you don’t think you’re sad enough that you cry enough that you’re angry enough. Tears do run out. You grieve the way you grieve no one can tell you that it’s right or wrong. Also as much as those around you want to take this and carry it for you, they can’t. This is your baby that’s gone, you’re the one who carries this heavy, heavy burden. But your friends can walk next to you, they can hold you, they can hug you, they can be with you, they can hear you.

If you have other kids, let them see that you are hurting.  They can offer comfort that no one else can… They are also feeling it, but they often don’t know how to say it or what to do with their feelings.  When they see you grieve, they learn how to grieve as well.  Over that “lost year” I connected with one of my kids in particular like I never had before.  We tend to have a difficult relationship in general (we both want to be boss), and she saw that I wasn’t perfect any more.  I didn’t have it all together.  And she in turn gave me much compassion and love that I greatly needed.  It brings me to tears even now as I think about it.  And since then she has been the one most sensitive to me and talks about the boys more than anyone else in the family.  She really misses her little brothers too.

And also in that vein, as I mentioned earlier, kids often have a hard time voicing what they are feeling.  And they can see and sense the strain, tears, distraction, and pain in their parents.  They have their own big feelings and they see your big feelings and they don’t know what to do.  Sometimes they will show great love and compassion, and at other times they will act out, fight, scream, hit, and throw things.  We didn’t have problems with big outbursts like this before we lost the boys, but we had a lot of if afterwards.   It’s hard to show them grace in their struggles when we are barely hanging on. God will give you grace…

Lastly, and most importantly, connect with your husband.  Draw near to him and don’t pull away.  Ask him to listen, cry on his shoulder, let him be strong when you can’t be.  He wants to be there for you, but has no idea what you need.  Tell him.  He will be struggling too, but it hurts him to see us hurting and he wants to fix it for us even though we both know he can’t. Be a team.  Let this pain and sorrow you both feel, bind you together and not drive you apart.

I know this has been long, but I hope also helpful.  I can’t end this without also mentioning the fact that Christ is my only hope.  If heaven isn’t real then I have no hope of seeing my four missing babies one day.  These trials strengthened my faith.  I saw God move and be with me in ways I had never seen before.  I had comfort and peace I had never before experienced even in great grief and sorrow.   Press into God, read His word, remind yourself of His truths. It’s the only true peace and comfort to be had. No one else can supply what you are looking for.

My heart breaks for you mama, know that I pray for you.

With much love,

Bethanie

2 thoughts on “Dear Grieving Mother…

  1. Thank you. This is so beautiful and helpful. I am the person who doesn’t know what to say or do. I usually avoid the person because I feel so awkward and do not want to say the wrong thing. I have said the wrong thing in the past and that memory is cemented in my brain. I didn’t mean to be hurtful. I apologized. So, now I just avoid and let them grieve and allow those who are really close to the person be helpful so I am not in the way. I still don’t know what to do or say for fear of causing more hurt. I have never experienced the lost of child so I also feel like if I tried to be consoling it would not come off as genuine. Thank you for being open and honest about your experiences and what it feels like to go through such a loss.

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    1. Oh Missy! I’m so sorry this has been your experience. It is SO hard when you want to help and don’t know what to do that would be helpful. I didn’t know either until it was me. Something painful used for good… Now I can comfort with the comfort I’ve been given. I would say give it another try and don’t give up. You can always say you don’t know what to do or say, but that you want them to know that you care and you do hurt for them. I also meant to write to ask about the baby or child in months and years to come. Most parents don’t want to forget the name or child EVER. And they don’t want others to forget either. Bringing up the painful topic usually isn’t unwanted… they are already thinking about it anyway. I hope you can find a way forward with your friend… it’s so hard to be a friend to someone suffering and in pain.

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