When children lose their parents, they bury them in the ground. When parents lose their children, they bury them in their hearts. — Korean proverb
I never in a million years thought it would happen to me. I was 39 weeks pregnant when my son Gabriel unexpectedly passed away.
I will never forget the moment. I looked at the screen expecting to see a beating heart, but the heartbeat wasn’t there. I told myself not to worry. I had a history of needlessly worrying at ultrasounds. Casually, I glanced over at the tech and noticed her eyes were as wide as saucers. Finally, breaking the silence, she asked, “Have you been feeling the baby move, Rachel?” That’s when I knew he was gone. Four years later, I still have flashbacks to that day and feel my pulse start to race. Panic sets in and I lose my breath. It was the scariest moment of my life.
Losing Gabriel was my first real experience with trauma. It was an extremely personal and vulnerable thing to go through. Since I carried him to term, my loss was very public. There was no hiding it. I didn’t have the option to tell a few trusted friends and grieve privately. Everybody knew, but not everyone knew how to respond. I hope to shed some light on how you can help a grieving mother, as well as offer hope to a mother dealing with loss.
If You Know Someone Experiencing Stillbirth or Infant Loss
There are so many things I could say about “what to do” and “what not to do” when someone you know goes through a very public loss, but I will share the most important thing I’ve learned: Say something.
Our words often have more power than we think they do. Even the simplest words of sympathy can tear down walls you didn’t even know were there. If you don’t know what to say, “I’m so sorry for your loss” goes a long way. It may feel awkward, but believe me when I say that it is far more awkward to say nothing at all.
Thankfully, my husband and I were blessed to receive tremendous support when my baby died. We had more flowers, gifts, cards, and kind words than we knew what to do with. But still, the silence of the few people who didn’t reach out hurt. I wanted them to acknowledge I had a son. His life was short, but he mattered. He was important.
If You Have Experienced Stillbirth or Infant Loss
You are not alone.
It may be easy to believe that no one else knows what you’re going through, but countless women have also travelled this road. When my baby passed away, women I had never met came out of the woodwork to tell me their story. If you need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to reach out. Most people want to help, but they don’t know how.
Grieving your baby is a sign of your love, so give yourself time. There is no right way to grieve, nor is there a set time to “get over it.” Truthfully, you will never get over it. You are forever changed by the life that was lost. There will always be a piece of your heart that is missing, and there will always be an ache that never fully goes away.
A great little book that was helpful to me is Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg. It’s a Christian devotional designed to provide comfort to mothers of loss, as well as help them process their grief. If you are looking for help with the grief process, this may be a good book for you.
A “Molly Bear” may also be helpful to you as you grieve. Molly Bears is a non-profit organization that custom makes bears to be the exact weight of the baby that was lost. My family loves ours. We include it in our Christmas pictures each year as a way to honor and remember Gabriel.
Psalm 139 is a scripture that came to life for me during my darkest moments. It tells how the Lord knows everything about us. He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. He planned all our days before one of them came to be.
I would read that Psalm and remember my son. Gabriel was no accident; he was pieced together by an Almighty Creator who knit him together in my womb. I may never understand why the Lord allowed him to die, but I take comfort in knowing that Gabriel fully served his life’s purpose. His life was short, but he mattered. He was important and will never be forgotten.