Please know that I'm sorry you've joined a club you never wanted to be part of. Please know that my heart aches every time I hear about another mom who won’t get the chance to raise her baby or see them grow up. And please know that I know your pain — a very specific pain unlike any other. I know what it's like to experience the loss of an infant; a loss that robs us of our future joy.
Years ago, I was in your shoes. My daughter Margaret left my partner and I on the very same day she arrived. I went into preterm labor at 22 weeks, so her odds of survival were practically nonexistent. The only time I held her in my arms was after she had already passed away.
Make no mistake: no one should have to endure such pain. No one should have to say goodbye to their baby moments after they've said hello.
Immediately after my dearest Maggie passed I, too, felt gone. Well-meaning friends and family members did what they could to console me, but I just wanted to be left alone in my anguish. Losing a child is losing a part of you; a part of your heart and soul; a part of a future you were able to see so clearly. So if you're feeling the same, please know that you're not alone. It's alright if you don't want to be around people; if even the best intentioned and most sympathetic gestures don't make you feel any better; if you feel as though nothing, and no one, can help.
I fell into a heavy depression for the first few months after my daughter passed. I stared at my blank television screen, I slept, I barely ate, and I avoided the world, friends, and relatives. The world went on, yes, but I hit pause. I needed to. So please know that it’s OK to do the bare minimum, and to rest as much as possible. Trust me when I say you will need it in the future and in order to get through the rest of your life. And if you have a support system, now is the time time to lean on them. Let them help carry the weight of your grief.
It took me roughly three months to stop crying every single day. It took three more to finally begin to look toward the future without a sense of despair. After a year, I could tell people my story without completely falling apart, and it took two more years to be able to talk about my loss without shedding a single tear. Today, I share my story regularly in the hopes of helping other grieving parents, and I can tell you that doing so helps me continue to heal, too.
I promise that you'll learn to live with the grief.
So I know it doesn't feel like it now, but one day you will wake up and you won't immediately cry. Your breasts — which, in some kind of twisted cosmic joke have likely produced milk for the baby that is no longer there — will eventually stop reminding you of your pain. The hurt inside your chest will shrink down into manageable doses. You’ll attend a social function and you won’t just stand there hating everyone who doesn’t understand the pain you're in. You'll have a conversation that, yes, will bring you joy. A friend will make a joke and against all odds, you'll laugh.
Eventually, the sight of a baby won’t throw you for a loop, and you won’t need to avoid walking down the baby aisle at the grocery store anymore. You won’t thoroughly resent the happy families you see on your commute to work or school, and you won't begrudge every happy pregnancy or baby announcement.
I want you to know that this is a pain you will feel, in some capacity, for the rest of your life. Still, years later, I frequent several non-religious pregnancy and infant loss groups online. I still seek out support and understanding from other moms who have been where I've been, and who are where I am now. Sometimes it helps to know that there are others sharing your pain, and not just people who send you their condolences. We hate to welcome new bereaved mothers into our fold, but together we're able to grow stronger. For so many of us, community is how we survive.
I promise that you'll learn to live with the grief. You will learn to stop tormenting yourself with guilt. And even though it's not your fault, you’ll learn to forgive yourself and to love yourself again.
I just celebrated my daughter’s sixth birthday, and I can tell you that I only cried a little. I took comfort in the things I’ve gained since her loss, and I survived the day. In fact, I have survived every single day since my daughter's passing, and I promise that you will, too.
In Love and Solidarity,
Another Grieving Mother