Monday, June 15, 2015

What Do I Say?

You may or may not have seen this article circling through your newsfeed. I shared it. Many of my loss friends shared it. It actually came to my attention because someone thought of me and tagged me in the link, which I think is great because it means people are paying attention to what I am saying and how important talking about our children is to Mothers of Loss.

In case you don't have time to read the entire article, it is basically a Loss Mom's letter to another woman who sat in awkward silence after asking about her children and learning her first born son had died. The mom said she didn't really care that she made the woman uncomfortable because she's not about to deny the existence of her child. I am right there with her, although I do hate the sad eyes and downward glances. I think, as a society, we push all pain out of the public eye. I think a big part of why baby loss is so taboo is because people are just so uncomfortable with death and grief in general. Add to that the loss of a human that had yet to begun to live, and we're talking serious silences and seat squirming.

I'm one of those people that when one of my statuses is shared, I like to click over and see what was said about it. When one person shared it, one of their friends commented that they really don't know what to say. A similar situation had happened to them and they weren't really sure what to do. That's perfectly understandable and quite admirable to admit and want help with. I imagine a lot of people outside the loss community might feel the same way.

So, here's a typical scenerio and how you might respond:
You: Is she your oldest/ only child?
Her: No. She has an older sister who was stillborn.
You: I am so sorry for your loss. (smile, while asking...) What was her name?
Her:  Her name was ________
You:  That's a beautiful name.  Optional: If you'd like to tell me about her, I'd love to listen.

That's it. That's all you have to do. She's already brought up her child. She is already letting you know she is comfortable talking about her...or at least that she wants to. She wants you to know that the child you see isn't the only child she has. Asking the name lets her know you acknowledge her baby as important and loved. Most likely, she will glow in telling you the name. She might get misty eyed, but you didn't make her sad. Bringing up her loss didn't make her sad. Living in a world without her child makes her sad, but she's not on the edge of sadness all the time. She finds joy in her life, she does. Losing her child broke her heart, but it didn't break her.

When you talk to her, don't think how horrible everything must be for her. She can see that in your eyes. She can tell that you are feeling sorry for her. Don't. She doesn't want your sympathy. You don't have to comfort or console her. She probably already has a grief counselor. She just wants someone else in this world to know her child existed. You might think it's morbid to be discussing her dead child with her, but she doesn't. She's happy someone is willing to listen. To her, there is no difference between her children other than the fact she can hold one and not the other.
Most likely, she will steer the conversation into what she's comfortable with. She might volunteer what happened to her child and she might not. If she doesn't though, don't ask. Other than that, talk to her like you would any other mother talking about her children.

I think a lot of people might get uncomfortable in this situation because they think the conversation is going to be all about death. Honestly, we don't really want to hash out all the details of our child's death with a stranger. We don't want to tell you our hospital horror story. We don't want to relive those terrible moments with you. We just want to include all of our children in a conversation when someone asks. That's it.

Be honored she is willing to share her child with you. She fully understands how you might react, and she is still willing to put herself in a vulnerable situation with a complete stranger. That is how much she loves her child. That is how important talking about her baby is to her. She's not concerned with your uncomfortableness because you were the one who asked. She didn't come racing up to you to say, "hey...guess child died."

If you're friendly enough to bring up a woman's children in casual conversation, then you have enough people skills to handle this. You do. One out of four women experience the loss of a child either in pregnancy or in early infancy. One in four. The baby loss community is getting stronger and more outspoken. More and more women are feeling comfortable talking publicly about their loss and their children. There is a good chance your casual conversation may take this turn.

Don't panic.
Don't feel sorry for her.
Don't change the subject or try to end the conversation

Just talk to her. Listen to what she has to say. You'd do it for any other mom on the playground. Do it for her too.

Friday, June 5, 2015


The further away I get from February 25, 2013, the harder it is to hold onto her. You would think every inch of her was burned into my memory. Isn't it part of a mother's biology to know her child backwards and forwards with crystal clear clarity? I am trying so hard to picture her face, not the face in her photos, her real face. The face I stared at through my tears. The soft, white face. The slightly slack mouth. The eternally closed eyes. I want to hold her image in my brain, but it is grainy and slippery. It falls through the holes in my memory, and I can't grasp it. Every day that pulls me farther away from that terrible Monday creates another thin layer of fuzziness over her.
I am forgetting her. I am forgetting the heaviness of her in my arms. I feel it now only slightly, when it used to weigh me down like rocks. I am forgetting her face and her tiny hand. I see them in her pictures, but those pictures aren't her. Those photos are wonderful, but they don't capture the true beauty of my little girl, and I can no longer fully remember it. I can no longer fully remember my own child, and it feels like I am losing her all over again.
Her sister has taken over my life, and I am immersed in changing diapers and cutting fruit into bite-sized pieces, in singing songs and reading board books over and over and over. I can remember all of the words to "Giraffes Don't Dance" but not all the details of my firstborn.
How did this happen? How has my brain somehow let her slip away?
I have looked at her pictures so many times, those are the images I see when I close my eyes. The black and white baby with her hand over her left eye. The side pose with the bear and the bracelet. The curled up child in the long sleeved gown. Those are the pictures my brain remembers, but I can't see her. The real Kenley in my arms. The real face I looked down on. The real hand I held. The real head covered in black hair. Those images keep pulling farther and farther away. I try so hard to keep them with me, but they won't stay. They are leaving me. Silently slipping out the back door of my mind.
How long will it be before she is gone completely? Before all I know of her is the four pictures that aren't really her? Before I can no longer feel her in my arms? That day is coming. I only had two hours with her. Thirty six weeks and then two hours. It's not enough time to burn enough memory. It's not enough time to make her stay with me. I reach out for her with desperate fingers, but I can't take hold.
I'm losing her. I'm losing her. I'm losing her.
And my heart is breaking all over again.