Let’s just call a spade a spade… you just lost your baby and your friend just had one, or has a growing bump declaring there’s a new life coming and all you can think of is the new life that you’ve lost. And it hurts, it’s painful, it’s bittersweet but often mostly bitter. There’s the celebration of new life and the reminder of what should have been a celebration of your little new life… and the joy and sorrow just don’t seem to fit well together. It’s like heaping salt on an already gaping wound. I could write a list that fills pages of what you should say or not say if you’re that mom who has gained a new precious life while your friend has lost her precious child. But lets be honest, for a grieving mother what I could tell you today that would be helpful to say to me, to do or not do, once said or done I may realize is the very thing that I didn’t want to hear today. No, what grieving mothers really need is not for you, the mother who has just welcomed life that’s here to stay, to adhere to a list of rules for how to interact or not interact with me. What she needs and what we all really need are friends who will choose to acknowledge and allow the pain to be there, that uncomfortable awkwardness that now exists to just be, and to choose to ask God to help, to enable you to be an agent of healing in your friends life instead of just a vehicle for pain. To be a grace giver and a grace receiver for you will make mistakes and your grieving friend will make mistakes… many in fact. You will say the wrong thing at the seemingly right time and the right thing at the wrong time and your friend may or may not tell you so in not so choice of words. It is bittersweet. Bittersweet to watch a friend carry a baby, cherish a baby who may have been the same age as her own who is now gone. But, what if we stepped into each other’s lives in ways that perhaps, while the bitter is still there… the sweet begins to rise. While there is pain now in the longing that is surfaced as we watch moms rejoicing over their little new babies, perhaps there can also be healing. So this is an open letter of thanks. Thanks to all the moms, and new moms who have chosen to step into my life and be vehicles of healing in the midst of the pain, who have been grace givers and grace receivers. I hope in writing this, that many other new moms may have a vision of what it may look like to come alongside their grieving friends, and for moms who have lost their babies to have a vision for what it looks like to let them. I do not begin to think that what has been healing for me would be healing for someone else. But I do know, that having friends whose hearts were to be vehicles of healing has disarmed me and has allowed my defenses to melt. This is a letter to them… you know who you are.
To the mom who wept with me on that day we found out Sophie’s condition, an agent of healing when you quickly acknowledged it could be hard to be around your little girl. You were an agent of healing when you let it be okay that I cried through watching your daughter smash her 1 year birthday cake in her face knowing I wouldn’t get to see my daughter do the same. You showed me what it looks like to lay down your rights for the sake of another, to say I will rejoice today in my daughters’ birthday and I will grieve with my friend who longs to be able to celebrate that first birthday with her own daughter. You, who had every right to just have joy that day, allowed yourself to weep with those who weep, which in turn enabled me to rejoice with those who rejoice. You have been relentlessly sensitive and kind and your little daughter has been an unexpected and delightful breath of fresh air to my grieving heart. Thank you for loving me well and by faith in this season.
To the mom who chose to take the first step, to acknowledge the awkwardness when there was only one of the babies we should have been introducing to each other at that conference. You had the courage to move towards me when I didn’t have the courage to move towards you and said the words I was thinking too “All the times I wanted to say something to you, I didn’t know what to say.” Among other words of sweet life, that was enough. I didn’t know what to say either, and you let that be okay. Thank you.
To the mom whose baby was born just a few days after mine. As I came to meet your little newborn (though it took me 2 months to do it), you let me know before hand “I know that it will be hard, and I want you to know that I know that it will be hard for a very long time, and that’s okay please let me know how I can help”. Thank you. They were words of life, freedom and understanding. And as I held your little baby, the first baby I had held since Sophie and tears flooded my eyes, tears flooded yours too. No words. Just tears. And oh that was like salve to a wound. You’ve allowed me to be where I was at and that has given me the courage to over time, move more towards you and more towards your little baby. Thank you.
To the mom, my sister, who sat across from me on my couch telling me she was pregnant and let me just cry and cried with me. I wanted to rejoice, to just be happy for you but the grief was so great and yet, you were tender in that news and knew. You knew I loved my little growing nephew and you knew that news would be hard too. You have been so tender with me in this whole journey, the one who was with all 3 of us the moment Sophie passed away. And it has become sweeter and sweeter to celebrate this new life with you. I know there will be new tears when I meet my little nephew, tears of joy, and tears of sadness as I think of Sophie. But this is a part of the journey, learning to grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice. You’ve been such a sweet vehicle of healing in my life little sis, teaching me so much along the way. Thank you.
And to the moms that especially in the months leading up to Sophie’s birth, and the few months after who let me know they were pregnant before they announced it to the world, who said they understood if I couldn’t be around their little baby, or rejoice with this new life, or simply gave me freedom to be where I am… thank you. You’ve spoken Sophie’s name, told stories of her impact on your life and acknowledged just that… her life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You have been agents of healing to my heart, with sometimes not so much your words themselves but the thoughtfulness behind them. You saw me, and you saw the pain that could be there and it was ok. You didn’t protect me from your little children but gave me the space to decide myself what I could step into and what I couldn’t and out of that so many little children have become the sweetest vehicles of healing to my heart (thank you Ruth, Lydia, Eliana, Isaac and Jordo in particular).
I know that my experience with other new mom’s perhaps is not the norm of what many grieving mothers have experienced. There has still been much pain, sadness, twinges of longing when I see a new baby, another growing baby bump… but these mom’s who have stepped into my pain in even the simplest of ways have helped to lift my heart to greater healing. So thank you for being brave enough to step into my life when you had no idea how I would respond. Thank you for having courage to talk about the elephant in the room, the awkwardness that could exist. Thank you for not retreating when you didn’t know what to say (guess what, we grieving moms know no one really knows what to say and we don’t often even know what to say to each other!). I hope that more women begin to experience the sweetness of healing through these relationships and that the bitterness that can embed itself begins to lift and gives rise to women who will bravely love and courageously enter into the joys and grief that come with new life gained, new life lost, and new life longed for.