In the last month, my husband and I have decided we would begin to try to get pregnant. And as I sit here thinking about a baby in the future, I am thinking of another.
Loss sucks, and losing our baby was not the first loss I had experienced. In fact it wasn’t the second, third or even fourth. And I know it will not be the last either. We all know that death is part of this life here on earth, and it is never easy to deal with, but there is something extraordinarily difficult about losing a child. Maybe it’s having to witness a part of you die while the rest of you still remains. Or maybe it’s the reminder that this life will never be long enough. I don’t know exactly what makes it so difficult, and maybe it is something entirely different from person to person. No matter the reason, there is no loss quite like it.
And in the realm of losing children, there is something quite different about losing a child you’ve had years with and one you’ve only had for weeks or months. My mom and dad lost their first child, my oldest sister, after sixteen years. Our son never lived outside of my body. And there are parents in between and outside of that range.
I am writing this for the people around us. The ones who haven’t been through it and don’t know what they can do. People typically aren’t sure how to respond to grieving mothers and fathers. It can be especially difficult to know what to say if they lost a baby. You just don’t have the memories you would be able to share if the child had lived longer; sharing memories is a great way to show grieving parents that you haven’t forgotten and can be fairly easy to bring up in conversation, but what can you say to someone who lost a baby? Quite simply,
“I haven’t forgotten.”
Right now, if you say those words to me, I will cry. I will cry because I miss my son every day, and I will cry because you have reminded me I’m not the only one. Maybe we can cry together, or maybe it will be just me, but remember, they aren’t bad tears. You take me back to the time when I got to feel him move in my belly. When you say you remember, you take me back to the sweet times that I wish weren’t gone. For me, there is never a bad time to remind me that you haven’t forgotten.
Please do not be worried about hurting a parent by bringing up their child because I assure you – you can’t hurt me worse by talking about my son than it hurt to lose him. You may think, “I don’t know how often it’s appropriate to bring up their baby.” Consider anyone with a living child. The answer is – there is no such thing as too much. Whenever you want to talk about it, do it. Most people want to know their kids are remembered and loved, even if they aren’t here anymore.
Say the child’s name if they were given one. For those of us who have lost a baby, whether through miscarriage or stillbirth, when you say his or her name, you are validating that our baby existed – that they mattered to someone other than us. We don’t have years of pictures and stories to show the impact our babies made on the world, so we need you to tell us.
As I think about a baby whose life hasn’t even started, I think about Leeland. I think about how much I miss him, and I think of how thankful I am for friends and family who aren’t afraid to talk about his life – and I still wish it happened more.
So if you know someone who has lost a child in one way or another, talk to them. Let them go back to a time when their son or daughter was with them. Share a memory or just say, “I remember.” And know that they appreciate it more than you will ever know.
To the moms and dads in my life who have lost children. I remember. I will not forget you.