In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month saying, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
This isn’t an awareness event I ever thought I would know much about. Until I did. Until I knew more about it than I ever wanted to know. The statistic is 1 in 4. This means in a small group of friends gathered for dinner, at least one has suffered the heartache of loss. If a mom, and grandmother and two daughters get together, one might be longing for the one she will never hold. When you are at school dropping off your children, there are mothers wondering what it would be like to drop off one more. When you are at church, praying there may be women in your group silently asking God, “Why?”
As much as we have accepted and acknowledged this in our society, it is still really hard to talk about loss – especially the loss of a child. People, rightfully so, don’t like to imagine what it would be like to be in those shoes. They don’t want to really ask how someone who just lost their child is doing and wait to hear the answer. They don’t want to linger long enough to see the nightmarish pain sitting behind the eyes of a mother who has endured the loss of her heart. It’s scary. It can send chills right through a person to even entertain the thought of what life might be like. To be the statistic. To be 1 in 4.
Encouraging mourners to “move on” has become more of the topic of conversation than just sitting and listening. Mentioning the name of the one no longer here and remembering holidays and birthdays and, lo and behold, death days all slowly fall by the wayside. It’s the excuse of not wanting to make someone cry when in reality, we’re most likely already crying. Crying and feeling so alone. This is not a road people like to walk down you with. It’s dark and scary and exhausting.
So what can you do during this month of awareness if you are one of the three of four in the statistic? When you are a friend at the dinner table? The sister at Christmas? The mom glad to have a break from her kids at school? The mom praising God, instead of the one questioning Him?
Say their child’s name. Tell them you have been thinking about them. Linger. Ask them how they are really doing. Don’t try to offer advice and instead, just say how that sounds so hard. How you are so sorry they are going through this. Skip all the “everything happens for a reason,” “God must have needed another angel” and “you can still have another one.” And, just sit with them. Let it be awkward and silent. Hold their hand. Give them your time. Give them your prayers. And, on October 15th, at 7pm light a candle for them. Let them know that their baby’s life mattered. That you remembered them.
That’s all. It’s as simple as that. Those little things can wrap comfort and love around an aching mother’s broken heart. It won’t fix everything. It won’t bring their baby back. But it will make them feel less alone. Feel heard. It will make them feel like the mother of ALL their children. It will be a gift to hear someone say their baby’s name. But, here’s the thing. Do it more than once. Set a reminder on your phone. Make a habit of it. Make it a part of your interaction. Let her know when she is around you, she can relax and say nothing or say everything. And both be ok.
A part of me will always be broken. There’s no mending of the heart when it comes to losing your child. I will cry for Sayge, at different times, for the absolute rest of my life. But there have been people that have come into my life that have made this journey lighter. There have been transformations and changes that have affected my life, for the better. There have been stories and women that have inspired me. Encouraged me. Given me hope. I’ve made memories. Gone on adventures. Discovered things about myself, and about God. That I never would have before. And the only way I can say this, without feeling the urge to throw up with the words in my mouth is because I know where she is. I know she is taken care of. I know stories of people who have had near-death experiences and have seen eternity and didn’t want to turn back. And, I can only imagine, the joy that surrounds her. The feeling of the moment when we reunite for eternity. When I cross the golden gates and see her in the arms of my Heavenly Father. And know with all my heart that this will be forever and always. That she will never leave my arms again.
And, I want to talk about that. I want to sit and reminisce about the memories we created. I want to share with everyone this one part of me that they can’t see. I want to sit and wonder who it is she might be becoming on the other side of the stars. To share what I imagine every day, what it would be like, with her here with us. To talk about all the ways loving her, whether near or far, has made me better.
So, if you can only do it once, if that’s all you can muster, if you can only sit and hold a little bit of this statistic that I’ve become, then, do it now. Sit with me, now. Remember with me on the month that acknowledges the loss I’m enduring every single moment. There may be no words or titles to describe what it is I’m going through, but there will always be her name. Say her name. Let me hear how it sounds rolling across your tongue as if she were a part of our everyday. Because, for me, she is and always will be.