No Going Back

February 20, 2014

no going back

I was watching the movie The Help, a few weeks ago, for the second or third time. I noticed Skeeter, the main character, sitting at the table amongst her southern belle friends, as they played bridge while “the help” served them tea and desserts. As the movie progresses, her story unfolds, and Skeeter becomes more aware of the racial inequality in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s, she is less and less able to go along with the status quo. She never really blended in anyway, with her fiery red curly hair and her daring independence during a time when independence wasn’t valued among southern women. But now, she was noticing the unjust treatment of blacks in the south, awakening to a new perspective.

And, once it happens…the stirring of passion…the rising up from down deep…the voice that says…

“This is not right. You must stand, and speak truth boldly.”

Once it happens, you are set apart from those around you who remain sitting, playing bridge in oblivion in pretty dresses, with debutant hair-dos and pristine lawns.

Once it happens, there’s no going back.

I found myself relating to the characters in the movie and that moment of being set apart, never being able to return to the way it was, even if I wanted to, as I considered the way my life was changed forever by two baby girls who never breathed breath in 1996 and a newborn son who died six hours after birth in 1998. For many years, I stayed quiet. Healing. Hiding. Gaining strength in my weakness. Strength for what I did not know.

And, then in 2004, like awakening from a deep sleep, I began to notice all the broken lives laying in ruin. I could see a glimpse beyond my own pain. The stirring began quiet and deep within, like a whisper.

Other people walk here, in this grief stricken land. They shouldn’t walk alone.

And once I woke up, once I knew why I was the mother of Faith, Grace, and Thomas. Once I noticed the cries of other grieving hearts, and mustered the courage to see my own…there was no going back.

Even when it costs a great deal to know pain. Even if it takes more courage than we can muster, to speak with a bold voice. Even in the wee hours of the night when we sit beside the bed of a grieving mother, holding her tiny one in our arms, encouraging her to do the same. In the most broken places.

There’s no going back.

You can’t close your eyes once they’re opened.

You will never be the person you were before.

There is no…going…back.

Even if it costs friendships. Even if members of your own family speak words that cut and harm. Even if people walk away, because it’s just “too hard”. Even when you’re misunderstood, misrepresented, mocked, or scorned for standing up and speaking.

There is no going back.

In the dark, when you feel like you’re the only one who remembers that your baby lived. When everyone else says he was not worth grieving…you should be over it…just have another child…she was just “tissue”…yada, yada, yada. And, you know better. You know how valuable and precious your baby is…how worth every tear. But, you start to cower quietly behind a mask, going through the motions, so that no one will be uncomfortable. Maybe for years.

And, then one day. You don’t anymore. You can’t be silent anymore. Even if no one else understands. Not just for yourself. Not just for your babies. But, for every other mother who has kept quiet, carried the sorrow hidden deep.

When it happens, there is no going back. I find myself there, now that my life’s work has become to walk with other grieving mothers and fathers, and to honor the babies whose lives are brief. It took me a really long time to get here. To find my voice. To be familiar enough in this skin to speak the truth out loud that sometimes beautiful babies die, and mothers and fathers walk around broken. To speak their names. I’m protective of the sacredness of this voice that’s finally settled into my bones, protective of the space where the words pour forth, and extremely protective of the parents who walk with us in the grief wilderness.

Now, there’s no going back. Now that I can’t ignore the voice in me or the voice rising in the grieving hearts I encounter, life will never be the same.

But, like Skeeter, I am better for it. Fuller somehow in the emptying, healed in the broken places, shaped into someone new. Like clay shaped by the Potter. When grief first settled into my life, I remember feeling unfamiliar in my own skin. I am still changed. Forever changed. But, somehow, more me than I was before. Free…to speak boldly…with this voice.

And, grateful…that there is no going back.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify …them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. 
Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,  are the ones who do…”
– Jack Kerouac



  • Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here:

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