I don’t know why it strikes some harder than others, there’s just no rhyme or reason to it. It seems that its intensity is not governed by love or relationship alone because there are many who have loved deeply yet did not experience grief with the same crippling force.
Nevertheless, grief is real. Once lost in that unceasing loneliness myself, I draw from that experience when talking with those who are caught in it today. But in my heart of hearts, I have no idea how to approach the mother of a stillborn or miscarried child.
I’m cautious about what to say because I’ve never been where she is. There is nothing worse than some plaster saint who thinks he has the cure for a degree of agony he’s never faced. I don’t dare pretend to understand the solitude of her pain.
In the wake of my own loss I can relate to her emptiness and shattered expectations, but there lies a great chasm between us. My son was with us for fourteen years, her child slipped away before she could offer an adoring hello. With the exception of those few who felt the baby kick, Mom is the only person in the world who knew the child. Their one and only interaction outside of the womb is defined by the sad reality of her irreversible loss.
What can I say?
Owing to my own experience I’ve found that trying to cheer people up, telling them to be strong and persevere, or trying to help them move on doesn’t actually work. The way to help someone heal from their grief is to allow the pain run its course. I know the emotional numbness will eventually leave, but how can I be encouraging in the interim?
Much of grief recovery relies on remembering the past in a positive light. We are to take those good memories along with us as we move forward in life. No one wants their loved-one forgotten.
But in her case there is really nothing to take.
There are no candid photos capturing the child’s innocent smile or adorable character. Cute videos containing the sweet sound of an infant’s first words are nonexistent. There were no Christmas mornings or family vacations to recall. There is only that one single horrible day of loss to remember.
In the aftermath, she struggles to know what to do with the prenatal preparations already in place. Found concealed behind a closed door lies an unoccupied nursery. Within it stand perfectly positioned dressers stocked with neatly folded baby outfits…never worn. There’s a whimsical mobile suspended motionless above a crib…never slept in. And the grieving mom drifts through the house, sobbing softly with an unmistakable longing to hold her baby in her arms.
She must feel as if the previous nine months of her life were nothing more than a sweet dream turned nightmare. As she attempts to pull her life back together she finds the hope for tomorrow scattered like pieces of cut film on the editor’s floor.
No one feels the loss as she does…honestly, most don’t feel it at all.
Friends and family cannot identify with the child they never met. There’s no one missing from holiday gatherings, no vacant place at the table, the usual crowd is still accounted for on the neighborhood playground. Life continues on exactly as it had for almost everyone else.
I’ve been close to this before…our daughter miscarried her first and lost her second child at birth. You would think that after losing our son I would have known what to say…I didn’t. Experience taught me that there are no magic words. Instead of trying to take the pain away from them, I just did my best to acknowledge their circumstances and join them in it.
Maybe the best response is to hold them close and help them cry.
My wife and I anxiously anticipated the arrival of Mya, and the joy of becoming grandparents. I saw her, held her, spoke to her, but neither she nor I had the chance to know each other. All we really have of her is a name, which when spoken will always give rise to the wonder of what life would be like today had she lived.
Time and distance eventually soften the sting of grief, but it seems there will aways remain a desire to know…
What could have been.